Holiday movies offer sense of 'order and calms' to chaotic reality: study

By Maryland Hargreaves November 24, 2022
Christmas movies are specifically curated to trigger nostalgic effect in us 

There’s no comfort movie like a hallmark holiday one and now we know why.

According to a recent study, movies, which are specifically curated to be released during the holiday season, feel like a cozy blanket or a warm cup of coffee only because they are made to do so.

The one thing our brain likes more than anything else is the “ritual, routine and familiarity,” and because it always ends up “working out” at the end of every holiday movie, it gives us a sense of “order and calms to an often unpredictable world,” explained Courtney Cope, a licensed marriage and family therapist and senior manager of clinical operations at BetterHelp.

Cope strikes the semblance of these “cheesy movies” with a “nice vacation from reality for our brains” where we allow ourselves to let loose and “imagine a world where the good guy always wins, families always resolve their differences, the main character always finds true love and there’s always enough money for the most magical and extravagant dream Christmas gift or trip for the whole family!”

Besides rolling out your deepest fantasies on your screens, the filmmakers “intentionally” add tidbits of nostalgic elements such as a song you heard as a child growing up so that “it pulls on that part of your brain that makes you remember when it was a simpler and happier time,” triggering the “nostalgia effect.”

The happy endings of the movies instigate “hopeful feelings” which have the strength to “calm the amygdala, the part of our brain often looking for things to worry about,” Cope said.