There is a reason that you hear Christmas music wherever you go as soon as November rolls around. A big part of this is due to the joy that comes with it. But why do these feelings emerge?
Music and Our Brains:
The relationship between sound and our brains is unique and complex. After Sound waves enter your ears, they vibrate your eardrum. That energy is converted into an electrical signal the travels of your eighth cranial nerve into your head. This nerve travels to the brainstem, where is handed off to other nerves that pass that information to the temporal lobe of your brain. If you remember from one of our previous posts, the temporal lobe has multiple functions. One of the functions is to allow us to perceive sound, smell and taste; another is to process he emotion and memories.
Several scientific studies have shown that uplifting music, which can vary from person to person, has been known to have a positive effect both physically and psychologically. Studies have also shown that the feeling associated when listening to music can be sorted into two categories, perceived emotions and felt emotions. Perceived emotions mean we can appreciate the emotional tone or ambiance of a piece, but not feel that emotion ourselves. So, listening to a somber piece of music may be pleasant to some people as they appreciate the quality behind it. Felt emotions are when we connect to the feeling behind the piece we are listening to and it can impact our emotional state.
Part of the reason why Christmas music is associated with joy and festiveness is not necessarily the music itself, but the memories that come with it. Many holiday songs focus around religion, time with family, traditions, or Christmas emblems such as Santa Clause or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Since for many people the holidays mean spending time with loved ones or appreciating what they are thankful for, these songs can stir a sense of nostalgia and happiness. Some studies have shown that portions of the brain that are particularly active when listening to music are the Nucleus Accumbens and Cerebellum, which are known for emotional response to music, as well as the Hippocampus which has been associated with musical memory. So next time you are in a store playing Christmas music, with Christmas tree scented candles, giving away Christmas cookies, just think… They are practicing Neuro marketing... appealing to the senses, emotions, and memories of your temporal lobe.
It’s Not For Everyone:
There is a reason that you hear Christmas music earlier and earlier each year. To stir up that sense of nostalgia, many places of business will play holiday music consistently and it with festive decorations and scents. At some point, these techniques can start to have an adverse effect. For those who have had unpleasant associations with the holidays, this can create feelings of contempt or sadness. Even for those who enjoy the holidays, after hearing the same some over and over again, it loses its appeal.
The impact of music on our psychological and emotional well-being has been researched and studied for many years. As we continue to explore the relationship, the idea that music can be healing to both the body and mind can be beneficial to many. As the holidays roll around, take the time to listen to the songs that mean the most and get you into the spirit, as long as they don’t wear on you before the date actually arrives!