Decorating a Christmas tree, watching Home Alone, and having dinner with friends and family… Christmas is packed with traditions, which might be more beneficial to you than you think.
Anthropologist and cognitive scientist Dimitri explains the psychological power behind the sacred and secular rituals that structure our lives in the podcast, Hidden Brain. First, we need to understand that our brain is a predictive machine. Humans want to make good predictions (so we can survive). However, we live a life way faster than our ancestors have ever experienced. And many of us are living very far away, removed from our social safety net. Leading us to be more often surrounded by strangers (those whose behaviors we find harder to predict). Our environment has changed big time, but not our biology.
As a result, we see that anxiety levels are higher than ever in today’s society. One effective way to ease our minds and cope with these stressors is by participating in rituals and traditions.
Why? Because rituals are all about structure and predictability. When you participate in a ritual, you know exactly what to do, when, and how. It gives your brain a sense of control. And at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether this sense of control is real or illusionary; it has tangible effects; it helps individuals through their anxieties, connect, and provide people find meaning in their lives.
As life can be quite turbulent, rituals and traditions might be the ancient solution to modern problems. So have yourself a merry little Christmas, packed with rituals and traditions.