Feeling nostalgic? It’s good for your mental health

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Written By Margonoe Tumindax

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

Feeling nostalgic is often associated with positive emotions connected to a feeling of longing that helps you return to a particular period in your life. It was back in the 1600s that physician Johannes Hofer first used the term “nostalgia”. He used it in the context of homesickness, insomnia, and anxiety that were experienced by Swiss mercenaries when they were fighting away from their home. A lot has changed since then, and now thinking about the “good old days” is mostly seen as a positive thing. Read on to learn about the mental health benefits of nostalgia.

Nostalgia may be good for your general well-being, and it may increase optimism, and inspiration as well as help you find your purpose in life, as per a 2020 research published in the Frontiers in Psychology journal. The research also pointed out that as people grow older, nostalgia makes them feel youthful. It makes them more optimistic about their health.

Nostalgia offers mental health benefits. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

What is nostalgia?

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

Why do people get nostalgic?

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

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What are the mental health benefits of nostalgia?

When your mind encounters a stimulus in the present, it simultaneously processes it in various parallel ways. This triggers memories, accompanied by the genuine emotions associated with those memories, creating a deep enriching present experience, says the expert.

Here are some benefits:

1. Elicits pleasant emotions

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

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2. Inspires you

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

3. Improves well-being

Engaging in nostalgic reflections can have a positive impact on your overall well-being. That’s because it fosters a sense of happiness.

4. Reduces loneliness

Nostalgia serves as a companion, so it reduces feelings of loneliness. It helps to reconnect people with positive aspects of their personal history.

5. Enhances meaning or purpose of life

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

6. Promotes self-awareness

Nostalgia encourages self-reflection. It helps individuals understand their personal growth and development over time.

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Nostalgia promotes self-awareness. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

7. Mitigates existential crises

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

8. Improves social connectedness

Nostalgia fosters a sense of shared experiences. It strengthens social bonds as people reminisce together. It creates a feeling of connectedness and belonging, says Chandran.

But nostalgia can become problematic if people excessively get immersed in it. It may even interfere with daily functioning. Thinking too much about the past may cause people to overlook real-life demands. Also, people experiencing distress or mood disorders may be more inclined to recall negative, emotion-laden memories. So, don’t get too absorbed in your memories and focus on positive thoughts even if you do.

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