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Why Christmas is Great for Our Mental Health

Christmas can be an exciting time. It can be a thrilling time. And it can be a challenging time. But whether you see Christmas as a blissful time, or a stressful time, there is no doubt that Christmas, or parts of Christmas, can be great for our mental health.

Why Christmas is Great for Our Mental Health

Christmas Cheer Activates Our ‘Happiness’ Neural Pathways

Christmas cheer is that feeling of joy, warmth, peace and nostalgia that people feel when they experience something that is Christmas related. During a study conducted at the University of Denmark in 2015, twenty people were shown images with a Christmas or non-Christmas theme while being monitored by a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine. Interestingly, when the people saw the images of Christmas their brain activity rapidly increased.

While there is no ‘happiness’ circuit in the brain, the overall neural pathway activation points to an overall emotion of wellbeing. So, for the sake of your wellbeing, embrace the Christmas spirit!

Singing Together Decreases Stress

Christmas carolling, whether at home or to friends and extended family, used to be a big part of Christmas celebrations. This is less true today. However, maybe it’s time to refocus on this tradition. And that’s because studies show that singing together can increase both physical and psychological wellbeing while also increasing the social bonds of the singers.

In this study, researchers found that group singing led to a decrease of adrenocorticotropic hormone, a marker of stress. It also led to an increase in oxytocin, a hormone linked to social bonding. So, gather around the piano (or the Bluetooth speakers) and belt out a little Christmas music. It doesn’t matter whether you sound like the Von Trapps or not. It’s the act of singing that’s so great for you.

You Can Buy Happiness

Contrary to popular belief, studies show that you can buy happiness. As long as you are doing the buying for someone else. In fact, one 2008 study showed that participants who were given money to go shopping, and then spent that money on others were happier than the participants who spent money on themselves. The amount of money was irrelevant, as well. The study also showed that people who spent more of their monthly income on others had greater happiness overall.

Christmas is a fantastic time for giving—to family, friends and even charitable foundations. By doing just that you’ll be giving yourself a gift, too. The gift of happiness!

The Power of Ritual for Wellbeing

Rituals play an important part in our wellbeing. But Christmas rituals even more so. In fact, evidence shows that our Christmas rituals play a role in increasing our sense of satisfaction and wellbeing. How do they do this? By evoking memories of other times in our lives when we’ve gone through the same rituals. And every time we enter into another Christmas ritual, we embrace those layered feelings of goodwill. Better yet, we build on those layers and store up more festive feelings for the future.

Holiday Lights to Lift Your Mood

At Christmas time the world starts lighting up—literally. Houses and shopping centres are festooned with lights. Christmas trees pop up everywhere, lights twinkling in their green boughs. It’s a beautiful time of year. But there are benefits to the bright holiday lights beyond just beauty.

Holiday decorations, like lights, bring on actual feelings of joy. But of course, it’s not the lights themselves, but the happy memories that you associate with the lights. Over the course of our lives, these lights and decorations have been followed by wonderful things—like Santa (as kids), and family, good food and quality time, too. It’s classical conditioning, so these decorations can, over time, work to elevate our moods.

Embrace Christmas

Sometimes we find Christmas to be stressful because we’re trying to do everything at once. It doesn’t have to be that way. We can embrace the beautiful, wonderful things about Christmas—gift giving, reliving our traditions or even decorating—and find more wellbeing and life satisfaction than ever before.

Author: Di O’Malley – Founder and Managing Director of Young Minds Health and Development Network, and Counselling Psychologist.

Please call us on (07) 3857 0074 to book an appointment with one of our Clinicians; or send us an Appointment Request via this website and we’ll contact you as soon as possible to book a suitable time for you.