We’ve spoken to three psychological experts to explore the potential mental health benefits of putting your Christmas decorations up early, particularly in light of a year irrevocably altered as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.
First things first, what counts as "early" when it comes to decorating? In Victorian times, decorations were put up on Christmas Eve and left up until Twelfth Night, but nowadays, many people put up all their decorations, from trees to tinsel, a lot earlier. How early, you ask? Anytime from the end of November, according to sales stats from tree seller, Stagsden Christmas Trees.
Are there psychological benefits to putting your Christmas decorations up early?
It certainly sounds as if decorating early could have its upsides. “I think everything that you can do to make your home cosier and more celebratory this winter can only help your mental state," says Heather Garbutt, psychotherapist and director of 'The Counselling & Psychotherapy Centre'.
Clinical psychologist Dr Georgia Halls agrees, sharing that, for many, putting up Christmas decorations reminds us of good times, community and connection. “It’s an activity we usually share with others and has an element of familiarity, which can be very comforting."
Inviting festive cheer into your home early by putting Christmas decorations up could create a longer-lasting feeling of goodwill and subtly lift your mood by adding sparkle to an otherwise normal environment, Heather reckons. “Whichever Christmas 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,” she continues. “Doing your favourite Christmas things earlier will remind you of the simple joys and pleasures of being human.” Hear, hear!
Marsha Chinichian, the resident clinical psychotherapist at 'Mindshine', agrees. “Many studies found that the anticipation of something can be a powerful, positive, and important part of a happier life,” she explains. So, decorating earlier could be a really simple way to build some healthy holiday season anticipation.
“Decorating early really isn’t a bad idea at all," she says. "Studies show that decorating for the holidays improves mood and ignites positive memories." Not to mention that fact that the actual act of putting Christmas decorations up offers a boost of your happy hormone, dopamine. “Holiday decorating ignites the child in each of us, eliciting positive emotions,” she explains.
On top of this, for many of us, Christmas decorating is a yearly ritual that brings comfort and consolation from the mere act of doing it. Research from Harvard Business School supports this, showing that repeating familiar routines is essential for mental wellbeing.
In short, yes. “The simple presence of Christmas decorations is an affirmation of joy and celebration,” explains Heather. Whether you celebrate Christmas for religious, cultural, or social reasons, decorations add more beauty to the darkest time of the year, she continues. Christmas lights can also be beneficial simply by helping to brighten up your inside space. “Any additional light we can add to our homes during the dark winter months is a real asset,” adds Heather.
Above all, if you feel like decorating early then there's no reason why you shouldn't. All three psychology experts encourage doing anything that brings you personal joy right now.
“In the context of an uncertain environment thanks to Covid-19, Christmas decorations may allow people to control their own space using a method which has proven time and time again to raise spirits for many people,” Georgia explains.
Marsha agrees, saying that decorating is crucial for bringing a little happiness to 2020, as people are spending more time than ever at home. “The pandemic is offering an almost forced slow down and check-in,” she explains. Rather than feel sad about what could have been, she suggests reframing your mindset to enjoy the small things – like decorating.
Without the prospect of festive events filling up your diary, you and your household will likely have a lot more free time to spend at home. Taking the time to decorate your space in a way you love could really lift your moods, she says. “Changing up the house and focusing on décor can shift the mood drastically and make it feel like a happier space.”
If you'd like to put your Christmas decorations up early but are still feeling a little hesitant about going against tradition, how about decorating in stages?
If don't want to make your home too festive before December but are raring to go, then decorating gradually is the way forward.
To find out how best to phase in your Christmas decorations this year, we asked Good Housekeeping's Homes & Gardens Director, Carolyn Bailey, for her step-by-step decorating timeline to follow...
1. The best way to kick off the festive season is by putting your advent calendar on display.
2. Next, unpack your scented Christmas or winter candles so you can start using these to fill your home with fabulous scents of the season.
3. Then, pop a wreath on the front door to give passers-by a festive welcome.
4. Next up, add a twinkle to your home by draping a few strings of fairy lights over surfaces – you can pop them into glass vases to create a lovely warm glow, too. If you are planning to make decorations or paperchains, this is also a good time to get on with this.
5. Once December arrives, think about installing your Christmas tree, especially if you are buying a fresh one – there will be more choice the earlier you shop – and pop on your fairy lights and decorations. Remember, more is more and the fuller the tree, the better it will look.
6. Then, fill bowls with baubles and pop them on coffee tables and side tables.
7. The week before Christmas, you can add in cut foliage from your garden – it’s amazing what you can find – and drape it over mantelpieces and along the bannister. Treat yourself to some eucalyptus branches, which make fabulous statement displays and smell divine. Look out for good quality mistletoe too, as this shouts 'Christmas'.
8. Last minute before the big day – stuff oranges with cloves and display them in bowls or along mantelpieces, buy some seasonal blooms for your dining table or console, then just wait for Santa!"
Ally's words above, with all relevant links can be seen at article here
All the best Jan