Why Being Nostalgic Can Make You Happier
Just listening to Hotel California, watching Jaws, or seeing an old episode of The Brady Bunch on TV can make me nostalgic for the 70’s.
In fact, thinking about all the cheesy stuff that made that decade unique – bell bottom jeans, mood rings, earth shoes, the Hustle line dance, shag carpets, and ding-dongs – can still make me smile. Makes me pine a bit for the days when guys at school called me foxy.
I think we baby boomers are especially sentimental about our roots. It’s no wonder marketers take advantage of that fact and abundantly use images and music from our youth to tempt us to buy their products.
Lucky for me, it turns out reminiscing is not a bad thing – especially if we view the past through rose-colored glasses.
Feeling nostalgic can give us a positive outlook about the future, according to research from the University of Southampton published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin last year.
In fact, various studies have shown that nostalgic memories can help combat loneliness, provide psychological comfort, raise self-esteem, foster feelings of belonging, help us deal with adversity, and increase optimism about the future.
An article by Psychology Today pointed out that this is because “many nostalgic experiences are connected to personal accomplishments and momentous life events.”
“Life is not one great success after another,” the article continued. “Our daily existence can often be tedious and sometimes depressing. Using nostalgia, we can inject some meaning and excitement into life.”
On top of that, nostalgia helps us feel more connected to others. When we think of past experiences, objects, movies, and music, we often think of good friends or fun times with our family. It’s a reminder that we can form and maintain relationships, that we are lovable, and that people care about us.
Of course, thinking of the past can be bittersweet at times since we all have painful memories. And I’m not advocating living in the past. As I’ve discussed in a past blog, it’s much better to savor the moment and enjoy the present than wallow in the past or stress out about the future.
But the fact remains, as these studies show, as a whole the effect of nostalgia is positive. Most of us tend to focus on the good times and only reminisce from time to time. That’s why nostalgia, as a rule, makes us happy.
So when you’re feeling a bit down or vulnerable, nostalgia may be just what the doctor ordered. Especially if you think about all the successful, worthwhile, and fulfilling moments in your past. Those cherished memories can contribute to a brighter outlook which we all know is good for us.