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Yes, decorating for Christmas early *does* make people happy

Christmas decorations evoke positive feelings, says one expert.

Yes, decorating for Christmas early  *does* make people happy

It wasn't even Halloween yet when a fully lit Christmas tree appeared in the living room window of a house in my neighborhood. It looked out of place flanked by houses draped in faux spider webs and pumpkins. I wondered what would posses the homeowners to get in the Christmas spirit so early, but according to one expert, the answer is pretty simple.

Christmas stuff makes people feel good (so go ahead and get the tree out before Thanksgiving if you want).

“In a world full of stress and anxiety, people like to associate to things that make them happy and Christmas decorations evoke those strong feelings of the childhood," psychoanalyst Steve McKeown told Unilad. “Decorations are simply an anchor or pathway to those old childhood magical emotions of excitement. So putting up those Christmas decorations early extends the excitement."

As Unilad points out, McKeown's theory is backed up by a study in The Journal of Environmental Psychology that examined how homeowners use exterior holiday decor to signal feelings of friendliness and connection to neighbors. When your neighbor puts up Christmas lights early, they're basically saying, "I'm social and in the holiday spirit!"

If you've been itching to get your Christmas decor out of storage, there's no time like the present. A string of lights and a "Happy Holidays" might even help you make friends with your neighbors.

Decorating early can make us happier, but overdoing Christmas music too early can have the opposite effect (so maybe don't convert your whole playlist to holiday tunes just yet, especially if you've spent a holiday season or two working in retail).

"Music goes right to our emotions immediately and it bypasses rationality," Clinical psychologist Linda Blair told Sky News. At this point in the season, we can apply the same rule to music and egg nog: small doses are best if we want to stay happy.

I'm sure the Christmas-enthused homeowners in my neighborhood are already cranking the festive tunes. My own tree isn't up yet, but I've got to admit, the sight of theirs makes me happy every time I walk by.

[Originally published Nov. 20, 2017]

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My village lives far away—but my Target baby registry helped them support me from afar

Virtual support was the next best thing to in-person hugs

They say you shouldn't make too many major life transitions at once. But when I was becoming a mama for the first time nearly five years ago, my husband and I also moved to a new town where we didn't know a soul, bought our first house and changed jobs.

To put it mildly, we didn't heed that advice. Luckily, our family and friends still made it feel like such a magical time for us by supporting our every move (literal and otherwise) from afar. They showered us with love through a virtual baby shower (expectant parents nowadays can relate!) featuring the unwrapping of gifts they were able to ship straight to me from my Target registry.

Here's one piece of advice I did take: I registered at Target so I could take advantage of the retailer's benefits for registrants, which include a welcome kit valued over $100, a universal registry function and more. Fast-forward a few years and Target has made the registration perks even better for expectant parents: As of August 2020, they've added a Year of Exclusive Deals, which gives users who also sign up for Target Circle a full year of savings after baby is born on all those new mama essentials, from formula to diapers and beyond.

Honestly, even without the significant perks of a free welcome kit with more than $100 in coupons, additional 15% off coupons to complete the registry and a full year of free returns, registering at Target wasn't a hard sell for me: Even though the experience of shopping for baby items was new, shopping with Target felt like returning home to me… and the comfort of that was such a gift.

And of course, Target's registry plays a vital role right now, as expectant parents everywhere are being forced to cancel in-person baby showers and navigate early parenthood without the help of a hands-on village. A registry like this represents a safe way for communities to come through for new parents. If you're anything like me (or any of the other mamas here at Motherly), you certainly have emotional ties and fond memories associated with Target.

What to register for at Target was also an easy talking point as I began to connect with moms in my new community. I will always remember going on a registry-building spree with my next door neighbor, who had young children of her own. As we walked the aisles of Target back in 2015, she suggested items to add… and we laid the foundation for what has since become one of my most cherished friendships.

Even as I made connections in my new hometown, I was nervous that expecting my first baby wouldn't feel as special as if I were near family and friends. But my loved ones exceeded all expectations by adding the most thoughtful notes to gifts. They hosted a beautiful virtual baby shower and even encouraged me to keep the registry going after my baby made his debut and new needs arose.

In the years since, "community" has taken on a wonderfully complex new meaning for me… and, in these times of social distancing, for the rest of the world. I've come to cherish my newfound friends in our local community alongside those long-time friends who are scattered around the county and my virtual mama friends.

Now, as my friends' families grow, I'm so grateful that I can show them the same love and support I felt during my first pregnancy. I sing the praises of Target's baby registry—especially in light of the pandemic, since I know mamas can do everything from a distance thanks to Target's website and the added benefit of getting trusted reviews and helpful registry checklists.

And now that I'm on the gift-buying side of the equation, I've found new joy in picking thoughtful gifts for my friends. (Because goodness knows Target has something for everyone!)

For my friend who is a fellow runner, I teamed up with a few others to give the jogging stroller she had on her registry.

For my friend who is a bookworm, I helped her start her baby's library with a few books that are also well-loved in our home.

For other friends, I've bundled together complete "sets" with everything they need for bathing or feeding their children.

I know from my own experience that, yes, the registry purchases are so appreciated, but the thoughtfulness and the support they represent means even more. Because although my village may have been distant, the support they showed me was the next best thing to in-person hugs.

Start your own Target Baby Registry here to experience a Year of Benefits including a Year of Exclusive Deals through Target Circle to enjoy for a full year following your baby's arrival, a year of free returns, two 15% off completion coupons and a free welcome kit ($100 value).

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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