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Tuesday, June 25, 2024
The Observer

How to have the best Christmas, according to science

1. Put your decorations up as early as possible. Psychologists at the McKeown Clinic believe that people who put up Christmas decorations early are happier, and since some news outlets called them experts (fake news?), it’s believable. Alternatively, you could just never take down you Christmas decorations, and then you could be lazy and happy.

2. Don’t listen to Christmas music early. A psychologist at the University of London says too much Christmas music can make people crazy. This one is more believable because the psychologist in question (Dr. Victoria Williamson) specializes in the effects of music on people. And another psychologist (Dr. Linda Blair) agreed with her, along with anyone who has ever worked in retail, so it’s most likely legit.

3. Don’t put up Christmas decorations outside your house. A study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology says people who put up outdoor Christmas decorations are friendlier, and nobody wants to be the friendly neighbor. Alternatively, if you live in the rager house and your neighbors hate you, this might help smooth things over.

4. Eat all the Christmas cookies. You might think sugar is bad for you (it is), but eating it increases our brains’ serotonin levels and serotonin is an anti-depressant. This is especially relevant during finals week.

5. Don’t eat mistletoe. I think this one is a no-brainer, but just in case — mistletoe contains phoratoxin, which can cause gastrointestinal upset in small doses and severe heart complications in large ones. However, new research is showing that the toxic effects may be present in the European species and not the American one, so if you really want to munch those berries just make sure you’re sourcing from the right continent.

6. Don’t get involved in the whole Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays debate. Seriously, this one is not worth it — can’t we all just have a nice December? And the debate is political: a poll by the Public Religion Research Institute last year found 67 percent of Republicans don’t think it’s necessary to say Happy Holidays, while only 30 percent of Democrats feel the same. And if you need a psychologist to tell you that getting political is a sure-fire way to ruin the Christmas spirit — you should probably see a psychologist.

7. If you’re poor, do not put one of those Christmas-smelling sticks or air-fresheners in your dorm room. A study in the Journal of Business Research said retail stores that matched Christmas scents with Christmas music had higher sales than scent-less ones. If you’re not poor, go right ahead. (Personal advice: Do not put one on top of your heater or air vent, or you will soon be throwing up to the smell of Woodland Pine).

8. Skip finals. I’m serious about this one. Finals cause stress. Stress causes headaches, high blood pressure, chest pain, digestive problems, trouble sleeping, depression, weight gain, panic attacks, disease susceptibility, etc. … Wouldn’t you rather just go home, decorate your house and eat cookies? You can deal with the fallout in the New Year — that’s what the champagne is for.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.