The holidays are supposed to be filled with joy, right? Well, the truth of the matter is that they can also be a source of stress and tension. In fact, part of that twisted knot in your stomach may be due to those holiday songs that you keep hearing over and over and over again.
The good news is that there are ways to undo those feelings and bring both musical and emotional contentment back into your life.
A recent article entitled “Does That Early Holiday Music Make You Happy — Or Bring Out the Bah Humbugs?” cites a poll reporting that 25 percent of Americans say the most stressful thing about the holidays is listening to the music.
Let that sink in for a moment. Music is supposed to bring us joy and happiness, not induce stress in our bodies and minds. All year long, most of us play music in our homes, cars and offices to feel good. Why should it be different this time of year?
The answer lies in the fact that, during the holidays, we’re assaulted by an endless onslaught of themed songs that play relentlessly, from every loudspeaker hidden in the ceilings, nestled in our car doors, lurking behind every innocent-looking potted plant. Yet holiday music is not for everyone, as an article titled “Why Does Christmas Music Make Us Happy?” attests. The reason you hear holiday music earlier and earlier each year, especially in places of business, is to stir up a sense of nostalgia … which in turn makes you want to spend more on gifts. However, at some point this technique can start to have an adverse effect. And for those who have had unpleasant associations with the holidays, this kind of musical overload can actually create feelings of contempt or sadness.
But just because you can’t stand to hear “Silent Night” or “Frosty The Snowman” anymore doesn’t mean you can’t take matters into your own hands and try to change the narrative. I’ve found, for example, that putting up holiday lights is an effective way to combat the holiday blues. This year, I decorated a fern plant before the Thanksgiving holiday with both white and multicolor lights. It immediately made me smile, and I found myself turning the lights on not only every night, but as soon as I got up in the morning.
Then I ran across an article that helped confirm my theory about lights. The author says that people who decorate earlier are simply tapping into the holidays before others, which makes them happier. Psychologist Deborah Serani also notes in the article that “decorating can definitely lift your mood. It does create a neurological shift that can produce happiness.”
I also find that playing my all-time favorite holiday CDs — A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio and the soundtrack to Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas — help lift my mood. I also enjoy creating my own custom playlist of holiday songs that elicit good memories or make me feel festive. This also has the bonus of letting me take control, at least to some extent, of which holiday songs I am listening to.
My final piece of advice is to embrace the spirit of giving. Years ago, I got together with a friend — the talented keyboard player Peter Vitalone — to record a holiday record called In the No L, where we did unique cover versions of some of our favorite seasonal songs. Along with special guests ranging from Shawn Pelton to Grammy-nominated opera singer Angela Blasi, we created a project that we’ve never sold. Instead, we’ve simply given this music away to help spread the cheer. So in that spirit, here’s a gift for you, dear reader: “Carol of the Bells,” featuring David Sancious on piano and Jerry Marotta on drums/percussion:
So if the holiday blues have got you down, try to take some positive steps to turn things around. Maybe it’s time to put on that holiday station, make some hot chocolate, put up a string of lights and try to create some new memories. And don’t forget to give if you can!