Tinsel Tricks Your Brain

Did you decorate early this year? If you did, science says you’re probably happier. And by ‘science,’ we mean evidence from the Journal of Environmental Psychology.

In 2017, the British website Unilad reported that people who decorate earlier are happier because they are tapping into the excitement of the holidays before the rest of us. 

Psychologist Deborah Serani confirmed it by saying, 

“It does create that neurological shift that can produce happiness. I think anything that takes us out of our normal habituation, the normal day in, day out … signals our senses, and then our senses measure if it’s pleasing or not.” She added that “Christmas decorating will spike dopamine, a feel-good hormone.”

But what precisely about Christmas decorations triggers those happy hormones? Serani said it’s the bright lights and colors. More specifically, chromotherapy, or color therapy, which increases energy levels and boosts happiness, might be at play. Or maybe it’s just the ambiance in general. There’s even a new scientific field devoted to understanding how our designed environments affect behavior called neuro-architecture.

Of course, nostalgia plays a big part. 

“For a lot of us, Christmas is a magical time; it’s a time of innocence, it’s a time of joy,” Serani said.

Happy childhood memories of the holidays are a massive factor in decorating earlier because you want to re-create those feelings sooner rather than later. However, in contrast, bad memories may trigger disgust and hatred for the holiday season and all its decorations and festivities, especially if it’s deemed “too early.”

But suppose you find yourself on the grumpy side of the spectrum. In that case, psychologist and happiness expert Elizabeth Lombardo has this tip: “Start a new tradition. Whether it’s going away, seeing a movie as a family, volunteering, it creates a new association.” So the next time the holidays roll around, you’ll subconsciously connect that time of the year with your newer, happier memories.

There’s a possible bonus benefit to decorating early: The neighbors might think you’re friendlier! Research has shown that people interpret Christmas decorations on a home as a cue that the people inside are warm and inviting.

If you are one of the early ones, we applaud you. You make this world brighter and more cheerful. If you’re one of the ones a little late to the game, that’s perfectly fine. We want you here. We’re just glad that you keep showing up!

Sources:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0272494489800106?via%3Dihub
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1297510/
https://www.neuroau.com/post/principles-of-neuroarchitecture

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