Undated photo of a family decorating a Christmas tree. (Photo by Any Lane from Pexels)
TORONTO — If you’ve debated whether to bring out your holiday decorations before December, take this as a ‘yes’ from the experts who say doing so might make you happier.
“I think for a lot of us it brings back those childhood, nostalgic memories from that magical time,” said Nicole McCance, a clinical psychologist at the Toronto Neurofeedback & Psychotherapy Centre.
McCance says getting your holiday decorations out earlier can bring comfort, especially during the pandemic, and remind people of past celebrations.
“It was a time of awe and wonder and excitement and I think all of those things are missing from our lives these days, especially last year.”Aside from the emotional connection many share with the holidays, there is an actual science behind it.
Gillian Mandich, the founder of the International Happiness Institute of Health Science Research says festive colours and bright lights spark a chemical reaction in our brains that make us happier.
“Dopamine is a feel-good hormone and when we see bright lights and colourful decorations we can actually see an increase of that hormone in the body,” says Mandich.
Additionally, chromotherapy — or colour therapy, the treatment that uses light to affect one’s mood — further supports the idea that certain lights and colours can increase our energy levels and boost happiness.
Your holiday decorations can also impact the way others perceive you. A study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that Christmas decorations can open the door to new friends.
“People interpret your Christmas decorations on your home as a cue that the people inside are sociable. So these decorations serve as a communication of friendliness and cohesiveness as neighbours,” said Mandich.
Decorating earlier might also give you a break from your day-to-day routine. Many who still work from home or avoid social gatherings due to COVID-19 tend to be confined in the same space for most of their time, so changing your environment can give you a break from a monotonous lifestyle.
“We are creatures of habit so anything that sort of takes us out of our normal daily habits can signal our senses, it’s called trigger novelty so for a lot of people having these new decorations in their house or their office introduces a little bit of that to make it feel a little bit more special,” Mandich explained.
While decorations and getting into the holiday spirit can be uplifting, it can only do so much for those who might have a more difficult time during the holidays. This can be greater now than ever as the pandemic continues to take lives. For those who are feeling lonely in their grief, Mandich said it’s imperative to reach out to our friends.
“If you know someone who might have had a hard year or is going through a hard time, just reaching out and asking how they’re doing can help how they feel or doing something nice or thoughtful for them can really make them feel special and appreciated,” she said.
If you take a slower approach to the holiday festivities, you can always leave your lights and decorations up long after the holidays, like many Canadians did during pandemic lockdowns.