While Christmas songs make the holiday season even more festive, experts have revealed that listening to one can be detrimental to some people's mental health.
For many, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, just like what the Andy William's classic holiday song says. After all, apart from the festive holiday decorations, gifts sprawling under the tree, sumptuous feast on the dinner table on Christmas Eve and on the day itself, Christmas is also the perfect time for family reunions.
Although the Christmas season is not complete without the Christmas songs played either in one's home or in public places such as malls, restaurants, and parks, experts have warned that listening to one can actually harm one's mental health, depending on how a person associates a Christmas song to his life.
"Our response to Christmas songs depends on the association. 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," explained Dr. Rhonda Freeman, a clinical neuropsychologist.
It goes without saying that the effects of Christmas songs on an individual is dependent on his personal experience. While holiday music can trigger happy memories for some, it may do the exact opposite to others. According to Freeman, those who suffer from the adverse effects of listening to Christmas songs are the ones who have either been abused as a child or have lost a loved one. As music in general impacts a person's amygdala, the part of the brain that unlocks emotions and reactions to stressors, Christmas songs can just unlock the pain for others.
"The reward system can also be associated with pain. For that population, Christmas songs can be very painful to hear," Freeman explained.
While some people can opt not to listen to Christmas music when they are at home, others who react negatively to Christmas songs and work in retail shops are just not as fortunate. After all, workers in retail shops or malls have to endure the Christmas songs that play over and over again until their shift is over. Hence, retail workers who have a negative association with Christmas songs are the most prone to being stressed out, if not depressed at all.
"You're simply spending all of your energy trying not to hear what you're hearing," said another clinical psychologist Linda Blair.