That Christmas Spirit


(Image via Caring Magazine)

Jess Winkler, Writer

You know that feeling a lot of people get around Christmas? Not only the joy or stress, but that special feeling you get only around the holidays? There is a reason for that! Five different parts of your brain releases chemicals that give your body that feeling of the warm and fuzzy. The researchers that tested this finding describe this feeling as “joy and nostalgia mixed with associations to merry feelings, gifts, delightful smells and good food”. 

The testing included showing a bunch of volunteers images that represent Christmas and logging the different reactions the brain has to them. The areas that lit up with the most activity were the left primary motor (side of the brain that controls the right side of the body), the premotor cortex (the part that predicts your movements and prepares your body), the right inferior and superior parietal lobule (the perception of emotions and sensory input), and bilateral primary somatosensory cortex (responsible for sensations of temperature and touch). All these different parts of your brain work together to give you that wonderful feeling of Christmas spirit. “-the study does fit with the idea that thinking about something can elicit an associated response, because it was a response to images of Christmas, not really Christmas, that we used as a stimulus,” says scientist Haddock, one of the many people who worked on the tests. In other words, just the thought of Christmas produces a happy and joyful reaction in your head. 

Even putting up Christmas decorations early sets off positive emotions in your head. “In a world full of stress and anxiety people like to associate with things that make them happy, and Christmas decorations evoke those strong feelings of the childhood,” says psychonolist Steve Mckeown. The colorful lights and colors spark the effects of chromotherapy, or color therapy, which boosts your overall feelings and positivity. Our stressful lives give us an overload of negative feelings that early Christmas decorations can help with. When people deck the halls for Christmas early, it tells neighbors and other people that you are more friendly because of the association of Christmas being a social and friendly event. “People with festive homes are seen as  ‘more friendly’ and ‘open,’ ” says The New York Post. So if you are the type of person who decorates for Christmas the day after Halloween you might be happier than others! 

Another reason for the festive mood is nostalgia, the memories and traditions that bring joy to one’s life. Repeating the same traditions every year your brain recognizes the feeling the activity has on you. Whether you get nostalgia from remembering your childhood or the repetition of a tradition with friends or family, it can all bring back that wonderful feeling of the holidays. During the holidays we tend to remember more memories of the past because of the annual occurrences of seeing family and decorations. It also doesn’t help that we make a big deal about Christmas, making it harder to not feel that nostalgia of past holidays and loved ones. People have also reported missing their loved ones that died, while this doesn’t give off a happy and joyful mood it is still nostalgia that can be associated with Christmas. This could be because you remember a tradition that you partook in with them or the remembrance of their cooking. Nostalgia is a big part of the Christmas spirit and the overall feeling of being festive. 

So whether you feel festive after decorating the house for Christmas, or remembering your childhood, this is all the chemical reactions that your brain gives out. Feeling festive produces an immediate positive reaction. The Christmas spirit can help people release stress and become happier in the holidays. So if life is getting to you, Christmas can help make everything better. I hope everyone has a great holiday and a happy new year!