Here’s Why Your Christmas Brain is Extra-Special
Christmas is just round the corner and the festive spirit is beginning to seep into the air. No matter where you are in the world, this time of the year is inevitably marked with festivities of different cultural significances.
As the preparations start to build up, you’ll notice your feelings are going through a lot of transformations too. Which brings us to the question: is the ‘Christmas Brain’ different from your normal all-year brain? Turns out it is.
- The Christmas Network – In 2015, a group of researchers from the University of Copenhagen performed a study with 10people who celebrated Christmas and 10 who didn’t use Functional MRI scans of their brains. Researchers found increased activation in the sensory motor cortex, the premotor and primary motor cortex, and the parietal lobule of the people who celebrated Christmas when confronted with Christmas imagery. These are the areas that are typically connected with self-transcendence and spirituality, social bonding-sharing behavior and recognition of facial emotion. This means, your brain literally has a Christmas Network that gets especially activated during this time of the year!
- The Helper’s High – Christmas is the time for giving and receiving gifts. When you see your gift received with joy, you feel happy. Ever wondered why you feel so? Generosity activates the reward circuit in our brain, which releases brain chemicals like Dopamine and serotonin. Serotonin is connected to sleep, memory, learning, and appetite, and Dopamine is responsible for increasing motivation and confidence. This means, being kind once incentivizes our brain to be kind again and again. Researchers have called this phenomenon the ‘Helper’s High’.
- Reinforcement of Bonding – Christmas is a time for reconnecting with your family and friends. Doing things together with people you love produce generous amounts of Oxytocin, also known as the Cuddle Hormone’. This is the neurotransmitter connected to trust, empathy, and intimacy between individuals. This means, being close to your family and friends during this time reinforces their bond with you and their significance in your life.
- The Happiness Trifecta – Dopamine, Serotonin, and Oxytocin together is called The Happiness Trifecta; because these are the brain chemicals that drive the feeling of happiness in our brain. Christmas activities send these hormones on overdrive.
But there are also people for whom Christmas is not all fun and games. It can bring significant amount of problems too.
Planning and arranging the festivities can cause severe anxiety and stress in the fast and busy life we lead. Also, people who are grieving or dealing with mental health conditions like Clinical Depression can have an especially hard time coping with their conditions when their surrounding becomes so riotously happy.
If you’re stressing out, or unhappy during this time, here are a few tips to beat the festive blues.
Plan ahead. Don’t wait for the last minute sales and shop well ahead. Send out invites and make the necessary booking arrangements with about a month in hand. This will ensure you have at least a
Don’t go overboard with your budget. The Christmas spirit is about generosity and not about how expensive or
Don’t be ashamed to ask for help. You don’t have to do everything alone. Involve your friends and family in the
Process your grief and trauma. If you are Depressed or grieving, hiding or repressing those emotions in the time
The festivities are time for your brain to unwind and let loose. So get those happy hormones going, and don’t let the blues get to you. Happy holidays!