Listening To Holiday Music at Work Is Bad For Your Mental Health, According to Science

If your coworker's holiday playlists are driving you crazy, there's a scientific reason behind that.

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Taylor Tobin1.84k
May 26, 2024 at 2:19AM UTC

Once Thanksgiving comes and goes (or, depending on your level of holiday-season mania, once Halloween comes and goes), we  typically accept that we’ll be exposed to an endless stream of carols, ranging from the traditional to everyone’s favorite Mariah Carey Yuletide banger. And when we’re at Target or tuning into FM radio during our commutes, some seasonal songs can feel fun and festive. But when it comes to playing holiday music at the office, you may want to keep the “Jingle Bells” and “White Christmases” out of the workplace. 

According to Business Insider, overexposure to holiday songs can have a detrimental effect on your mental health. 

This, in turn, can have negative implications for your work performance.

So why do holiday songs inspire such strong (and frequently negative) responses? Auditory researchers blame it on the “mass exposure effect”. Essentially, hearing a song that’s specifically connected to a particular season or event often evokes an initial reaction of pleasant nostalgia. However, the tide eventually turns, and after the 100th replay (or the 1,000th or the 1,000,000th, depending on your own personal tolerance threshold), the song that once put a smile on your face now makes you want to cringe and hit “Mute” on the office Bluetooth speaker. It’s a natural result of mental oversaturation, according to clinical psychologist Linda Blair, 

“People working in the shops [have to tune out] Christmas music, because if they don't, it really does stop you from being able to focus on anything else...You're simply spending all of your energy trying not to hear what you're hearing," she continued.

This can seem like an unavoidable problem during the month of December, but Business Insider introduces some useful tips for keeping your music-related cool when faced with a wall of holiday sound. If you keep your playlists diverse, interspersing the Christmas jams with some rock or pop or jazz, you’ll be able to hold off the fatigue associated with nonstop holiday cheer. Business Insider also cites a study by The Daily Mail suggesting that “holiday” scents like pine and cinnamon conjure up feelings of happiness, so giving yourself a multi-sensory experience by keeping a seasonal Yankee Candle at your desk and taking a whiff whenever “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas” turns up on the playlist can keep you feeling merry and bright (or, at least, even-keeled enough to get your work done until January 2nd rolls around).

More on the holidays... if you dare:

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