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Too much Christmas music can damage your mental health

Did you know? Looped music has been used a means of torture.

(Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
  • It's that time of year again, when we start hearing Christmas music at every store we go to.
  • Studies show that hearing Christmas songs too many times increases stress.
  • Maybe wait a few weeks before you start playing "Frosty The Snowman" everywhere you go, if you value your sanity.

We've all heard it, the endless stream of Christmas music on the radio, in the mall, and on street corners that starts ever earlier and doesn't end until December 26th. Some love it, others loathe it, but escape is all but impossible either way. Rarely do we ask though, why do we play as much Christmas music as we do? After all, department stores rarely loop songs for other holidays in the same way as they do for Christmas.

There is both method and madness here, but mostly madness.

Hearing too much Christmas music is officially bad for you. The constant barrage of music that starts in November and intensifies until Christmas starts out making people happy, but slowly becomes more and more grating to people as they hear the same songs for the umpteenth time. After a certain point, hearing the music stresses people out. It is particularly bad for people working in sales, who have to learn to tune the music out if they want to function.

The phenomenon behind this is called the "mere exposure" effect. It causes us to like things that are familiar to us, with more frequent interactions with something leading us to have a better opinion of it. It's kind of like Stockholm Syndrome that way, and advertisers often take advantage of it. However, there is a point of over-saturation that causes us to start disliking the thing we're constantly interacting with.

Psychologist Linda Blair explains how festive music can slowly start to stress us out. "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 told SkyNews.

If that sounds like torture, you won't be surprised to know that looped music has been used in that capacity before.

Why would the department stores torture people like this then?

For the money of course! Studies show that customers will spend more time in a store that pipes in Christmas music than one that does not during the holidays. The effect is enhanced when the stores also pump in Christmas scents like peppermint or cinnamon. The stores have every reason to do this, as many customers are now looking to delay their purchases until the last minute. With more shoppers turning to online stores over brick and mortar ones, it makes sense to use anything that will keep the people who do go into the store there longer.

What can salespeople do to lower their stress levels?

Avoid the music, though given that Christmas songs will be played non-stop during the ever-lengthening holiday season, this is all but impossible. The best you can do is to not add to the barrage unnecessarily.

Christmas music can begin as a nostalgic reminder of days gone by and end up as an endless, droning torture. While there might be some financial benefit for stores to playing the music as much as they do, it comes at a cost to the sanity of the people who have to hear it endlessly. So maybe let the turkey cool before you start playing Christmas music everywhere you go.

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