Need a remedy for your winter blues? One of the easiest ways to make your holidays merry can cost you as little as zero dollars—music. More and more experts attest that the power of music is astounding.
That's good news. In the midst of the holiday season, we need music more than ever: the stores are crowded with frenzied shoppers, traffic is heavier than usual, there are family and work commitments tugging at us from every angle, gifts have to be purchased and bills paid off.
Phew. The holidays can be overwhelming.
The neurochemistry of music helps improve our well-being in different ways. Perhaps this is how all these winter tunes emerged. It jollifies the gloomy scene “way up north where the air gets cold.” It’s become a means of coping with seasonal strain. Before we get into what songs we're loving right now, here's how and why music can help.
Holiday Music Can Reduce Stress
For each of us, there‘s that one song that can change our day in an instant. One tip is to play cheerful music when we start to feel the effects of stress: anxiety, restlessness, lack of motivation, irritability, anger, or sadness.
Uplifting melodies decrease cortisol (AKA the stress hormone) by stimulating dopamine (the hormone that enhances our mood). This happiness hormone increases feelings of motivation, enjoyment, and reward. When holiday stress is bringing you down, turn up your favorite tunes for an extra kick of those mood boosters!
Holiday Music Can Help With Memory
What are the lyrics to the “12 Days of Christmas” again? Music makes us sit up and pay attention. We tune in to words that speak to us. Singing along also jogs our memory. It’s a great cognitive exercise!
The documentary, “Alive Inside,” notes that patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease in assisted living facilities benefit from jamming to their favorite songs. After listening to an iPod, patients became more animated; it improved recollection and articulation.
(See also: Selecting the Right Nursing Home for Your Loved One)
Holiday Music Can Help with Pain
We mentioned how stress affects your mood, but did you know it takes a toll on your body as well? Some effects of stress include headaches, muscle tension or discomfort, fatigue, upset stomach and trouble sleeping.
In hospitals, music therapy helps those undergoing chemotherapy and other procedures by reducing their pain perception. "It draws attention from the pain to another another source, and keeps the brain relaxed or distracted during a procedure," said Katherine Lantigua, a board certified music therapist in South Florida.
Holiday Music Brings Us Together
"Strike the harp and join the chorus..." Listening to "Deck the Halls" on one’s own is great—but it’s even better when sharing the experience with others.
Cultures worldwide have always come together to sing with one another. It's the sense of community that draws us to our loved ones this time of year. According to positive psychology, experiencing a connection with a community "provides a support system for members when they are in need of encouragement or sympathy. The strong feelings of connection to the group also work to combat any mental illness that can arise from alienation in the form of anxiety and depression."
There are several ways to bring music and people together for the holidays:
- Call friends over for caroling, posadas or parrandas.
- Host an impromptu holiday karaoke.
- Pack a guitar to serenade grandma and her friends at the home.
- Organize a talent show at your family’s celebration.
- Attend a Christmas concert or performance.
Yeah, but that still won’t fix holiday traffic…
We hear you, Grinches. We can’t help ease the traffic, but we can make a small suggestion: play holiday tunes on your way to or from work. And go ahead, dance it out—just be sure to drive carefully!
To get you started, here's a playlist of our staff's favorite holiday music on Spotify.
NOTE: This post is intended to provide general information to our readers. None of the information contained in this post should be construed to constitute legal or medical advice.Do not rely exclusively on any of the information contained in this post. Always seek further assistance from a legal or medical professional where necessary.