How Halloween can teach us to be mindful

Halloween is a fun and spooky time of year. Where horror films and thrillers are the go-to for adults while children are playing trick or treat, trying to make others jump and over-indulging on sweets and chocolate (ok, maybe the adults are overindulging too!)

Halloween is all about being scared.

Scared by ghosts and things going bump in the night. Scared by what’s lurking around the corner waiting to jump out at us and scared by all the possibilities our mind imagines could happen.

Whether fear of the unknown or an occasional jump scare today, Halloween can teach us a lot about resilience and how to cope with anxiety and uncertainty in our lives.

Halloween teaches us to have fun.

Scares come in all different shapes and sizes. From the horror films that make us jump to having someone jump out at you in a house of horrors. Within our day to day lives we might get a scare when the cat knocks over an ornament with a crash or we receive some unsettling news.

The feeling of being scared is part of our fight or flight response.

The scared feeling is to alert us that there’s a potential threat we need to deal with – to fight it or run away. That’s why we’re suddenly scared from someone or something jumping out at us, our hear rate increases, we breathe faster, and our pupils dilate too. It’s to prepare us to fight or run away by increasing oxygen and adrenalin in our bodies and to help us see better.

That adrenalin rush is why we love doing things that scare us like Halloween attractions, theme park rides and horror movies. We get an adrenaline rush because we know it’s harmless fun! These short bursts of being scared but it actually turning out ok strengthens our resilience and ability to bounce back from things we might be afraid of.

Halloween shows us that things can change

This year has felt like being stuck in a time warp thanks to Covid-19. With the changes to home and school life, restrictions and new ways of doing things but without the regular half-term and summer holidays, usual celebrations and simply days out having fun to mark the passing of time; it feels like most of this year has blurred into one!

This year has been an anxious one for many of us. With the uncertainty over so many aspects of our lives from catching Covid-19 to being able to get groceries, job, and business security to seeing friends and family. Many of us have had to change how we do things and adapt this year which has left us feeling unsure and unsettled. According to King’s College London, Covid-19 has significantly increased anxiety and depression over recent months.

Halloween is a reminder that things can and do change. That what is a struggle now won’t always be so. Halloween has long been used as a seasonal marker. A reminder that winter is coming and to prepare. Harvest was about getting in as much food as possible with Halloween being the cut off date for getting it preserved and stored for the winter. Even today, many of us think of it as a marker for Christmas planning and shopping.

Seasons change, the leaves change, we change.

Halloween is all about living in the moment

Halloween comes and goes so quickly that unless you jump in and enjoy it when it’s here, you’ll miss out!

It’s a great reminder that things can change quickly and suddenly and why living your life in the moment is so important. Depression is often described as being stuck in the past while anxiety is being afraid of the future with “what ifs” about things that haven’t happened and might not happen. With both conditions, it’s difficult to live for today as your mind is ruminating elsewhere especially with the added uncertainty that Covid-19 brings our way.

This is why mindfulness can be such a helpful coping mechanism when it feels too hard to be mentally present in the here and now. By taking notice of how you feel and what’s around you right here and now, your body and mind can relax in the safe knowledge that the past has gone, and the future isn’t here yet. Mindfulness can help you feel calm, safe, and able to tackle what’s ahead of you.

When we become more aware of the present moment, we find it easier to experience things in new and different ways. Things haven’t necessarily changed but our mind can see things differently, with a fresh perspective that helps us untangle ourselves from the negative thoughts and feelings that can easily become all-consuming.

This is why the NHS recommends mindfulness for folk with depression/anxiety and have found it to be effective in managing and reducing symptoms. They have some great suggestions on how to incorporate mindfulness in to your day to day life but if you’re struggling to get started do get in touch with me for some guidance to help you find the right mindful techniques for you.