Grinches and Scrooges the world over already know this. Or at the very least, they already believe what many psychologists are saying, and that is too much Christmas music is bad for year mental health.
The statement also has those very same Grinches and Scrooges cheering wildly. They already can’t stand songs like Jingle Bells, Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus is Coming to Town and a dozen others. Psychologist Linda Blair says these Christmas music haters are right because, “You’re simply spending all of your energy trying not to hear what you’re hearing.”
She points out that workers in retail shops around the country suffer from repeatedly hearing these songs over and over. They have to tune them out somehow or they’d not get anything done. That said, a good mix of Christmas music and Christmasy smells are good for shoppers and shopping.
However, outside of the shopping experience — or if you’re stuck working in a retail shop — the first couple of times you hear a holiday song it can make you nostalgic. However, the 10th time a song is heard can lead to annoyance or — Blair said — even distress.
Another psychologist Victoria Williamson put it a different way. He said these overdone songs can make you stress about money, traveling and seeing relatives. The effect is similar to the Stockholm Syndrome.
For those not familiar, the Stockholm Syndrome is where — in a hostage situation — a person begins to identify with their captor.
Dr. Rhonda Freeman is a clinical neuropsychologist. She agrees at first Christmas music can lead to positive nostalgia. “Our response to Christmas songs depends on the association,” she said. “Many of us associate this music with childhood and a happy time of presents and traditions and all the specialness that happens around that time of year. When the brain makes these associations with something very positive and pleasurable, the rewards system is being activated [which triggers] a number of chemicals including dopamine.”
However, Freeman says there also can be a negative that comes with the positive.
“Some people had abusive childhoods, or they experienced a loss of some kind or a person someone passed away,” she noted and explained, “Because our prefrontal cortex is less developed when we are children, so we are more emotional beings when we are little. That becomes a part of our memory.”
Musicologist — yes, there are such designations — Phil Gentry from the University of Delaware says Christmas music is more positive than negative. Addressing the nostalgia, he said, “It’s a very diverse set, with everything from Mariah Carey to Silent Night. What makes it so unusual, at least in the U.S, is that it’s really the only set of songs we hear widely at the same time of year, every year. We don’t really have that with anything else, which is partly why it can make us so nostalgic.”
He said Christmas songs are among the last vestiges of the tradition of passing history on via the oral rather than the written.
“You learn it as a child, and it’s one of the few bodies of songs that people have deep inside their memories,” Gentry said. “When I ask my students what are songs you could teach without referencing any [document]? The answer is often a Christmas song.”
Source links: Independent, Business Insider, Big Think, NBC