Every year, at the same time of year, supermarkets begin to flood its aisles with Christmas songs, mere moments after the Halloween decorations come down. “Let It Snow,” “Frosty The Snowman,” and “Jingle Bell Rocks” and other Holiday classics replace the possibly ghoulish sound of Halloween-specific pop songs. Ironically, the music that asks all to be of good cheer frequently is encountered with some dismay. The anxiety could likely be attributed to the repetition that persists in the field of oral tradition, and the frequent mention of a certain snowman, Santa Clause, or a particular reindeer.
According to NBC Columbus, listening to Christmas music too early may encourage retail workers toward adverse mental health conditions. The recently published study, It’s Beginning to Smell (and Sound) a Lot Like Christmas: The Interactive Effects of Ambient Scent and Music in a Retail Setting, explained that there are extensive neuropsychological reasoning as to why Christmas carols have an impressive impact. For shop employees, the music can be too distracting and difficult to ignore.
“People working in shops at Christmas have to learn how to tune it out – tune out Christmas music because if they don’t, it really does make you unable to focus on anything else,” Clinical Psychologist Linda Blair told Sky News. “You’re simply spending all your energy trying not to hear what you’re hearing.”
Conversely, the addition of Christmas music and scents creates a better retail environment for shoppers. In fact, if stores didn’t play Christmas music during the holidays, consumer reportedly have a far more negative experience while shopping.
Dr. Rhonda Freeman, a clinical neuropsychologist, explained to NBC News that most associate Christmas music with one’s childhood: familial happiness, presents, traditions, and the unique quality of that time of year. The brain recognizes these associations, which are positive, and this leads to an onslaught of chemical releases, including dopamine. Learn songs as a child, and repeating it each year, sows it into one’s long-term memory. These songs, which are fashioned to provoke an emotional response, can stimulate joy.
Likewise, for those who struggled through difficult Christmas seasons, or endured abuses, or survived a loss, they associate the “joys” of Christmas with anxiety and depression.
The amygdala, the part of our brain that unlocks emotions and reactions to stressors, is impacted by Christmas music. For those who encountered hardship as a child, Christmas songs can instigate pain. This type of music is more intense of those who experienced difficult childhoods 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,” according to Freeman.
“If you don’t want to hear a song, or are hearing it on repeat for three hours [with no say in the matter], your prefrontal cortex is working hard to filter it out so you can focus,” said Freeman. “Also, the environment is everything. If you’ re in a store and you don’t want to hear it, that’s stressful because your brain has to work harder to focus.”
What are your thoughts and feelings on Christmas or Holiday music? Does it elicit a positive response in you, or is it painful?