During December, our lives are typically filled with special events, gift-giving, family gatherings and food we only eat once a year.
All of these aspects of the season bring most of us joy, but there is something else we experience during the holidays that contributes to our jolly demeanor at this time of year — the music.
While we certainly listen to music the rest of the year as well, there’s no denying we are drenched in it during the holidays.
Whether you favor Christian hymns such as “Joy to the World” and “Angels We Have Heard on High,” secular songs like “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” or “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” or instrumental performances from “The Nutcracker,” you are sure to hear all of your most cherished tunes, as the sounds of the season are everywhere.
We hum along to music piped into shopping malls and department stores as we search for gifts for loved ones and tune into radio stations in our cars playing holiday music 24/7.
Whether we are at church or at a school program, or listening to a classic or contemporary mix of songs on Internet radio sites, familiar holiday tunes are sure to bring smiles to our faces as they remind us of Christmas happiness we have experienced in years past.
It is not only happy memories that put smiles on our faces. Scientific studies about the effects of music on humans are proving there is a lot more to the positive response music brings.
Scientists have discovered listening to music increases pleasant emotions by causing an increase in the neurotransmitter dopamine that can make us feel good or feel happy.
Research has shown listening to instrumental music with a slow tempo and a low pitch can actually calm us down, reducing stress or anxiety. In numerous studies, patients who listened to this type of music following surgery required less pain medication.
Music also can have a positive effect on the immune system and can aid in boosting memory and motivation.
I experience the positive effect of music frequently — and not only during the holiday season.
As a member of a women’s a cappella chorus, I drive to Monday night rehearsals after a long day at work.
Often, I arrive at the rehearsal site feeling as if I will not have the stamina to stand on the choral risers and focus on the music for two hours.
But, almost as if by magic, after about 30 minutes of singing, I am no longer feeling fatigued. And by the end of the evening, I am actually energized.
Perhaps, if you are of a mind to set a New Year’s resolution this week, you might want to consider a goal of getting more music into your life. It could add a lift to your days all year long.
Why wait until next December to get that joyful holiday feeling?