Holiday decorating is good for your mental health

HOUSTON – Harnessing the power of rituals can help us reclaim some of our identity that has been lost during the pandemic, according to UT Physicians/ UT Health.

Holiday decorating can trigger therapeutic memories and allow us a sense of control when it seems that so many things in our lives are uncontrollable, according to psychiatrists with McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

Remember how you spent time with family decorating the tree, cooking, hanging lights and it made you feel happy? That joy is linked to memories that come with these rituals which makes them more than tradition, it gives healing power to holiday decorating.

“Rituals such as decorating for the holidays are indeed healing and in some ways can give you back the sense of personal identity that’s been forced out during the pandemic,” said Dr. Vineeth John. “Decorating early is a way to try to reclaim our traditions and rituals that offer us confluence of memories, identity, connections, and family. They offer a way to restore, at least partially, what’s been lost due to the impact of the pandemic and return to our authentic selves.”

If you don’t have traditions linked to special memories, here’s what UT Health recommends you do:

Grieving the loss of control

When we think of grief, we often think of the loss of a loved one. While that is tragically something many people are wrestling with during the pandemic, many are also simply grieving the loss of control.

Research shows that rituals can have beneficial effects on perceived control and can help reduce grief.

Trigger the therapeutic power of memories

Sometimes what we need to turn our mood around already exists in our memories. For many, holiday decorating is a way to call those memories to mind.

Add light to the dark

If you’re working from home and the days are blurring together, putting up decorations is an easy way to brighten your mood, and maybe your neighbor’s too.

Never too late to start rituals

If you don’t have existing rituals, it’s not too late to start some that hold personal meaning.

“Do I have to do it exactly the same way? And we don’t! Often we get stuck in that and that’s also where a lot of pressure comes from even without a pandemic. In part why some of the holidays feel stressful for people because we set up these expectations,” Dr. Andrea Taylor, assistant professor of psychiatry, said.

Need help?

While rituals can improve our mental health, don’t hesitate to seek help if they are not enough.

Simply text home to 741741 to reach a professional counselor.

To make an appointment with a UT Physicians mental health specialist, call 888-4UT-DOCS.

If you are experiencing a crisis, contact the suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.