January is arguably the worst month to ever exist. It’s fucking frigid, nobody gives out presents, and after being on the verge of blackout every day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, the collective hangover honestly feels like it might kill me. But apparently, that hangover isn’t just from all the vodka. According to a new study, “emotional hangovers” are a thing.
I’ll spare you the details because they’re boring AF, but here’s the short version. In a study published in Nature Neuroscience, psychologists showed people a bunch of emotional and non-emotional (aka boring) images. One group saw the emotional images before the neutral ones; the other group saw them in the opposite order. A few hours later, they came back for a memory test about the images they’d seen earlier that day.
The first group—the one that saw the emotional images first—were better at recalling neutral images, and not because they’re nerds or anything. (Although they totally might be; why else would anyone volunteer for a study?) When psychologists looked at the brain scans taken during the study, they found that the activity associated with emotional images carried over even after the images were removed. Basically, the emotional state lasted after the cause of the emotion was long gone, and this helped people remember the non-emotional images if they were shown afterward.
So apparently when I have to turn off ASPCA commercials because they give me too many feelings about puppies and ruin my reputation as a heartless betch, that’s an emotional hangover. It also explains why we’re all so fucking cranky for the first few weeks of the year—it’s left over from being forced to spend basically an entire month with our families and avoiding running into people from high school.
Here’s a solution to the madness: Go buy some shitty wine and distract yourself with a real hangover.