Are There Benefits to Getting Scared?

Are There Benefits to Getting Scared?

What Happens in the Brain When You’re Afraid? 

On a biological level, we know that, when you’re afraid, certain hormones are released in the body to prepare you for a fightorflight response. The primary hormones involved in this process include adrenaline (also known as epinephrine), norepinephrine, and cortisol.  

These three hormones give your body a boost of energy, channel your focus, and divert blood flow to your major muscle groups. Once this happens, your body is primed to respond to the perceived danger. 

If you don’t enjoy the heart-pounding startles, you might wonder why anyone in their right mind would put themselves through this experience on purpose. Yes, the body gets a surge of anxious energy, but you also experience the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine.  

Dopamine is what is commonly associated with the brain’s “pleasure center.” It’s a source of the excitement and relief that comes after a scare and when your brain realizes you were never in any real danger. For spook-seekers, this is the experience that makes the scare worthwhile. 

What Exactly are the Benefits? 


Dr.
Margee Kerr, the staff sociologist at ScareHouse, tells The Atlantic all about the reasons why some brains enjoy fear. In the interview, she reminds us that the enjoyment of scaring and being scared goes back to the telling of ghost stories around a campfire, gothic writings of the 19th century, and tales of creatures like the Chupacabra or the Loch Ness Monster. As human beings, we have had this interest for a long time. 

Social connections, she explains, are part of the reason we love to be frightened. Happiness and fear both initiate the release of oxytocin (the love hormone), and help us bond with the people we are experiencing these emotions with. Kerr shares an article by Shelley Taylor, Tend and Befriend: Biobehavioral Bases of Affiliation Under Stress, that demonstrates how a special closeness is developed with those who are with us when we are in an excited state. More importantly, it stresses how this can be a very good thing! 

When you tend to or receive care from someone in a moment of fear or anxiety, the chance that you will befriend them increases. According to Dr. Kerr, this is because human beings need each other during periods of stress, so the body responds chemically in ways that help form a bond with others who are in the experience with us. Of course, this is limited to the experience being a positive one that does not actually harm you in any way. 

This is why you see people huddled together as they tread through a darkened maze or haunted exhibit, and why popcorn-flinging horror movie nights are also enjoyed worldwide.

The Best Place to Enjoy a Good Scare 

The best place to get your chills and thrills is someplace that poses no real threat to your safety. You brain needs to know that your body is not in any real danger after your automatic fight-or-flight response kicks in. Dr. Kerr reflects on how many times she’s seen a person scream and jump at the ScareHouse and immediately after start smiling and laughing. It really is interesting to consider how quickly the brain can process our situation and let the rest of our body know if the fear was just a false alarm. 

Are There Drawbacks? 


As nearly every suspense movie has proven, anything can have a dark side. Maybe don’t drag your friends to a fright-filled attraction if they really don’t want to go. Sometimes the aversion has roots in trauma, PTSD, or phobia. Being conscious of what is age
appropriate is also important. This is because children are often unable to differentiate between feigned danger and what’s real. What you intended to be a fun experience may end up being traumatic for a child. Sometimes, you just have to make a judgment call, but doing so can help ensure that everyone has a good time and is able to enjoy the spooky excitement.  

For some tips from our dietitian on how to treat yourself this Halloween without all the guilt, read her post on Tricks and Treats for Halloween Cheats. To access our monthly blog post highlights, subscribe to our newsletter today! 

Sources: 

Ringo, Allegra. “Why Do Some Brains Enjoy Fear?” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 31 Oct. 2013, www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/10/why-do-some-brains-enjoy-fear/280938/. 

How to Celebrate Sweetest Day Without Undoing Your Diet

How to Celebrate Sweetest Day Without Undoing Your Diet

This year, Sweetest Day falls on October 19th. Hardly 2 weeks from Halloween, another day of sweet treats, this candy-filled holiday is a reminder for many that they are loved, appreciated, and cared for by those who celebrate with them.  

Wait? You haven’t heard of Sweetest Day? Well, don’t feel too out-of-the-loop; this holiday is primarily celebrated in the Midwestern and Northeastern parts of the U.S. It’s even better known in the state where it originated: Ohio!  

In 1922, philanthropist Herbert Birch Kingston started the idea of Sweetest Day by distributing candy and gifts to orphans, the elderly, and the disabled to show kindness to those he felt received it less than others.  

Today, people celebrate their friends and loved ones in this way to express their love, their gratitude, and to spread the kindness. If you’re observing Sweetest Day this year, or now thinking of adding a new tradition, we’d like to offer you some great (and less sugary) ideas to help you celebrate. 

healthier treat ideas

Instead of the pure sugar you’d get in a box of candy, try out some of these delicious ideas. Not only are they more natural and nutritious treats, the fact that you made them yourself will definitely earn you some bonus points. 

01.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bites 

These sweet treats are super easy. All you need is some banana slices, peanut butter (or almond butter), and dark chocolate. Simply sandwich some peanut butter in between two banana slices and then dip the bite into some melted chocolate. If you like, you can top your creation with crushed peanuts or almonds.  

When using chocolate, we recommend you choose dark because of its lower sugar content. However, if you despise dark chocolate and all that it touches, feel free to use milk chocolate. 

Tips: Freeze the bananas before and after working with them. If you’re using milk chocolate and you’re worried about this treat being too sweet, try dipping only half the bite into the chocolate. 

02.

Watermelon Feta and Mint Skewers 

These skewers are colorful, refreshing, and really tasty, especially if you like to mix sweet and salty flavors. Probably the hardest part of this recipe is figuring out how to cut watermelon into cubes, but really any bite sized shape will do! Simply stack some watermelon, feta, and mint in any order onto some skewers. If you like, you can add a light sprinkle of salt and pepper for a little extra flavor. 

Tips: If you’re cutting mint straight from your yard, try soaking it in a mixture of water and salt for a few minutes to help give the leaves a more thorough clean. 

03.

Healthy Oatmeal Balls 

Not only do these look good, they’re also good for you. They’re little rolled packages of oatmeal, chia seeds, cranberries, coconut, flax seeds, and honey. They take little work but will certainly make a mess of your hands as you roll them together. 

Tips: You can use a variety of ingredients according to the flavor profile you’re looking for. You can use peanut butter as the binder instead of honey, raisins instead of cranberries, cinnamon instead of coconut, and experiment with many other variations. 

If you’re not sure you want to make something edible, there are plenty of other ways to celebrate Sweetest Day. In the next section, you’ll see exactly what we mean. 

Nurture Healthier Relationships 

When it comes to communicating our thanks, sometimes we can be pretty good at letting life, work, school, and everything else get in the way. You can use this day to reflect on the people in your life who matter and on who you’d like to acknowledge more often.

Unlike Valentine’s Day, Sweetest Day is not restricted to celebrating your significant other. Think about all the people who are close to you. Do you have a friend who has been there for you and you want to let them know they are appreciated? Are there people you want to make amends with? Who do you want to show your gratitude for?  

Once you’ve identified your crew, you can start hashing out the details. You can keep it simple or go a little nuts with it. It’s entirely up to you! For some ideas, you can: 

01.

Do Something Nice  

A small act of kindness can go a long way. Do the dishes or take out the trash without being asked. Wash your brother’s car. Buy your coworker a cup of coffee. Compliment your classmate’s outfit. A very ordinary act of kindness, done unexpectedly, can go highly appreciated. 

02.

Write a Card 

Some people are great at “doing,” others are great at “saying.” If you know you don’t say certain things enough, or you’re simply better at expressing what you need to say on paper, writing a heartfelt card is another great option. 

03.

Spend the Day Together 

Let’s be honest, we all have a friend or family member that we don’t see as often as we used to or probably haven’t talked to in a while. Spending some time together may be just what you need. It doesn’t have to be anything outrageous. It can be as simple as going for a walk together, hitting the gym, cooking a meal (or going out for one).  

If you liked our sweet treat suggestions but want even more interesting and healthy ideas, check out our dietitian’s response to this question about Sugary and Salty Snack Substitutions. To access our monthly blog post highlights, subscribe to our newsletter today! 

The Sculpted in 16 Weeks Total Body New Year’s Workout – Part 3

The Sculpted in 16 Weeks Total Body New Year’s Workout – Part 3

Weeks 5 & 6

Congratulations, you’ve made it through the toughest part of The Sculpted in 16 Weeks Workout: the first month! You’ve made steady progress by working hard and staying strong and, as a result, you are starting to notice some incredible changes in your body! Now, it’s time to re-focus and set your sights on even greater feats with this new series of progressive workouts.

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