Why Adults Need Halloween Too
Customarily, Halloween is viewed as a kids’ holiday. It is often seen as a rite of passage into adulthood when you get too old for trick-or-treating and leave the holiday behind. However, Halloween is just as beneficial for adults as it is for children. Here’s why:
Adults Need to Play Too
Our society tends to view play as strictly for children. The message we receive is: Adults aren’t supposed to play; we’re supposed to be serious and hyper-productive. Everything we do must have a goal or a purpose, and we build habits and routines to serve these purposes and manage our personal and professional lives. These routines may bring a sense of stability, but after a while they can also create feelings of stagnation and restlessness. You may start to feel robotic in the day-to-day hustle.
Just as play encourages cognitive growth in children, it plays a pivotal role in enriching the lives of adults. Dr. Stuart Brown, a psychiatrist and founder of the National Institute of Play, described play as a “state of being” that focuses on the actual experience, rather than accomplishing a goal. Play allows us to laugh and enjoy the moment with others, which can facilitate deep connections and healing with others. Brown explained that play provides the sense of novelty and pleasure that we might lack in our daily lives, and it helps boost our creativity and relationships.
And what better time to play than on Halloween? For one night, we are free to let our imaginations run wild. We can transform ourselves into whoever or whatever we want. We can decorate our yards to look cute or creepy, craft clever costumes or cool pumpkin designs, and make awesome Halloween treats. All of this is done for the sake of fun. If you’re having trouble tapping into the spirit of play, look no further than the child experts around you. Because kids aren’t locked into the “proper” way of doing things, they can come up with the most bizarre, playful ideas and connections. Observing their excitement about Halloween can help get you in the right mindset.
Memento Mori is a phrase used by Stoic philosophers that translates to “remember you must die”. It may sound morbid or ominous to our ears, but the Stoics used Memento Mori as a reminder that every day is a gift, and that we should prioritize the things that are most important to us instead of getting hung up on trivialities. Basically, we should live like we’re dying, because technically we are.
Holidays like Halloween and Dia de los Muertos embrace the concept of Memento Mori by making death the main focus. By entertaining the macabre through horror films and ghost stories, or walking through cemeteries or haunted house attractions, we are bringing a little levity and fun to our mortality. Research has shown that mortality awareness does have some positive benefits. A study done by Matthew Gailliot and colleagues in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin in 2008 found that awareness of death can motivate increased expressions of tolerance, egalitarianism, compassion, empathy, and pacifism.
How often do you talk to your neighbors? Do you know more than one or two of them on your block? Chances are the answer is “no.”
Perhaps it’s the effects of mortality awareness discussed above, but Halloween is the one day of the year where we show a little more trust and faith in our fellow people. We open our doors to everyone who rings or knocks, we allow ourselves to be spooked or tricked by others, we let strangers give our children candy, and we spend an evening walking and chatting alongside people we might not know. Social connections like these remind us of the importance of our bonds with others. If you have kids or grandkids, use trick-or-treating as a chance to strengthen those connections with neighbors or get to know new ones. You never know who might enrich your life. You could also enrich elderly neighbors’ lives by having your kids visit their homes.
Even if you don’t have kids, you can still get to know people and show good-will by giving out candy. It can be fun to see the wonder and humor kids naturally bring with them. You never know what they’re going to say or do, and it can lead to a good laugh or a funny story.
Halloween may seem to be all about the candy for the kids, but it can bring a lot of treats for adults too if we’re open to looking for them. So this Halloween feed your inner child, get creative, appreciate life, and have fun!
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