For the longest time, if there was one genre of movies that my parents tried their best to keep me away from, it was horror. Maybe they knew the ‘daredevil’ in me long before I did. *wink* But call it innocence or a childish curiosity, that’s exactly what I found myself going for, again and again. My fondness for this genre began with an irresistible interest in spooky stories. As a kid, every time, I’d enter a bookshop, it wasn't uncommon to see me leave with at least 2-3 Goosebumps and a smile as big as the sky. Even today, I find myself smiling the same way when I buy a new frightening novel or even better - when I snuggle under the covers, dim the lights and watch the spookiest of movies with my friends or family. And if you’re a horror movie fanatic, you would easily agree that it’s the best kind of thrill EVER!
Okay, I agree. Enjoying horror movies with the same intensity as I might not be everyone’s cup of tea. But at least, the next time somebody (my mom, being the first one) tries to question my choice, I’ll have plenty of scientifically proven facts to prove my point. So, if you haven’t watched a horror movie lately, it might be the right time to get back on track. ‘Coz apart from being exciting AF, these movies might just benefit you in more ways than you could imagine!
While watching a horror movie, don’t you eventually find yourself predicting who the ghost/killer would be? Or who’d die the next moment or survive in the end? Turns out, predicting such mysteries or learning from the mistakes made by the characters in those movies end up making us smarter and way more mature than we, initially, are. Based on some research done by the professors of psychology at the University of Wisconsin - when women watch horror movies, their brain releases neurotransmitters like dopamine, glutamate and serotonin which are known to increase their brain activities and make them more alert in life.
Whenever you feel sad or driven by anxiety, you tend to experience a decrease in your adrenaline levels instantly. But when you watch a spooky movie and find a rush of adrenaline flowing through your veins, feelings like anxiety, sadness and hopelessness are easily pushed back to make room for all the feel-good hormones. Not only do you end up feeling surprisingly euphoric but a rush of serotonin leaves you chill, even zen. Who knew that scare-jumps could be so beneficial for our health?
Did you know that sitting down for a 90-minute horror movie is equivalent to a 30-minute walk? Not kidding. In 2012, a study conducted by the University of Westminster revealed that intense horror movies could burn up to 113 calories. Participants were then, invited to select 10 horror movies and see which ones were the most effective. Movies that induced the maximum jump-scares ended up burning the most amount of calories as they easily provoked an instant physical reaction. Excited to know which were those 10 calorie-burning horror movies?
1. The Shining - 184 calories
2. Jaws - 161 calories
3. The Exorcist - 158 calories
4. Alien - 152 calories
5. Saw - 133 calories
6. A Nightmare on Elm Street - 118 calories
7. Paranormal Activity - 111 calories
8. The Blair Witch Project - 105 calories
9. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - 107 calories
10. REC - 101 calories
We knew that precaution is always better than cure. But who knew that horror movies had the power to protect us from harmful diseases too? Another finding from the above calorie-burner study revealed that when we watch horror movies, there’s an increase in leukocytes or white blood cells which protect our body against infectious diseases and foreign invaders. That’s because whenever we experience an instant jump-scare, our body immediately sends in troops (WBCs) to defend us against whatever is responsible for getting our adrenaline pumping!
The one thing that we learn from most of the horror movies is perseverance - especially the kind that some characters show towards their decisions. If they’re willing to survive, they're going to make that happen no matter how dangerous it seems or how badly they’re hurt. And that’s the kind of mindset that most of the horror movie fanatics adopt! They tend to look at every problem from various perspectives and keep working towards a solution until that crisis is fixed. Therefore, the reactions that horror films trigger, do more than just thrill you. They prepare you to fight and ‘survive’ any stressful or dangerous situation in the world. This, not only ends up increasing your survival instinct but makes you a seriously determined, problem-solver. Now, won’t that help you solve all your day-to-day monsters (in your mind) - if not the real ones?
Contrary to popular belief, horror movies aren’t there to make you feel frightened all the time but rather, to make you realise that no matter how scary your life may get sometimes, all you’ve got to do is be confident and face it. In fact, the fears that you experience while sitting at the edge of your seat are only temporary. Once the movie is over, your brain intensifies the feelings of happiness by releasing hormones like dopamine and serotonin instead of focussing on the frightful emotions. As a result, you end up feeling fearless and confident ‘coz by then, you’ve pretty much strengthened all your defences against danger. After all, nothing in your life could then, seem as scary as being chased by a distorted ghost or a psycho killer, don’t you think?
Had a long day at work? Feeling blue? Got too many negative emotions bottled up inside you? This is when all the horror movie fanatics ditch romantic chick-flicks and reach for their spooky favourites. Wondering why? Well, a long time ago, a Greek philosopher, Aristotle proposed that the reason we were more easily lured towards horror movies and books was that it gave us a chance to purge all our negative emotions - be it sadness, anger, frustration, grief, etc - in an ethically safe environment without breaking any rules. According to Anita Morse, a New York-based psychotherapist who focusses on curing anxiety and fear-related issues, also believes that watching horror movies is a lot like watching Greek theatre. “You’re watching it. That’s a release. But you’re in the audience. It can be very exhilarating.” she admits.
Last but not least, watching horror movies with your partner is also proven to deepen your relationship. YouBeauty’s co-founder, Dr Michael Roizen explains, “When we’re scared, our brain pumps out the feel-good chemical dopamine, the same chemical we release when we’re infatuated with someone. Your heart races and you become addicted to that feeling - as the euphoric serotonin hormone also shoots up.” This further leads to physical arousal which makes you even more passionate than before. Throughout the twists and turns of the movie, not only do you both go through different phases of fear, thrill, vulnerability and relief together but also get a great excuse to get closer and cuddle up. By releasing the feel-good oxytocin with all that skin-to-skin contact, you remind your partner of being absolutely safe and special in each other’s arms. Now, isn’t that a feeling you’d like to experience every day?
Disclaimer: Although the above facts deem surprisingly true, try not to get TOO carried away. Like everything good in life, the key is to enjoy everything in moderation or it might do more harm than good. Wouldn’t want terrifying nightmares to spoil your sleep now, would you?
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