Christmas music is bad for your mental health

Rowena Tylden-Pattenson explains why festive tunes are more than just annoying.

Rowena Tylden-Pattenson
11th December 2017
Ho ho howay man give it a rest!

It comes to me as no surprise that Christmas music is bad for your mental health, as a self-confessed Christmas Grinch. But finally, scientific proof that it really isn’t good for you!

Christmas music being bad for you comes down to two main arguments: being played too early, and being played too much. First off, being played too early. Christmas is in December- so I really don’t want to hear it while I’m out looking for Halloween decorations.

Jingle Bells being blared over shop speakers doesn’t really go with the spooky Halloween vibe of October, and it’s been found that “you’re simply spending all of your energy trying not to hear what you're hearing” by clinical psychologist Linda Blair. It’s not the right time to start thinking about putting up the Christmas tree, baking mince pies or buying up carrots for Rudolph, so you spend the whole time trying not to think about those things. Christmas becomes the elephant in the room.

Christmas tunes can be the opening bell to Christmas can also signal the start of a stressful period of the year.

The other problem is Christmas tunes being played too often. Constant exposure to “Santa Claus is coming to town” wears you down, with any initial positive Christmas vibes slowly wilting. It should come as no surprise that retail workers suffer from the greatest exposure to Christmas music, both in terms of repetition per day, and how early the retail sector starts to get ready for “the most important day of the year”.

Shops like Debenhams and John Lewis opened their Christmas sections months ago, and I can’t imagine how sick employees must be of Christmas songs by now. Although Christmas tunes can be the opening bell to Christmas cheer, stirring up thoughts of present giving, family and huge Christmas dinners, it can also signal the start of a stressful period of the year.

Who do you need to buy presents for? When are you going to visit your relatives? Do you even want to see your relatives? It’s Christmas, you need to. And you have to buy them presents. Because they always do, even though the only conversation you can muster between yourselves is about the weather and how you’ve gotten so smart. It’s just draining, and those negative thoughts just get even more stressful with each new repetition of “All I want for Christmas is you”.

The ‘Christmas Creep’ of music being played earlier and earlier is all to do with encouraging shoppers to spend more.

So why do shops even play Christmas music as early as they do? The ‘Christmas Creep’ of music being played earlier and earlier is all to do with encouraging shoppers to spend more. A 2005 study by Washington State University showed that when music is paired with ambient Christmas scents – think cinnamon, spices and mulled wine – shoppers were more likely to leave favourable feedback, spend more time in shops and boost sales. Slow-paced tunes were particularly effective, with shoppers lingering to peruse the festive delights on offer. This comes with the disadvantage of slowly impacting retail workers’ mental health though. Apparently, a price the industry is willing to pay.

If you’re not forced into listening Christmas music by a retail job, but you’re still not a fan, then that’s okay. With Christmas comes the expectation that it’s everyone’s favourite time of the year, and for some it just isn’t. The holiday can be what you want it to be, whether that be a house stuffed with Christmas ornaments from December 1st and tunes on full blast, or something a little more mellow and closer to Christmas Day.

Just because someone doesn’t want to be bombarded with Christmas spirit constantly doesn’t make them a Grinch; perhaps they just celebrate in a different way to you. Perhaps coming home to more carols is too much. So try to be considerate when you’re about to blast Christmas music throughout your house, because someone might have had it for six hours already today.

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