6 Ways Making Halloween Fun is Good for Mental Health

This has been such a hard year and most of us are exhausted and sick of the uncertainty and chaos. The election has its own tension and that will hopefully go down after next week. The COVID crisis however, will continue for some time. The holidays will have a shadow across them and will look very little like what we are used to. Halloween is a fun holiday, though it’s a lesser one than Thanksgiving or Christmas or Chanukah. But, for many of us it marks the beginning of the holiday season and may set the tone for the next couple of months.

I know some people who are planning to forgo holiday celebrations all together this year. They are discouraged and even depressed and the risk of seeing loved ones this year is just too great. Yet, the thought of having celebrations without them triggers even more sadness and loss. Despite understanding the emotions that might lead to this decision, I don’t think it’s a good idea. I will explain why in today’s blog.

Most of us are feeling disoriented due to the multiple sources of social upheaval taking place this year. These stressors make it easier to focus on our own current state of mind. However, despite the fact that we like to think children aren’t subject to the same frustrations as adults are, it is unfortunately just not true. Children feel even more vulnerable than adults and easily pick up emotions from their parents and other adults they spend time with.

So pretty much everyone, regardless of age, is having a hard time these days. How can parents help their children feel more optimistic as we head into the holidays? By celebrating one of their favorite holidays, of course! Halloween!

“Aw, come on,” you might say, “how will celebrating Halloween really help?”

Here are 6 reasons to make this year a memorable Halloween.

1. We’re all aware that life in 2020 is a very different year. Celebrating Halloween can help show kids they can still count on traditions.  Having special & fun events despite the pandemic can help reduce anxiety and make life feel more predictable, which we all need. Halloween is an event that many kids look forward to months ahead of time. Making sure your kids enjoy the holiday can remind them of their life as separate from the pandemic and set a great tone for the next few months.

2. One aspect of the holidays most of us look forward to is having time with loved ones that we don’t often get to see. The loss of the usual gathering is one aspect that generates the sharpest grief. So finding ways to stay connected for Halloween helps trigger a sense of well–being. Nurturing relationships in 2020 may be a virtual affair, but friends and family matter both in the moment and in the big picture of our lives. The need for social connection has been a part of human life since before the beginning of recorded time. Spend time thinking and planning how to connect with family and friends during this pandemic Halloween – send cards, texts, or emails with pictures and funny drawings. Zoom gatherings have lost their appeal for many of us, but strategize how to make it fresh for the holidays: play games, wear costumes, organize fun discussions, play Halloween trivia – either big picture or based on previous family events.

3. Halloween is designed to be fun and usually there are so many activities that parents don’t need to put effort into ensuring a good time. This year is quite different with most traditional events seeming COVID-risky.  Parents need their creativity this year. Making sure your children have fun is good for their mental health; using the creative side of your brain is good for your mental health. How? Anxious and fearful emotions cause us to focus on that which we are afraid of. Pushing ourselves to activate other brain regions to use creative thinking to solve problems we can do something about is both energizing and reassuring.  We can design activities our children will enjoy and in doing so we have an opportunity to focus on something other than our worries.  Our imaginative and inspiring artistic self can provide a counterbalance to fear and bring balance into focus.

4. At this point in 2020, many of us are feeling bored and listless, maybe even depressed. Having a specific date to celebrate can help motivate our actions and pull us out of our doldrums. Here we are just days away from Halloween. Doing something to make our kids feel happier motivates most parents. They will benefit from the enthusiasm you generate and enjoying the celebration will improve everyone’s mood. Plus, several research studies have found that having fun actually releases “feel-good” neurochemicals that boost our immunity, something we all need more than ever during this pandemic.

5. Halloween is at least in part about facing fear. Some studies have found that experiencing a boost of adrenaline from being startled or walking through a haunted house generate the release of relaxing neurotransmitters once our brain signals that there is no real danger. In other words, being afraid and then realizing everything is OK provides an increase in our sense of well-being. Given the stressful year we have all had, we can produce a similar response by making Halloween fun despite our fear of uncertainty regarding the pandemic and the upcoming election. Having fun and enjoying ourselves despite the stress of the past year helps put our fears into perspective and boosts our happiness. It’s reassuring that life continues in a predictable way despite such stressful and disorienting events.

6. Finally, celebrating Halloween can pull us out of our rut of fear and anxiety and enable us to look at the world more positively. It is through this mental shift that we can notice and appreciate the good things most of us have in our lives. Experiencing gratitude on a regular basis can dramatically increase our happiness meter both in the present moment and over time.

So, having a fun Halloween can greatly benefit our mental health! Who knew?

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