The Benefits of Scaring Yourself This Halloween


If you’re feeling stressed, low or anxious, the last thing that would be on your mind would be to voluntarily scare yourself senseless somehow or partake in VANE, but perhaps that’s the solution. VANE stands for Voluntary Arousing Negative Experience and research seems to indicate this could lead us to better cope with life stressors. With Halloween right around the corner, let's take a look at the benefits of scaring yourself!


The Experiment

A study in Pittsburgh, PA surveyed and took MRI scans of people’s brains before and after a horror house experience. Overall, the people reported a more positive emotional state and higher energy after the horror experience than before. Those who received the greatest emotional benefits were people who were more stressed, tired, or bored beforehand, and they tended to rate the horror experience as more intense and thrilling. Brain neural activity was reduced in response to multiple tasks at the same time conducted after the horror house, which potentially shows you’re feeling more zen after being frightened in a fun fairground activity.


How Does VANE Work?

Because it is voluntary as the name suggests, the experience of horror or any perceived scariness is controlled as you know deep down you’re safe. By being in control of a fun-scary situation, returning back to the mundanity of life can feel a little easier to handle. After entering this high arousal activity at their own will, participants were more likely to say they had challenged their fears. It is essentially like a re-calibration of your senses and invigorates you, much like mindfulness, because its decreased gamma and theta reactivity post horror house suggest a ‘less engaged processing of environmental stressors’.


Why Can VANE Be Beneficial?

By dipping your toes into a small puddle of fun fear, it could potentially have therapeutic benefits for people with a lack of emotion and feeling (common in people with depression or schizophrenia) as it could boost their energy and arousal. It also explains why some of us find a great boost in these after trying a crazy activity abroad like skydiving or bungee jumping. VANE could potentially be applied to therapeutic frameworks for people with phobias by creating a fun element to exposure therapies.


So…Horror Movie Marathon Time?

I don’t suggest you try this at home if you have a deep fear of spiders and decide to have them placed all over your bed to receive a euphoric sensation (that may backfire appallingly unless your reaction is caught on camera and you mean to go viral), but this does mean that a trip to the amusement park and going on their biggest roller-coaster may have positive benefits for anxiety and mood. It also gives purpose to the idea that we should do controlled activities we see as scary and push ourselves whether at home or abroad, because the benefits can be wonderfully euphoric. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find a Groupon for a haunted house.

Note: This article does not recommend you scare yourself. However, if you do please record it and send it to AFTR PRTY so we can laugh at you!

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