Christmas Spirit Does Live Within You…And It May Be in Your Brain, Not Just Your Heart!
Did you know that there is an actual location in your brain for Christmas Spirit? I wrote about this last year. (1) In summary, researchers implemented a comparison study of ten people with Christmas traditions and ten people without them and compared their brains. The authors results stated there were indeed differences in the brains of those who had a little holiday cheer:
Significant clusters of increased BOLD activation in the sensory motor cortex, the premotor and primary motor cortex, and the parietal lobule (inferior and superior) were found in scans of people who celebrate Christmas with positive associations compared with scans in a group having no Christmas traditions and neutral associations. These cerebral areas have been associated with spirituality, somatic senses, and recognition of facial emotion among many other functions. (1)
In another small study, researchers found similar results:
Christmas-associated cerebral activation comprises a network involving areas of sensory, motor and emotional processing. The applied method is appropriate for the detection of Christmas-related areas of the brain but the results of the study should be verified in a larger sample size. (2)
Tips for Happier Holidays
So, we can support our own happiness this season and make our brains more cheerful by building happy and rewarding memories! Here’s some tips:
One older study directly supported volunteering to contributing to the Christmas Spirit. (3) Furthermore, various other studies have also examined the beneficial impacts between being a volunteer and six aspects of well-being including: happiness, life satisfaction, self-esteem, sense of control over life, physical health, and depression. (4), (5), (6), (7), (8)
Interestingly, one study reported there may be a bi-directional relationship with volunteering and well-being, in that, happier people may be more likely to volunteer to start:
Results show that volunteer work indeed enhances all six aspects of well-being and, conversely, people who have greater well-being invest more hours in volunteer service. Given this, further understanding of self- versus social-selection processes seems an important next step. Do positive, healthy people actively seek out volunteer opportunities, or do organizations actively recruit individuals of these types (or both)? Explaining how positive consequences flow from volunteer service may offer a useful counterpoint to stress theory, which has focused primarily on negative life experiences and their sequelae. (4)
Another unknown benefit of helping others is that it can physically make you warmer! It’s true and here’s the science!
As I discussed previously, maintaining an attitude of gratitude can help our health and well-being through the season. Furthermore, this article lists, in a short-and-sweet way, six studies showing how gratitude throughout the year can impact mood for the better long-term.
Stress Busting Techniques and Healthy Eating
What to do with the Holiday Blues
Some people struggle with intense emotional upset during the holiday season. In this week’s blog on my homepage, I discussed how the “holiday blues” is a real thing and some of the factors that can contribute to it. I also pointed out some tips to assist someone who is struggling to keep the holiday spirit. You can read it here.
Here’s to a beautiful and happy holiday season!