Fear Factor: Why Getting Scared Is Good for You

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When our bodies gear up for danger, we get a superpower boost that feels good and is actually good for us. Thanks to the good ol' fear factor, we shift into survival mode (fight-or-flight), and that cranks up our speed, strength, and blood flow.

If you've been looking for a way to convince your scaredy-cat friend to join you on some horrifying Halloween adventure, this may be the argument you've been seeking.

Video: Cursed footage "caught" on Ring doorbell

Why getting scared is good for you

A rapid heartbeat, accelerated breathing, and other signs of fear can be surprisingly good for your health. Here's a breakdown of how getting scared can benefit us—and it's not  just about entertainment.

Fear stirs up feel-good hormones

t's not just adrenaline that gets released with a jump-scare—feel-good hormone dopamine shows up, too. Dopamine is a neurological "reward," and on top of feeling good, it helps condition our fight-or-flight response. So, you can think of getting scared as a workout for our survival instincts.

Fear lowers stress levels

It seems counter-intuitive, but a good scare can actually make your body feel less stressed. Cortisol, often called the stress hormone, gets released when a zombie jumps out at us, or a creepy dark-haired girl haunts the screen. While heightened cortisol levels aren't good for us long-term, they can be helpful in short bursts. Cortisol gets our blood pumping and oxygen flowing, which ultimately helps us recover from the stress of the moment (and possibly the stress from that meeting with your boss earlier today)

Fear gives your immune system a boost

As long as the fear is short-lived (like during a visit to the local haunted corn maze) and not long-term anxiety, it can strengthen your immune system. And we have those hormones to thank once again. Even psychological fear (it's all in your mind, and that's okay), like when you watch a scary movie, makes the body think it's under threat. Your body responds with adrenaline, which can boost the immune system, much in the same way as exercise does. One scientific study even showed how fear can cause the body to create white blood cells—like it does to fight an infection—to combat anxiety.

Fear turns us into skin and bones

Well, not literally. But there have been links to getting scared and dropping pounds. Once again, thanks to all those hormones, fear can turn up our metabolism, which can help us burn more calories. Unfortunately, a slasher movie marathon will not help you lose that last ten pounds, but it's a great way to justify a tub of popcorn and a few fun-size candy bars.

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Rebecca Edwards
Written by
Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past decade. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month poring over crime and safety reports and spotting trends. Her expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her expert advice and analysis in places like NPR, TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, HGTV, MSN, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, and an ever-growing library of podcast, radio and TV clips in the US and abroad.

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