Are You Nostalgic? It’s Actually Good For You!

Recalling past experiences has been shown to counteract feelings of loneliness, boredom, and anxiety.  In addition, nostalgic thoughts also make you feel warmer, according to recently published research.

Dr. Constantine Sedikies of the University of Southampton used his own nostalgic feelings for his previous affiliation with the University of North Carolina to pioneer research into the field that now includes dozens of researchers around the world. Spanning a decade of work, he created a questionnaire to quantify such feelings, called the Southampton Nostalgia Scale, and his findings put value into constructive episodes of nostalgia.

In an article in The New York Times, written by John Tierney on July 8th, Dr. Sedikies is quoted as saying that nostalgia makes us “a bit more human.”  He and his fellow psychologist, Tim Wildschut, discovered that nostalgia is common around the world, including in children as young as 7 (who look back fondly on birthdays and vacations).

Feelings of nostalgia are often triggered as a response to dealing with a negative event and it is estimated that over half of the population engages in “nostalgizing” three or four times a week.  Nostalgia levels are high in young adults with a dip in middle age and then a rise in old age, according to Erica Hepper, a psychologist at the University of Surrey in England.  “Nostalgia helps us deal with transitions,” Dr. Hepper says. “The young adults are just moving away from home and/or starting their first jobs, so they fall back on memories of family Christmases, pets, and friends in school.”

And that “warm” feeling you get when thinking about the past ? Well, in research done in southern China by Xinyue Zhou of Sun Yat-sen University, students were tracked over the course of a month.  She and her colleagues found that feelings of nostalgia were more common on cold days. The researchers also found that people in a cool room (68 degrees Fahrenheit) were more likely to nostalgize than people in warmer rooms. The subjects who nostalgized said they felt warmer.

In the research, period music was often used to initiate feelings of nostalgia, so don’t throw away your “oldies” yet. They can help you feel better about things as part of a well-rounded approach to life’s continuing journey.


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