The proven HAPPY science behind decorating for the holidays!

7 December 2020
Holiday texture with candle, snow and jingle bells

Here are a few things that are scientifically proven to make you happier:

  • Yummy food (I like to believe they used double stuffed oreos in this study)
  • Puppies
  • Music
  • Saying thank you
  • Doing something nice for someone
  • Watching the Great British Baking Show (loose science, but by majority this is assumptively true)
  • And decorating for the holidays (this, indeed, is scientifically proven...Scroll down to see me decorate my tree and some quick tips!)

In short—decorate, and do it TODAY (then save time to do the rest of the things listed here).

With a year like 2020, and while still being encouraged to safely distance and alter holiday plans, if there is one thing we can count on going into the part of our year that is supposed to be “merry and bright”, it is the peace sitting amongst decked halls with hundreds of twinkling lights can bring us, and according to psychologist Deborah Serani, it is simply a matter of science. 

"It creates that neurological shift that can produce happiness," she said. "I think anything that takes us out of our normal habituation, the normal day in, day out, signals our senses, and then our senses measure if it's pleasing or not, and Christmas decorating will spike dopamine, a feel-good hormone," Serani said.

Like Serani said, dopamine is our feel-good neurotransmitter, or the chemical responsible for being happy. Our brains release dopamine most commonly when we eat food, receive a smile from a loved one, pet a dog (give me ALL the dogs!), smell something good, and apparently when we decorate for the holidays!

What exactly is it about decorating for Christmas (or the holiday your family celebrates each year) that triggers our feel-good chemicals? For one, the lights. The ambiance that lights give off is sometimes used as therapy within itself, something called chromotherapy. This form of therapy is often used to calm the nervous system, help with insomnia and stimulate white blood cell production. And after a year like this one, why not string up some lights and work on finding your inner harmony while soaking in the sounds of Wham’s! “Last Christmas”?

Another reason for the positive triggering effects of a dopamine-induced Christmas decorating session? The sheer nostalgia of the season. Positive memories are said to be the paradise of the mind, and for many of us, there is no time more innocent, magical and laden with tradition than the Christmas season. For example, I am 32 years old and my parents still ask me to come hang up lights and decorate the Christmas tree at their house, and, without hesitation, I oblige every year. Why? Because there is no better time to connect, reminisce and stop time than the holidays. 

In the video below, you will find me quickly decorating my tree! I really do move that quickly (I am quite the multitasker…).

I believe in overdecorating my Christmas tree! Why? Because you only get a decorated tree in your living space once a year, so why NOT go all out? I pack my tree FULL, pulling inspiration from the department store trees that use their evergreens for displaying ornaments and tree decor before purchase, except mine isn’t for sale! 

Here is how I do it:

  • I start with the lights. In this video, I skipped showing you that part, however I go from the bottom to the top, then from the top back down again, making sure to cover as much as possible with what I have! This tree used 1200 lights!
  • Now, I move on to any trimmings that are not my ornaments- so my garland and any beading or larger trimmings you may want to deck your tree out in. I start again from the bottom, working my way up to the top, then back down again. 
  • Next comes the ornaments! I start with my largest ornaments first, then fill in with my smaller ones, then do more large ones...and then (you guessed it) MORE small ones. I repeat this, constantly rearranging my trimmings until I get it JUST the way I want it! 
  • Lastly, the star! OR whatever tree topper you choose. 

It is important to remember that this is YOUR tree, YOUR tradition and YOUR masterpiece. There is no wrong way to do it. Final advice—to simply have and keep a tradition like decorating your tree is beautiful enough!