At this very festive time of year, my dear Yuletide friends, it’s good to know that we can set about all manner of Christmas merriment: put our feet up in those lovely, oversized and bobbly socks with the wobbly-eyed reindeer, quaff a cheeky cup or two of something very merry indeed, scoff more than our bodyweight in mince pies and melt down to watch a curiously heated World Cup or failing that, ‘Love Actually’ on repeat – or better still, ‘Nativity’.
But we all know that said Christmas rituals might be a bit trickier this year, for all the reasons we could all reel off – and for reasons that you might hold personal to you.
Yet, something we can all do, and that makes most of us feel a little better, is to have a good read of, or even a good listen to, a story. A nice Christmas story at that.
Our brain really, really likes pleasant diversions, such as stories, chatting and laughter. They generate those warm and fuzzy feelgood juices such as serotonin and dopamine. Snuggling up alongside someone special as we do this gives us a nice extra helping of our very own love potion, oxytocin. (Actually, if we’re being technical, they’re all just chemicals in our bodies, called neurotransmitters, and they are brilliant at promoting mentally healthy behaviour and staving off anxieties and worries.)
You know how it works. Yes, you do, honestly. You know when you’re sore, or worried about something, or really tired and you go and put something really funny on the telly, or you happen to laugh at a silly joke – you don’t feel sore, or worried, or really tired at the same time. Thank your lucky, lovely neurotransmitters, that’s what I say.
So, alongside the Eggnog, why not stock up on the feelgood juices? Have a little read of something. Have a little watch of something. Have a little listen to something.
And for those of us who think – hang on, it’s just time wasted when I could be ticking things off the festive to-do list, remember that brain of ours need down time. It really does need it. It’s brainy maintenance time when it posts little brainy post-it notes about what needs to be done. In fact, when we are resting, parts of our brain are more active than if we were working on complex mathematical problems.
Go on, give it a rest.