Putting up your Christmas lights and decorations early might just make you a better person, at least in the eyes of your neighbors. A study conducted by the Journal of Environmental Psychology says that getting your holiday decorations up before the official season begins is a simple but surprisingly effective way to come off as friendly, inviting, and easy to approach. In fact, the report states that a house with lights and other Christmas items “cues as a way of communicating accessibility to neighbors.”
Participants in the study were shown a series of houses, some with holiday decorations and some without, and were asked their feelings on the owners based on the house’s appearance. Despite having never met, participants felt that the owners of the houses that went all out with Christmas cheer seem more “friendly and cohesive” than those without lights.
To ensure that participants were not merely judging the quality of the house, they were shown homes that ranged in size and were meant to represent a wide variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. This proved to make no real difference, as participants felt that decorations equated to hospitality and friendliness, regardless of class.
Why would putting up lights as soon as possible make you seem more cheery to other people? According to Steve McKeown, a psychoanalyst and founder of MindFixers, it’s really not that complicated: Christmas decorations help adults remember the happiness they felt when they were kids during the Christmas season.
“Decorations are simply an anchor or pathway to those old childhood magical emotions of excitement,” McKeown explained to Unilad. “So putting up those Christmas decorations early extend[s] the excitement!”
Psychologist Deborah Serani agreed with McKeown’s reasoning, explaining that there is also the physiological reaction that comes from stepping outside of the status quo.
“It does create that neurological shift that can produce happiness,” Serani told Today Home. “I think anything that takes us out of our normal habituation, the normal day in, day out … signals our senses, and then our senses measure if it’s pleasing or not. Christmas decorating will spike dopamine, a feel-good hormone,”
So if you’re looking to get in good with your neighbors, cancel those weekend plans and throw up some decorations. Because when it comes to being a good neighbor, good fences have nothing on good decorations. One word of warning: don’t go full Clark Griswald (Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation). There’s a fine line between appearing inviting and becoming a neighborhood Christmas monster.