No matter where we go, Christmas carols are omnipresent. We cannot avoid them. The classic themes of these celebrations are repeated ad nauseam. In fact, according to Spotify some of the most listened to songs are: "Have Yourself a Merry Christmas" by Michael Bublé and "White Christmas" by Bing Crosby.
For some people, this Christmas sound bombardment can turn into a real ordeal affecting their emotionality. Therefore, if you are one of those who get stressed out by listening to Christmas carols, you should know that you are not alone. In fact, in the United States, 23% of people recognize that they do not like Christmas carols and that they even cause them stress. In the UK the percentage rises to 25%.
Most people say they are bothered by it because they are so repetitive, others are bothered by the loud volume and some acknowledge that they hate this genre of music. Curiously, some have also indicated that listening to many Christmas carols has the opposite effect: it takes away the desire to celebrate and puts them in a bad mood.
This phenomenon has a neuropsychological explanation.
The effect of mere exposure: When "much" becomes "too much"
The effect of mere exposure is a psychological phenomenon that increases or decreases the acceptance and appreciation of a stimulus based on the degree of exposure. It has been found that some people develop a positive attitude towards stimuli based on repeated exposure, which is what is known as the “familiarity principle”. It is the same with paintings, music or even with other people.
The interesting fact is that this phenomenon is not fully aware. That is, even if we don't pay much attention to the song playing in the background, our brains still record it. By recognizing Christmas carols, for example, they generate feelings of nostalgia and activate the Christmas spirit. The familiarity effect is activated and we feel comfortable and safe. The problem comes later because hearing "Jingle Bells" or "White Christmas" for the millionth time can generate discomfort, boredom and even anguish, according to researchers at Washington State University.
Excessive exposure to certain stimuli or songs could end up having the opposite effect and lead us to reject them. When Christmas carols play non-stop, our brains end up oversaturated, which is why it triggers a negative response.
Indeed, this type of music can have a draining effect, especially in people who are more exposed, such as those who work in shops and malls. When we don't like a song, we try to erase it from our mind by thinking about other things, and this consumes a lot of mental energy and we end up suffering a real cognitive fatigue.
The emotional cost also depends on the personal meaning of Christmas
Add to the annoying repetition of Christmas carols other concerns of the Christmas period, such as having to meet relatives with whom we have little in common and with whom we often end up arguing, the economic pressure involved in buying gifts and the stress of organizing holidays, then those songs only serve to reinforce the anxiety and the feeling of anguish. In fact, it is not surprising that many people say that the Christmas spirit gives them the feeling of being trapped.
In other cases, Christmas carols can end up triggering painful memories of past years or of loved ones who are no longer there, so they can increase the feeling of loneliness that many experience during these dates.