Scared? You ought to be — and ideally that little jab of fear and dread can pressure you to adjust your attitude and affect your votes.
But I’m not going to talk about the day of the disaster. I’m here to analyze Halloween. And my real point is that it doesn’t feel good for real anxiety. Then why are we so prone to giggle at this sort of creepy Halloween tomfoolery?
The response, the research says, is that holidays like Halloween and Dia de los Muertos are required because they ritualize our worries, mostly of death. “The traditions of Halloween transform terror into fun, death into levity, blood into amusement,” says Dacher Keltner, UC Berkeley psychologist (and co-founder of GGSC).
And Halloween is not just a way to sell treats or Halloween costume ideas that are overly sensual. Here are five arguments for you to accept and neglect medically based.
1. it’s a routine that holds us together and routines.
Think of how often you communicate with your neighbors for a second. If you’re the average American, most of the people on your street probably don’t know.
Trick-or-treatment is a good way to get to know the neighborhood if you have kids. Even if you don’t have kids, placing a goblin on the lawn and sitting with a bucket of candy on your stoop can raise your social capital at the block level. There are stacks of observational studies that say this kind of social connection makes you happier, more cheerful, and more healthy— and these effects could spread from person to person. As Steve Almond writes in his excellent book Candyfreak, “There’s something really empowering about a trip that allows kids to get candy from strangers.” Halloween traditions often help people pay more attention to candy, so paying attention helps sweets taste better, according to a recent study. This takes us to our next product…
2. We want treats.
In reality, my nine-year-old son given this as the main reason people want Halloween—”I need sweets, Daddy!”—and my own highly scientific research shows that 10 out of 10 children want sweets.
I thought there had to be a good evolutionary explanation for this — and some googling seemed to support the claim of my father. Of instance, every day an ounce of dark chocolate will decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, and it has been shown that chocolate enhances mood-enhancing chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin in the brain.
I might list more research, but what do you know? Even if it squeezed the hell out of me, I would eat chocolate, and so would my father. So, for my family’s sake: thank you for the candy, Halloween!
3. In certainty, we like healthy, temperate stress levels.
Many vacations involve a certain repetitive level— and varying degrees of tension.
Take Thanksgiving, the special time of the year when you get to sit across from your mother-in-law and learn all the reasons you couldn’t get married to her precious child. Halloween often involves some pressure, and we often compensate for stressors such as hopping in a haunted house in anxiety.
So, Thanksgiving and Halloween cause identical cortisol shots— but we’re thinking about two somewhat different types of tension, so one form is definitely better than the other. Why are they going to pay for the thrills of Halloween or hate Thanksgiving dinner? To explain why some kinds of pressure are better for you, here’s a brilliant scientist (with a frightening beard): that’s another explanation my brother, who from the cartoon Adventure Time is dressing this year as Finn the Human. I’m going to dress like his friend, Jake the Dog, if you need to ask.
But throughout the year he dresses up so pretends, and I go with him— even if his creativity leads us to dark places.
Psychologist Marjorie Taylor at the University of Oregon has found that children sometimes construct fantasy roles that do something evil, cruel, and even dangerous. “Unlike adults who think something through before they act, it gives children the opportunity to play through it before they experience the real-life situation,” Taylor once told me. “If you are disturbed by something, you may regulate it or exploit it in the imaginary environment. That’s an emotional intelligence way to develop.