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Posted: November 09, 2017

Too much Christmas music is bad for your health, psychologists say

A star hangs near a Christmas tree during Christmas shopping season in a shopping mall on December 8, 2012 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)
Adam Berry/Getty Images Europe
A star hangs near a Christmas tree during Christmas shopping season in a shopping mall on December 8, 2012 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)

By Fiza Pirani, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The holiday season is upon us and that probably means the icicle lights are going up at your local hangouts, your neighbors are starting to set up the decor in their front yards and, of course, Christmas music is likely on a continuous loop everywhere you go — or it will be soon.

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If you’re not all that excited about the last bit, you’re not alone.

In fact, according to some mental health experts, hearing Christmas music can be psychologically draining, especially for those working in retail who have to listen to holiday tunes blasting in their stores regularly. 

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“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,” Linda Blair, a clinical psychologist in the United Kingdom, told Sky News. “You’re simply spending all your energy trying not to hear what you’re hearing.”

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Music tends to bypass rationality and go straight for our emotions, Blair said. "It might make us feel that we're trapped. It's a reminder that we have to buy presents, cater for people, organize celebrations.”

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While previous research has shown that adding Christmas music or scents to the shopping experience yields a positive experience for shoppers, it could also lead to impulse buys, due to the music’s emotional influence, Blair said.

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The United Kingdom’s Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers also told Sky News it “ask(s) employers to consider the staff who have to listen to Christmas music all day, because playing the same songs repeatedly can become very irritating and distracting.”

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Increased stress during the holidays is also a major trend in the U.S., according to the American Psychiatric Association.

Some common holiday stressors could include financial demands of the season, dealing with the interpersonal dynamics of family and maintaining personal health habits, including an exercise regimen, a 2015 Healthline study on consumer health found.

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Ellen Braaten, a psychology professor at Massachusetts General Hospital, shared some tips in a Harvard Medical School report on holiday stress and the brain:

“People who feel stressed during the holidays should evaluate how they spend their time, decide what they want the holidays to mean to them, and keep their expectations for the season realistic.”

“The holidays are just another time of year,” Braaten said, “certainly something to mark, but not the end-all, be-all.”

Read more about holiday stress and the brain at neuro.hms.harvard.edu.


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