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Why a Christmas movie can make us feel good

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Over the festive period many of us settle down to watch a Christmas movie or two. Taking time to chill out in front of the screen may seem like an indulgence, but it could give your mental health a boost and even help you to open up to others. We look at why and how relaxing to a Christmas film could boost your mental health.

Being fully engaged in a movie can mean we zone out and become lost in the story. As well as being enjoyable, this sensation of becoming absorbed in the film is almost like hypnosis. By switching off the chatter of our conscious mind, we tap into the subconscious, even if we don’t realise it. “Sometimes people go into a trancelike state when watching a movie,” explains movie therapist Lynn Anderton. “They are able to get away from reality and engage with underlying emotions.”

The whole story

While we may enjoy taking in a TV series or shorter programmes during the festive season, movies are particularly helpful as they take us through the different stages of a story, coming to a resolution. “A movie usually has three parts,” explains Anderton. “Usually it starts with a crisis or something that needs to be changed. The middle part is often where the character is learning how to make this change, and the end often has the protagonist take some action in order to resolve the crisis. It’s a process, taking the viewer through a range of emotions.”

This makes movies particularly useful when it comes to giving our mental health a boost – as we are not left with troubling questions or bamboozled by confusing plotlines. We are able to go through the experience with the characters and enjoy the outcome and – usually – happy ending.

Old movies, old friends

While we may indulge in a new festive film during the holidays, many of us will also dig out our old favourites, from Home Alone and The Santa Clause, to It’s a Wonderful Life! and A Christmas Carol. Christmas is often a time when we tune in to movies we’ve watched and loved over a long period of time. This makes them great for reflection – we may recall how we felt when we first watched the movie, or realise we are viewing the film in a new way, perhaps identifying with a different character than before. “Coming towards the end of the year is a good time for reflection,” says Anderton. “Watching a familiar film can help us to tune into that sense of time passing, and think about the year gone by.”

“Christmas movies can be more complex than we imagine,” adds Anderton. “Sometimes people may watch them once and it might make them feel good. Sometimes you explore different themes or character journeys. You may miss something that you notice when you watch the movie again.”

Emotional release

When we’re really engaged in a movie, we often experience some of the main character’s emotions – whether it’s fear, anger or joy. This can enable some of us, especially those who find it difficult to tap into their emotions, to identify their own feelings, or release built up tension. “Going through an emotion while watching a film can take away the difficulty of confronting an emotion within ourselves,” says Anderton. “Some films can have a huge impact on people, especially those who find it hard to open up. They are able to release some of their emotions.”

“In addition, seeing a character going through certain relatable trauma can make some feel less alone.”

More than just festive fun

When we think of Christmas movies, we may imagine them to be frivolous or silly. And while those elements definitely exist, even the most light-hearted of Christmas favourites can contain much more than meets the eye. “While many Christmas films are light-hearted, they also have dark elements,” says Anderton. “Christmas is one of those times of year when lots of emotions may surface. Movies such as ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ or ‘A Christmas Carol’ can be quite dark in places, but there is resolution by the end of the film. This creates the perfect opportunity for reflection.”

It’s good to talk

If you really want to maximise the mental health boost of watching a favourite Christmas movie – yes, even Die Hard – then take a moment to talk with others after the film. Doing this will enable you to engage with them and their emotions, without being too direct or personal, and may help you to understand more about your friends and family and how they feel. “It can be useful to talk about it afterwards,” agrees Anderton. “Everyone will have had a different take. Everyone will be coming at the film from a different angle.”

Mental health boost

While spending an afternoon in the cinema, or gathered round the TV with friends or family may be enjoyable and restful, it’s great to know that even when watching the cheesiest or seemingly-predictable Christmas favourite, we’re actually doing something brilliant for our mental health at the same time.

“You are creating and experiencing emotions you may have put aside in real life,” says Anderton. “You’re giving yourself the opportunity for reflection, and a chance to connect with others. You may identify with a character and come to a better understanding of how you feel and why.”

So whether it’s The Snowman or Elf that you select for your seasonal viewing, remember. You are not wasting time, you are investing it in an enjoyable form of self-care.

Source :  Patient

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