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Psychotherapist reveals the mental health benefits to decorating early for the holidays

Most people hold to an unwritten rule that Christmas decorations don’t go up until after Thanksgiving — but it seems that this year, more and more people have had a head start on hanging festive décor.

According to a new Patch.com survey, a quarter of Americans already had decorations up by mid-November, and two thirds more plan to decorate before the month is through.

Psychotherapist Dr. Kathryn Smerling tells DailyMail.com that this makes sense, as there are some serious mental health benefits to jumping the gun on decking the halls.

Can’t wait! In a new survey, 44.6% of people said they were decorating earlier this year than they have in the past, with some citing ‘2020’ and the pandemic as motivation

Patch.com’s survey found that by mid-November, 23 per cent of respondents had already decorated for the holidays. Thirty-six per cent said they plan to decorate the day after Thanksgiving, and 31 per cent more will do so before December 1.   

All in all, 44.6% said they were decorating earlier this year than they have in the past, with some citing ‘2020’ and the pandemic as motivation. 

Dr. Kathryn Smerling told DailyMail.com that there are some serious mental health benefits to jumping the gun on decking the halls

Dr. Kathryn Smerling told DailyMail.com that there are some serious mental health benefits to jumping the gun on decking the halls

Wrote one: ‘2020 has been dark and tough. The holiday decor will brighten our spirits.’

‘It’s 2020 and we can’t see family. Why not spread some joy?’ said another.  

According to Dr. Smerling, bumping up Christmas cheer by a few days, weeks, or even months can do good for mental health.  

‘I think that it shows that people are just missing family and joy and the idea that we have something to celebrate. Things have been very flat and people want to feel celebratory again,’ she told DailyMail.com.

‘The main thing is that it’s something to look forward to. It may not mean too much in 2020, but it gives people a feeling that there is an anticipatory holiday coming up.  

‘It breaks up the monotony and gives joy. It can become a communal activity, you involve the family, friends — even if it’s over Zoom or photos, it’s togetherness.’

Decorating early for the holidays gives people something to look forward to, 'breaks up the monotony and gives joy,' 'awakens our senses,' and is 'beneficial all around'

Decorating early for the holidays gives people something to look forward to, ‘breaks up the monotony and gives joy,’ ‘awakens our senses,’ and is ‘beneficial all around’

Dr. Smerling noted that because of the chaos of 2020, the benefits this year are even greater.

‘It smells good, it awakens our senses, it’s beneficial all around,’ she said, adding that holiday décor can also lend to a growing optimism as we head into the new year.

In fact, she added, she doesn’t think it’s possible to decorate ‘too early,’ so those who put up their twinkle lights and wreaths on November 1 may have just figured out something that others did not.

‘There’s no harm to it. You can always do an ongoing decoration — start small and add on,’ she said.  

Steve McKeown, psychoanalyst and founder of MindFixers, share similar sentiments with Unilad in 2018.

‘Although there could be a number of symptomatic reasons why someone would want to obsessively put up decorations early, most commonly for nostalgic reasons either to relive the magic or to compensate for past neglect.

‘In a world full of stress and anxiety people like to associate to things that make them happy and Christmas decorations evoke those strong feelings of the childhood.

‘Decorations are simply an anchor or pathway to those old childhood magical emotions of excitement. So putting up those Christmas decorations early extend the excitement!’

The comments from Mr McKeown built on 30-year-old research, published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, which aimed to understand why some people play Scrooge and others wait for the holidays with fervent anticipation.

They found the early decorations can be sign of over-compensating for past disappointment in the holidays and trying to avoid it for the coming year.  


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