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Music and the holidays really do go hand in hand.

For us here at The Lily-Jo Project, the holiday season just wouldn’t be the same without the smooth vocals of Frank Sinatra – or those unmistakable chimes at the start of “All I Want for Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey.

But as the chart-topping classics start to creep into our lives (sometimes as early as October!), it’s important to be mindful of all the different ways that Christmas music can impact our mental health.

What Does Your Relationship With Christmas Music Look Like?

Before we get started, take a moment to think about your own relationship with Christmas music. Does it make you feel happy, warm, or excited? Or does it ignite uncomfortable feelings of sadness, frustration, or dread? Or maybe your emotional response can be best described as a rollercoaster – up one minute before it comes crashing down the next!

In this article, we hope to help you navigate some of these emotions around the holidays. We’ll start by sharing some of the specific ways that Christmas music influences our mental health. We’ll follow that up by sharing 10 of our favorite festive songs… including a special shoutout for “Brand New Life”, a new Christmas song from the film Journey to Bethlehem – coming to UK and Irish Cinemas Friday, 17 November!

Ready? Let’s go!


5 Different Ways that Christmas Music Can Influence Our Mental Health

Christmas music is familiar… and our brains thrive on familiarity!

 How many times have you heard the song “Jingle Bells”? “Silent Night”? “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”? Probably more than you’d ever have time to count!

Even if you’ve never gone out of your way to play (or sing) these songs, it’s almost impossible to avoid them… you can hear them on the radio, at the shops, and in endless Christmas advertisements!

Interestingly, frequent exposure to these songs over the course of our lives actually makes us like them even more and more! Why? Because of a concept known as the “mere exposure effect” – which is the scientific way of saying that people simply tend to prefer what they are familiar with.

Top Tip: The next time someone rolls their eyes at your Christmas playlist – don’t feel ashamed! It’s totally normal to enjoy listening to the many familiar sounds and melodies of Christmas.

Resource Recommendation: Christmas Music from BBC Sounds

Christmas music is connected to (good and bad) memories

It’s no secret that music can stir up emotions, especially when a song or genre is connected to a specific memory. 

When it comes to Christmas music, we may associate certain songs with “happy” memories and other songs with “sad” memories. This is completely normal. 

It’s also normal to feel a sense of nostalgia for past Christmases of a specific time period in your life – for example, the experience of Christmas in your childhood home or those Christmases you spent with friends at college or university. Reminiscing on these memories can make you feel both happy and sad at the same time – which may take some time to process. 

Top Tip: If you do find yourself ruminating a lot about the past when listening to Christmas music, it’s okay to allow yourself time to process these feelings – but don’t stay there and wallow in them for too long! Write in a journal, go for a walk, get creative, or chat with a friend about how you’re feeling. This can help you address and start to overcome any uncomfortable feelings associated with past memories. If you continue to struggle, it may be time to speak with a counsellor for some professional help! 

Article Recommendation: Coping With Loss at Christmas 

Christmas music can evoke feelings of grief

For those who have suffered a loss, Christmas music can trigger intense feelings of grief. We place so much importance on the holidays, and so it’s normal to feel sad if a loved one is not there to celebrate with us and join in on the festivities. 

Just hearing the introduction to a song that we associate with a lost loved one can cause an abrupt, intense feeling of sadness. On the flip side, it can also be a comforting reminder of the beautiful person who played a special role in our life’s story. 

Top Tip: There is no timeline for grief, and it’s okay if you still struggle with feelings of sadness around Christmastime in the years and even decades following a loss. If a Christmas song does catch you off guard, make sure to pause, take a deep breath, allow yourself time to feel your emotions. Then, try to engage in a positive activity (such as going for a walk or calling a friend) to help you move on with your day. You can also commemorate your loss by hanging a special photo or creating a Christmas ornament to help you feel closer to your loved one. 

Article Recommendation: Coping with Grief at Christmas

Christmas music often has positive lyrics and messages… and these messages can sometimes be overwhelming

Read the lyrics to any Christmas song and you’ll find themes like love, home and family, relationships, and hope for a new year. 

For the most part, these messages are positive and heartwarming. However, if you are not in the best headspace – maybe you’re in between jobs, feeling a bit anxious about the future, or struggling with a personal relationship – these messages can feel quite intense and overwhelming.

Top Tip: If you are struggling with the sheer amount of Christmas music in your day-to-day life, it’s okay to limit your exposure! For example, you can wear headphones at the store or create your own playlists instead of listening to the radio. If you continue to feel emotionally triggered by some of the themes around Christmas, consider speaking to a counsellor. They can help you explore your feelings and navigate any challenges that you are dealing with. 

Article Recommendation: A Case for Lyrics and How They Impact Our Emotions

Christmas music brings us together… but it can also make us feel excluded

Christmas markets, parties, choirs, musicals, dinners… the list goes on! On the one hand, there are so many opportunities around the holidays to get together with our favorite people. On the other hand, this means that there are occasions when we may feel excluded.

For example, maybe we’re not invited to an event but we see all our friends posting about it on social media. Or, maybe we are invited, but we can’t stop feeling like we’re “different” or not as “successful” as everyone else in the group. If your family doesn’t celebrate Christmas for religious purposes, it’s normal to feel excluded and even conflicted about which non-religious festive activities you’re comfortable engaging in. 

Top Tip: If you are feeling lonely or “left out” around the holidays, there are a few things you can do to take back some control. First, focus on what you are grateful for. Think about all the positive things that you do get to do during the months of November and December. Next, make your own traditions! Go to that new coffee shop across town that you’ve been wanting to go to all year, host a cozy brunch or dinner party in your home, or start a new craft! There is nothing stopping you from filling up your calendar with activities that you love. And finally – reach out to friends and family that you haven’t spoken to in a while. This can help you feel reconnected to your community – and you never know what you may get invited to next! 

Article Recommendation: 10 Tips To Minimize Holiday Season FOMO

Top 10 Festive Songs We Love! 

At The Lily-Jo Project, we love music and we think music can be a powerful tool for connecting with our emotional and spiritual health. So to kick off the holiday season – here is our top ten list of Christmas songs that we love and why we love them!

#10. “Something in the Air” – HSMTM The Holiday Special

Something in the Air” from HSMTM The Holiday Special is upbeat, positive, and really captures that feeling of excitement ahead of the holidays and new year!

Lyrics we love:

I’ve been waiting for this moment
It’s a start of something great
And a chance to turn the page
It’s my year, I’m gonna own it
Gonna take more care of me, put myself first
‘Cause I deserve to be

#9. “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” – Michael Bublé

A Christmas classic! We love this version from Michael Bublé – it reminds us of all the little moments that make Christmas such a special time of year.

Lyrics we love: 

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Soon the bells will start
And the thing that’ll make ’em ring is the carol that you sing
Right within your heart

#8. “Step Into Christmas” – Elton John

Struggling to get into the right mood and mindset for Christmas? “Step Into Christmas” by Elton John may be exactly what you need!

Lyrics we love: 

I’d like to sing about all the things
Your eyes and mind can see
So hop aboard the turntable
Oh step into Christmas with me

#7. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” – Camila Cabello

This song is for everyone who loves to embrace being home on Christmas – wherever that may be! We absolutely adore this modern version from Camila Cabello!

Lyrics we love: 

Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love light gleams
I’ll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams
If only in my dreams

#6. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – Glee

No matter what you’ve been through, or what your year ahead looks like, you deserve to have a beautiful Christmas season. This version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” from Glee is a wonderful reminder of that! 

Lyrics we love:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
Next year all our troubles will be
Out of sight

#5. “You Deserve it All” – John Legend

You Deserve it All” by John Legend is such a sweet song that celebrates the joy of gift-giving!

Lyrics we love: 

You know you’ve been good all year
Come over here
And let me show you
You deserve it all (all)
You deserve it all (all)

#4. “Christmas Tree Farm” – Taylor Swift

What does your perfect Christmas look like? Have you taken time to reflect on it? If you’re a Wwiftie, it might look a bit like a “Christmas Tree Farm”.

Lyrics we love:

My winter nights are taken up by static
Stress and holiday shopping traffic
But I close my eyes and I’m somewhere else
Just like magic
In my heart is a Christmas tree farm

#3. “What Christmas Means to Me” – Stevie Wonder

There are lots of versions of this song, but our absolute fave is the 1967 version by Stevie Wonder. Christmas isn’t about shopping, expensive gifts, or elaborate decorations – it’s about spending quality time with the people we love.

Lyrics we love: 

And ya know what I mean
I see your smilin’ face
Like I never seen before
Even though I love ya madly
It seems I love you more
The little cards you’ll give me
Will touch my heart for sure
All these things and more, darling (all these things and more)
Whoa, that’s what Christmas means to me my love

#2. “Driving Home for Christmas” – Chris Rea

Driving Home for Christmas” is another song that we just can’t get enough of – it reminds us to slow down, embrace the anticipation of Christmas, and reflect on all the wonderful holiday memories we’ve made over the years.

Lyrics we love: 

So I sing for you
Though you can’t hear me
When I get through
And feel you near me
Driving in my car
I’m driving home for Christmas
Driving home for Christmas
With a thousand memories

#1. “Brand New Life” – Journey to Bethlehem

Brand New Life” is part of the soundtrack for the musical, Journey to Bethlehem. We just love this song because it’s uplifting, spiritual, and highlights some of the key themes and emotions of the Christmas story.

Lyrics we love: 

I never knew a star could shine so bright
I never saw the sky so full of light
I never felt my heart
Could ever beat like this
So wild and so free

More About Journey to Bethlehem

From the makers of Glee, High School Musical, and Rock of Ages, Journey to Bethlehem is a live-action Christmas musical adventure for the entire family. Coming to UK and Irish cinemas on Friday 17th November, 2023.

Final Thoughts

If you are really struggling with your mental health over the holiday season, it’s okay to reach out for some help from a trusted friend or counsellor!

If you are in crisis and need immediate support, there are a number of different helplines available here in the UK:

You can also always explore our self-help resource here at The Lily-Jo Project, which features top tips, personal stories, and practical advice for maintaining good mental health.


Special Event: Free Meditation Session

To help you prepare for the season ahead, our founder Lily-Jo will be hosting a meditation session on Tuesday 5th December, 1-2pm over Zoom.

This event is completely free to join – REGISTER HERE.

Can’t wait to see you there! 

About the Author: Shelby Hale

Shelby has been with The Lily-Jo Project since 2018, serving as the platform’s Content and Communications Manager. Having lived in four different countries throughout her young adulthood, Shelby is passionate about the positive impact new experiences can have on mental health.

When she’s not working with The Lily-Jo Project, she supports other projects through her creative agency, Hale Marketing and Communications. If you’d like to stay updated with Shelby’s story, you can find her on Instagram and LinkedIn.


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