We haven’t even hit Thanksgiving and yet the holiday stress is already very much upon us. Between already being booked for holiday parties, the infiltration of Black Friday deals in your email (did you know Black Friday actually started on Halloween?) and people going into actual debt to spread holiday cheer, it is a stressful time.
However, there may be a very easy and (somewhat) entertaining hack that could help you feel better. Ever heard of The Hallmark Channel? That’s right. Those saccharine Christmas movies that only star Candace Cameron, Lacey Chabert and a harem of rotating men you can never quite place may help you relieve some holiday stress.
Now compared to the television content that is out there and keeps you on the edge of your seat with unpredictable plots and foils and absolutely despicable and, yet, intriguing characters (hello Succession), there is none of that with a Hallmark holiday movie in which the biggest problem is that one Christmas cookie factory owner has a crush on the rival Christmas cookie factory owner. But that is part of the stress relief. We want the predictable happy formula.
Pamela Rutledge, behavioral scientist, director of the Media Psychology Research Center and Media Psychology faculty at Fielding Graduate University, told NBC News, “The human brain loves patterns and the predictability is cognitively rewarding. Those predictable story arcs that draw on the standard patterns we recognize from fairytales offer comfort by presenting life as simple and moralistic.”
She continued, “While few of us are going to switch places with a doppelgänger, save Christmas for ourselves or someone else, marry a prince/princess, fall for a person who turns out to be a billionaire or find true love in the span of an hour, [Hallmark movies] still allow us to experience the emotions associated with social validation, the yearning for connection, compassion and empathy. The movies provide simplistic solutions to all those stressors that the holidays can bring: family conflict, isolation or financial pressures.”
That is great for stress but people should remember that that’s what these films are: escapism. Do not compare them to your actual life.
Stanford University professor Caroline Fleck told Bustle “We tend to overestimate our ability to distinguish fact from fiction. Knowing that a story is made up doesn’t mean we won’t still be influenced by the expectations or stereotypes it projects.”
After all, most of these movies are made in Canada during the summer with fake snow. And no grown woman should be that excited about a gingerbread contest.
But if you can separate fact from fiction, you will be fine. Plus, there are 60 new Hallmark holiday movies debuting this season so you will never run out and you are never alone as 70 million people watched these films last year. This is why other networks, as well as Netflix and Disney, are trying to compete for the hearts, and it turns out, minds of viewers.