Too much Christmas music is bad for your mental health

While the smells and sounds of the season might put you in the holiday spirit, a psychologist warns research shows playing too much Christmas music can be bad for your mental health.

Clinical psychologist Linda Blair told Sky News: ‘It might make us feel that we’re trapped – it’s a reminder that we have to buy presents, cater for people, and organize celebrations.’ 

Festive songs can be especially mentally draining for people working in shops who listen to the carols on constant replay, she warns.  

For businesses, however, it is worth the anguish: studies have shown that the holiday music puts shoppers in the spending mood and drives them to buy more.

A study has found that holiday music on constant replay can be mentally draining for employees working in shops

A study has found that holiday music on constant replay can be mentally draining for employees working in shops

About 61 percent of people experience stress during the Christmas season, according to the American Psychiatric Association. 

Blair explains: ‘Music goes right to our emotions immediately and it bypasses rationality.‘

And the continuous loop played in shops affects mental health differently in workers and customers.

‘People working in the shops at Christmas have to [tune out] Christmas music, because if they don’t, it really does stop you from being able to focus on anything else,’ she said.  

She also adds that Christmas music is likely to irritate people if it’s played too loudly and too early. 

‘You’re simply spending all of your energy trying not to hear what you’re hearing.’ Blair says.

Music involves multiple areas of the brain that induce emotions, involving reflexes, conditioning, emotional contagion, visual imagery, memory and expectancy.

Victoria Williamson, Ph.D, an expert on the psychology of music has spoken about the effects Christmas music has on the brain before and said it is due to the ‘mere exposure effect’.

The mere exposure effect is a psychological phenomenon where people develop a liking to things simply because they are familiar with them from constant exposure. 

Williamson explained that the first few times your hear Christmas music can put you in the holiday spirit as exposure to seasonal music can link to positive feelings. But once the same songs are heard constantly, they will trigger a negative response in the brain.

But research has shown that the right balance of Christmas scents and songs can make shoppers feel more positively about their environment.

A study from Washington State University examined 130 students by exposing them to holiday scents and non-holiday scents, asking them to rate the scents by pleasantness, familiarity, and intensity. The same experiment was then conducted with Christmas music and non-Christmas music.

The collected data more favorable feedback when ambient Christmas scents were paired with Christmas music, as compared to no scent and non-holiday music.

‘The scents of pine, cinnamon, and mulled cider join with the sounds of carolers, traditional hymns and pop holiday tunes create the Christmas holiday season in the minds of many,’ the study reports.

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