The secret science of the scariest haunted houses: can the good stress of the “undead” can help you understand and escape the bad stress of life?
Do you love haunted houses?
Do you love haunted houses? Maybe love is too strong of a word. Are strangely attracted to the fright of haunted houses, even though the make-believe gore makes you uncomfortable? If you are like most people, haunted houses make you nervous and make you scream! But at the same time, they remind you how good it feels to be alive!
What is this secret science behind your favorite haunted house? Why does it feel so good to be afraid? Keep reading because I am going to reveal the secret to you. Then, I am going to show you how you can use this strange combination of feelings to actually live a healthier life—one with less pain, better energy, and a greater sense of vitality.
First, the secret of how the scariest haunted house gains control over you.
The secret is the powerful combination of body chemicals that enter your bloodstream when you approach your favorite haunt. They are the very same chemicals that flood your system as you scream your way through a roller coaster. It starts with a feeling of anxiety—that sensation that something bad or dangerous is about to happen. As your anxiety grows, loud alarms ring inside you. Stress hormones start kicking all your survival instincts into high gear.
Those hormones, adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine, start to take over your body—almost creating an out of body experience. You can barely control what’s happening. Your heart beats faster. You start breathing heavier. Your body, being intelligent, says “I need more blood in the arms and legs to run or fight,” and it shuts down your digestion. After all, you don’t need to worry about your last meal when a killer zombie wants you dead. Stress has taken over, and you can feel it. All the sudden you are more aware of everything! You feel more alive than ever.
Then there are the changes you cannot feel. Your body, being intelligent, says “I need all the energy I can get,” and it releases a flood of sugar into your bloodstream. Your brain needs more blood, so your blood pressure rises. The pupils in your eyes open so that you can see the danger lurking ahead. You are at the peak of your fight or flight response.
And then—all of the sudden, it ends. You are at the end of the haunt. Your heart slows, and so does your breathing. The adrenaline burns away. Your blood sugar falls, and so does your blood pressure. The danger has passed, and a wave of relaxation rolls over you. You smile. You laugh. You want to sit down and rest. The stress melts.
A really good haunted house knows how to set up their attraction so you get to experience this internal thrill ride for as long as possible, and then they let you go when you almost can’t take anymore. That is the secret science behind your favorite haunted house.
Now, what does this experience in the haunted house have to do with your health?
Everything if you are suffering from low energy, chronic pain, headaches, type 2 diabetes, or some other chronic problem.
Imagine going through what I just described, over and over again, every day of the week, several times per day. Not to the highest level of your stress response, but a few notches below. And instead of your stress lasting for a few few minutes, it lasts for a few hours. Instead of feeling relaxed when you are out of danger, you just feel exhausted. Absolutely exhausted. In fact, that safe-from-danger feeling does not every really arrive. In a weird twist, you almost need the stress to feel like you have any energy at all. You start becoming addicted to stress. Unlike the fun of the haunt, your body doesn’t know how to let you go.
This is stress, but it is the opposite of the normal haunted house experience. This is like being trapped in a haunted house 24/7. This is the kind of stress that ruins your health.
You see, there are two kinds of stress: good stress and bad stress. Good stress is temporary. It lasts for a short time, gets your heart pumping, your blood flowing, and moves oxygen through your lungs. It’s like a short, intense workout. A brisk walk around the block has similar effects on your sense of well being as a trip through the haunted house. The hormones involved may not be identical, but you get the idea. These are both examples of good stress. And your body thinks this short, controlled stress is okay.
In fact, having a little bit of stress makes you healthier. It’s part of why a small amount of daily exercise is important.
Bad stress, however, isn’t healthy. It doesn’t leave you alone. It’s like one dark dark cloud ruining a day in the sun. It’s always there. It robs you of energy, stops you from sleeping, and enhances your pain sensations, so you’re likely to be locked down in periods of chronic pain. You can’t escape, because you’re too tired too escape. So you drink those energy drinks, or cup after cup of coffee, and you snack on sugary snacks. This raises your stress even more. It’s a vicious cycle.
If you’re experiencing this kind of chronic stress, then after awhile your blood sugar will start swinging up and stay up. Your digestion will be interrupted so much, you may start suspecting ulcers, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Your blood pressure and cholesterol will rise sooner than expected, and the doctor will start talking medication. You may begin to put on weight that you can’t take off, no matter how much you diet.
You feel stressed, but no one can tell you what to do about it.
If this sounds familiar then let me map out an escape plan for you. You can always leave the haunted house if you want, because it’s good stress, it’s temporary. But with this kind of chronic stress, there is only one exit. Medication by itself isn’t it.
First, you have to eliminate all the hidden causes of chronic stress. Most people think that means taking up zen meditation, or learning to “stop worrying so much.” While that might give your mind a little vacation, it only addresses one part of where your stress comes from. You have to work on the other, often hidden, sources too.
What are the major but hidden sources of chronic body stress? Here are three big ones:
- toxins in your food and environment,
- nutrition and hormones that are out of balance,
- and undetected traumas to your spine and soft tissue (oftentimes decades old) that irritate your nervous system.
(FYI: your nervous system is made up of your brain and spinal cord which sends out nerves through the body. This system coordinates all of your body’s important functions, automatically, so you don’t have to. Undetected traumas to the head, neck, and back, which protect the nervous system, can get in way of it working at 100% causing you pain, illness, and chronic stress.)
But, here’s the real kicker, and why you have to deal with these hidden causes of chronic stress now, and not later. Even if you want to open your arms wide to all the benefits of good stress with some healthy cardio or some free weights, you can’t. Not fully. Your body is already taxed to the max. The right activity will help you relax. Temporarily. You may sleep a bit better. Temporarily. But that awesome feeling of being alive and well rested won’t last.
Without addressing the out of balance toxins, nutrition, and spinal trauma, you’re just going to wear yourself out again with enough time. And if you have untreated spinal trauma, new pain patterns are going to surface.
Then you’ll be stuck in pain. Again.
The science of the scariest haunted houses shows you, a little bit of stress can be a good thing. The rise and fall of those stress hormones raises your awareness, and gets you ready to flee or fight for your life. It’s a natural, intelligent part of your body’s biology that’s important when you’re actually in a dangerous situation, and you need to survive.
But this stress isn’t a process you should be living with everyday, when you’re not in danger. Your body shouldn’t think you’re stuck in the haunted house when you’re not. As bad stress is an hidden factor in all kinds of chronic disease, dealing with chronic stress may be the only true exit if your heath is suffering.
Who knew that you could about living a healthy life with a lesson learned from the “undead”? What are you going to do about it, now that you know?
Are you showing signs of undetected spinal stress? Take this short quiz from our Auburn Hills Upper Cervical Chiropractic practice.