Fear and focus: how scary movies can help you maximize productivity

Updated: Oct 18, 2021

I have a confession: I’m a total horror junkie. I’m in my element at this time of year, when “ghosties and ghoulies and long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night” abound on TV, movies, books, and podcasts. I love the jolt of a good slasher movie jump-scare and the building dread of a thriller, although I know they’re not for everyone.

But did you know that scary media can actually help you perform better in your work?

There are several benefits to getting a good scare now and then, so read on…if you dare.

Increase focus

We’ve talked before about hormones, productivity, and focus. One of the hormones that aids focus is adrenaline, or epinephrine. According to Dr. Andrew Huberman, epinephrine is released when a person is in a high state of alertness – or the fear caused by watching a scary movie. The release of this hormone enhances learning and focus and boosts cognition, so listening to a true crime podcast on your commute to work can get your brain primed for your daily grind.

Scary movies can also be a way to give our brains a mental workout by (safely!) analyzing a situation and thinking of how we would react in the same circumstances. It’s like doing a brainteaser or a puzzle.

Furthermore, after you come down from the adrenaline high, your brain releases dopamine and serotonin, which improve your mood, lower your frustration, and can even induce a sense of accomplishment.

Calm anxiety

I suffer from anxiety, so it seems pretty counter intuitive that I like horror so much, doesn’t it? It is true that horror can make things worse for some people with anxiety, but there can also be a lot of mental health benefits.

In my case, watching horror movies can help put my daily anxieties into perspective – I may be running late with doing my readings for my classes, but at least I’m not running from a chainsaw-wielding monster, right?

They also allow some escapism from real life and provide a nice way to release the pent-up tension that comes from my usual baseless sense of impending threat. Horror that tackles contemporary issues also lets us grapple with our real-world fears, like the pandemic, in a consequences-free way.

Boooost immune response

A lot happens in the body when watching a horror film. We all know that chronic, long-term stress is bad for us, causing a multitude of unpleasant side effects. However, a study from the Stanford University Medical Centre found that the occasional short-term stress of the fight-flight-or-freeze response stimulates your immune system’s activity. This helps with healing and both preventing and fighting infection and illness. Feeling the sniffles coming on? Tune in to horror movie marathon.

Watching or listening to something scary also increases heart rate and can even burn a few calories! It’s no substitute for actual physical activity, but it can be a nice bonus.

If your to-do lists and tasks are truly terrifying, why not tackle them with the support of a Focus Bubble? They'll help you plan, prioritize, and protect your time.


Emilie Charette

I’m a full-time university student, part-time Focus Bubbles host, and a part-time D&D dungeon master. When I’m not watching horror movies, I love meeting new people, hearing their stories, and getting new perspectives on life. I love Focus Bubbles because they help me protect my time and do deep work. I can’t wait to see you in a Bubble!

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