Christmas is undoubtedly a unique time of year associated with celebration, family time and a general feeling of Christmas spirit! Most of us embrace at least some elements of this, with those who don’t get into the festivities known as a scrooges. But what effect does Christmas really have on our attitudes? Does that extra feeling of joy and excitement throughout December actually come from a true Christmas spirit? Some researchers believe that holiday cheer is real and more than just looking forward to the presents underneath the tree.
One particular 2015 study, by Danish researcher Brad Haddock, was carried out using Christmas themed images that were shown to two groups of people; those who celebrate Christmas and those who don’t. The participants saw these images as they underwent a brain scan (all for this Christmas cause!) The research showed that the front area of the brain actually lit up (like a Christmas tree) only for the participants who celebrate Christmas as the festive images flashed before their eyes. This suggests that there is a Christmas spirit network connected in the brain as we experience joy just from looking at Christmas themed images alone.
Psychologist Dr Patrick Keelan has stated to Insider magazine that he believes that Christmas holiday cheer goes beyond images of decorations and lights. He suggests that we really feel happy because Christmas time emphasises bonding with our family and loved ones. “Holidays allow for many people to have more enjoyable social interactions with friends and family, and positive social interaction is a robust predictor of better happiness,” He explains.
While Christmas does not guarantee a joyful and social time for all, it is a great time to extend this love and kindness to our neighbours and strangers alike. Whether you enjoy Christmas or not it is a great idea to remind of all of the people in our lives we are grateful for and to get involved in the community we have around us.