15 Dec 2019

Why Christmas songs could be bad for your mental health

From Sunday Morning, 9:45 am on 15 December 2019

People who claim hearing Christmas music - especially well in advance of December - does their head in might not be that far off the mark.

Psychologists say playing Christmas tunes on a loop can damage shop workers' mental health.

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Photo: 123RF

Dr Linda Blair joined Jim Mora to explain why these tunes bring up bad memories for so many. She also has some great shopping tips for making the festive season a lot less stressful.

Dr Blair says stress comes at us differently these days and can have a profound effect on our lives.

“Much of it is stuff we can’t control. We didn’t used to know, for example, if there was a terrorist attack in a country across the world, we didn’t used to know if there was a flood in Florida. We now know all these things."

She says being told about something you can’t change is one of the most unpleasant stresses humans can endure.

Stress about Christmas music is a little different. She says people who can’t stand the sound of it normally have a bad memory associated with the festive tunes.

“For example, if Christmas music that was the time of year when your granny got sick, or the time of year you got caught out for something you were naughty about. Often without consciously knowing why, you don’t like it.”

The other strain of Christmas music stress comes from the repetition.

Dr Linda Blair

Dr Linda Blair Photo: Sam Jones

“If you hear the same thing over and over, whether it’s Christmas music or something else, you like at first – because we like the familiar – but if you hear it too often we don’t like it at all, it really turns us off.”

Dr Blair says another reason we might find it annoying is because we often hear it in retail stores where we’re stressed about getting gifts, the right food, being low on money, and so on.

She says one way of alleviating this pressure is to begin gift shopping in February and pick up things throughout the year as we notice them.

“By the time Christmas rolls around, a) you don’t have a lot of money you have to put up front because you gradually collected your gifts and b) when you give the gifts, you can talk about the time and place you got them. It has a whole story.”

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