Why Binge-Listening to Christmas Music May Not Be the Best Idea This Season

Christmas is here, bringing good cheer. To young and old, meek and the bold…” But along with that joy, your favourite Christmas tunes may also bring bouts of exhaustion, distress and fatigue… How does that make sense, you wonder?

For many of us, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. From starry skies to fluorescent lights to the most beautiful decked up trees and homes, everything spells out the magic of the holiday. We love tuning to the all-time hits like Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is you” and Michael Bublé’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” but turns out, these songs may have a negative impact on your mental health.

According to Clinical Psychologist Linda Blair, preemptive and incessant consumption of Christmas music can trigger anxiety.

“Christmas music is likely to irritate people if it’s played too loudly and too early. It might make us feel that we’re trapped – it’s a reminder that we have to buy presents, cater for people, organise celebrations,” she told Sky News.

Photo by Heidi Fin

Sympathising with retail workers who continuously have to listen to the same songs over and over again, she noted that “People working in the shops at Christmas have to tune out Christmas music because if they don’t, it really does stop you from being able to focus on anything else… You are simply spending all of your energy trying not to hear what you are hearing.”

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Such music does not only affect our concentration levels and mood, but given the intimate nature of the festival, it triggers an emotional response. People already struggling with personal issues such as work stress, loss of a loved one, seasonal depression and so on, may feel more suffocated and anxious due to the constant reinstatement of joyous times. On top of that, past memories including particular smells and sights are also said to be recalled by music. If your childhood Christmas memories were filled with disappointment and unmet expectations, then the music may serve as  a reminder of the happy holiday you never had. That, in turn, could make you feel gloomy.

Photo by David Beale

Professor Elizabeth Margulis, from the Music Cognition Lab at the University of Arkansas said that repeatedly listening to the same songs makes one feel annoyed as there exists “an inverted-U shaped response to repetition.”

The first few times we hear a song we like, we tend to listen to it on repeat for a number of times. After some passage of time, we reach a saturation point where we might not necessarily dislike the song anymore, but listening to it makes us feel irritated, which ultimately alters our initial perception towards it. This is exactly what happens with the blasting Christmas tunes during the wintry holiday months.

That being said, it’s not the case for everyone. Whether or not you share that holiday cheer depends largely on your approach and your perspective on the season. If Christmas music reminds you of those joyous moments in your life, feel free to jam out to your favorite tunes. After all, we don’t want you to get out of the whole festive spirit, we would just like you to value your mental health and create the next playlist wisely!

For starters, fight that cognitive fatigue by adding a diverse range of tracks from pop to country to classical genre. Keep the volume in check and create the right balance between festive and regular tracks. Festivities can get overwhelming. This Christmas, make sure you look out for yourself and engage in sufficient self-care through introspection, meditation and exercise.