The holiday season is often difficult to navigate at the best of times. While the world is approaching a full year under the restrictions of the novel coronavirus, it is our first major holiday dealing with COVID-19. Therefore, on top of the ordinary seasonal stress–financial, relationships, family, time constraints–you might now be dealing with health stress, loneliness, and things like that.
Luckily, Good Housekeeping, Huffington Post, and CNN have interviewed a collection of psychologists to offer you helpful advice. Their consensus? That decorating for the holiday season a little earlier could bust your stress.
The First Rule Of Holiday Stress-Busting
“Drop the judgment.” That’s the advice of California psychologist Ryan Howes. He’s the author of the “Mental Health Journal for Men,” so he understands the stigma that can surround mental health issues. “If it makes you feel good, this is the year to do it,” he says. “If starting your holiday season in August was your desire, go for it and feel no shame.” (1)
Why Decorating Earlier Can Help
So, what if your desire wasn’t to start your holidays early? Does it still provide a psychological benefit? The answer is yes; in a series of ways.
The Positivity Of Memory
“Given the stress of the pandemic, thinking about positive images is one way to help prevent stress or anxiety,” says Erlanger Turner, Los Angeles-based psychologist. “Decorating your home may serve as a cue of positive memories and emotions, which can be really helpful to promote joy and prevent sadness.”
Clinical psychotherapist Marsha Chinichian agrees. “Studies show that decorating for the holidays improves mood and ignites positive memories,” she says. (1, 2)
The Decorations Themselves Are Helpful
Heather Garbutt is a psychotherapist and the director of The Counselling & Psychotherapy Centre in the UK. She says that holiday lights have an unexpected benefit, especially if they’re indoors. “Any additional light we can add to our homes during the dark winter months is a real asset,” she says.
Deborah Serani is a psychologist and professor. She says that “when we introduce new things into our environment it stimulates our senses, and our senses are, of course, the wiring to our entire physiological system. So when we introduce color, light, sound — the sound of music around the holiday time . . . it makes us feel good.” (2, 3)
The Sooner You’re In “Holiday Mode,” The Easier Things Will Seem
Vaile Wright, a psychologist, wants us all to remember the future. “Having a future orientation is actually really important to mental health, well-being, and morale,” he says. So if you’re prepping for your seasonal holiday, you’re using it “as an anchor, of something to look forward to, something to plan towards … I think [it] can be really helpful.”
Garbutt says that the “decorations you like – whether it’s fairy lights, table decorations, trees or candles – can form a buffer against a world that is pretty tough at the moment.”
Howes says: “At a time where we’ve had few things to look forward to, the holidays are a welcomed shift from dread to the excitement.” (1, 2, 3)