People warn not to dwell on the past, but there are actually a surprising number of benefits to wallowing in nostalgia.
Of course, life is meant to be lived in the present, but the occasional flashback can do wonders for both your mental and physical wellbeing. For instance, did you know that thinking about old memories is enough to boost your confidence? Or if you’re feeling lonely, that the best and most instant cure is a walk down memory lane? Herein, we’ve rounded up some of the surprising reasons you love—and should love!—nostalgia. And for ways to relive your childhood, read up on the 17 Things You’re Nostalgic for But Shouldn’t Be.
It makes you feel less lonely.
Watching an old Disney movie or looking at old photographs of you and your best friend can bring back former feelings of safety and warmth in times of loneliness. Just be careful how far down nostalgia lane you go, as recalling less pleasant memories (like fun times with an ex) can have the opposite effect and make your loneliness even worse.
It makes the future seem more promising.
Delving deep into the past gives us hope for the future. Just thinking about nostalgic words or listening to songs that induce nostalgia can put your faith in a brighter future, according to research in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, so don’t be ashamed to blast your favorite tunes from the ’80s. (“You put the boom boom into my…“) And for ways to ensure that your future is promising, try these 20 Expert-Backed Ways to Improve Your Mental Health Every Day.
It calms anxiety.
Many people turn to nostalgia as an effective anti-anxiety remedy. As psychology professor Krystine Batcho, Ph.D., explained to the Huffington Post: “Any change good or bad is very stressful. So what nostalgia enables you to do both emotionally and cognitively is keep track of what has remained stable, giving you some sense of continuity that grounds you.” And for more ways to keep your anxiety at bay, try these 12 Genius Tricks for Turning Anxiety into Excitement.
It fills life with meaning.
People with a fear of death specifically benefit from bursts of nostalgia. Why? These trips down memory lane help fill our lives with meaning, and thus silence those thoughts of eventual mortality. And even if you don’t struggle with a fear of mortality, you may still be suffering from one of these 20 Childhood Fears That Stick with You Until Adulthood.
It helps you cope with the bad times.
Those who are more wistful tend to have larger social circles. And because they have stronger support systems, these nostalgic folks are better able to cope with life’s many hardships, in some cases even seeking professional help at the behest of their family and friends.
It gives you confidence.
Recalling an old memory of a time when you succeeded makes it easier to hold your head up high and prevail once again. With memories of prior achievements and former feelings of triumph in the back of your mind, you’re better set up for success in the present and future. And for more motivation, don’t miss the 50 Inspirational Success Quotes That Will Energize Your Days.
It makes you warmer—literally.
Nostalgia has a warming effect on both our bad moods and our bodies. Recalling a past event or listening to music that triggers nostalgia makes us less aware of cold temperatures, so make sure to crank those childhood Christmas tunes up extra high this year. And for ways to beat the heat, try these 17 Genius Ways to Keep Your Bedroom Cooler.
It brings people closer together.
If you ever find yourself in a rough patch with your significant other, try thinking back on some of the fonder times in your relationship. Remembering these good moments reminds you of why you’re together in the first place, and it only serves to strengthen your bond. “Nostalgia increases feelings of social connectedness to others,” said psychology professor Clay Routledge, Ph.D. “[It] makes people feel loved and valued.” And for more ways to ensure your relationship lasts, try these 12 Ways to Spice Up Your Relationship—with Your Phone.
It helps you handle big transitions.
During times of uncertainty (like when you’re moving or starting a new job), nostalgia is the anchor that keeps your emotions grounded. Being able to recall happy times instills hope that these transitory periods will go smoothly and will soon become just another memory.
It soothes stress.
“Nostalgic memories can serve as reminders that life wasn’t always so difficult [and] restore a sense of being grounded and able to survive during difficult times,” Batcho explained to Healthline. Harking back to a time of peace and tranquility and temporarily living in the past makes it easier to deal with the stress and turmoil presently at hand.
It counteracts memory loss.
If your memory starts to fade, a familiar song or an old photograph can help bring those memories back to the surface. In fact, Alzheimer’s patients and their families often use nostalgia as a way to trigger buried memories and regain a sense of self.
It makes you more optimistic.
The best way to keep calm and carry on is by reminding yourself of past experiences where things worked out despite hardships. This nostalgia helps you maintain a positive attitude in the face of adversity, allowing you to turn stressful situations into fun learning experiences.
It makes you healthier.
Nostalgia is the ultimate health aid. When researchers asked subjects to write about a nostalgic event, they found that they were more optimistic about their wellbeing. What’s more, subjects’ newfound positive attitudes led to more time spent at the gym! And if you need some help on your own making it to your workout class, learn the 11 Ways Smart People Motivate Themselves to Go to the Gym.
It puts things into perspective.
As philosopher George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” And by being nostalgic, you can remember past mistakes and compare them to current endeavors, thus ensuring that history does not repeat itself.
It keeps you grounded.
In the face of life’s major changes, it can prove difficult to stay true to yourself. But holding on to sentimental remembrances allows us to remember who we are through these changes, and never lose sight of what’s really important.
For example: Imagine you’ve just started a new job and you’re starting to get a little too caught up in the competitive environment. But after catching a whiff of something that reminds you of your childhood (say, a piece of apple pie), you’re suddenly brought back to mornings in the kitchen with grandma and reminded of the things that truly matter.
It makes you feel like you belong.
When you’re feeling down about yourself and your relationships, nostalgia is there to comfort you and remind you of your place in the world. As Routledge wrote in his book, Nostalgia: A Psychological Resource: “Nostalgia provides people an opportunity to reassure themselves that they have had interpersonal successes and that they are loved and valued by others. It makes people feel loved, supported, and socially competent.”
It makes you feel younger.
Nostalgia is the ultimate fountain of youth. As you age, just thinking about times when you were younger and healthier can liven you up and make you feel more physically fit. And for more ways to stay healthy as you age, don’t miss 40 Amazing Ways to Feel Younger After 40.
To discover more amazing secrets about living your best life, click here to sign up for our FREE daily newsletter!