Feeling nostalgic? It’s good for your mental health

It can be good to think about the happy moments in your life and feel nostalgic sometimes. Here are some of the mental health benefits of nostalgia.

Feeling nostalgic is often associated with positive emotions associated with a sense of longing that helps you return to a certain stage of life. The doctor Johannes Hofer first used the term “nostalgia” in the 17th century. He applied it to the homesickness, insomnia and anxiety that Swiss mercenaries experienced when fighting away from home. A lot has changed since then, and now thinking about the “good old days” is mostly seen as a positive thing. Read more about the mental health benefits of nostalgia.

Nostalgia can be good for your overall well-being, boosting optimism and inspiration, and helping you find your purpose in life, according to a 2020 study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology. The study also showed that as people age, nostalgia makes them feel youthful. It makes them more optimistic about their health.

Nostalgia offers mental health benefits. Photo: Adobe Stock

What is nostalgia?

It can be understood as a sudden desire to return to an earlier point where the mind travels to memories of usually pleasant experiences. Nostalgia is seen as an emotion more than just a memory, and is a complex experience that includes both thoughts and feelings, says clinical psychologist Dhanya Chandran.

Why are people nostalgic?

Nostalgia is a common human experience that can be triggered by present-day sensory stimuli, such as a familiar smell or rain, as well as specific situations, such as sitting alone or hearing your favorite songs.

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What are the mental health benefits of nostalgia?

When your mind encounters a stimulus in the present moment, it processes it simultaneously in several parallel ways. This triggers memories and related genuine emotions, creating a deeply enriching present experience, says the expert.

Here are some benefits:

1. Causes pleasant feelings

Nostalgia often evokes positive emotions. It can be good during stressful times as it provides a momentary escape to cherished memories and experiences.

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2. Inspire you

The memory of past successes and happy moments can inspire individuals. It can motivate them to pursue new goals or creative endeavors, says Chandran.

3. Improves well-being

Participating in nostalgic reflections can have a positive effect on your general well-being. This is because it promotes feelings of happiness.

4. Reduces loneliness

Nostalgia acts as a companion, so it reduces the feeling of loneliness. It helps reconnect people with the positive aspects of their personal history.

5. Enhances the meaning or purpose of life

Reflecting on past experiences can add depth and meaning to your life. It can promote a sense of purpose and meaning, the expert says.

6. Promotes self-awareness

Nostalgia encourages introspection. It helps individuals understand their personal growth and development over time.

Woman thinking
Nostalgia promotes self-knowledge. Photo: Shutterstock

7. Alleviates existential crises

By grounding people in familiar and positive memories, nostalgia can help alleviate existential crises by affirming the value of personal history.

8. Improves social connection

Nostalgia promotes a sense of shared experiences. It strengthens social bonds when people reminisce together. It creates a sense of connection and belonging, says Chandran.

But nostalgia can become problematic if people get too caught up in it. It can even interfere with daily activities. Thinking too much about the past can make people ignore the demands of real life. Also, people who experience anxiety or mood disorders may be more prone to recall negative, emotionally charged memories. So don’t get too caught up in your memories and focus on positive thoughts even if you are.

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