5 Ways Nostalgia Can Help You Appreciate The Present, According To Science
When it comes to thinking about the past, we often see nostalgia as a way to enjoy the times in our lives which have already gone by. However, studies show that nostalgia can impact us in the present in a variety of ways. For example, nostalgia helps us connect with memories from our past and can bring us closer to friends, family, and loved ones we shared experiences with that can't be recreated now. Nostalgia can also impact us through media, such as our favorite books, movies, or music, and can bring back old feelings like they're new again. Interestingly, it's not all emotional, either — research also shows that nostalgia can actually create a physical response in our bodies. Who knew remembering the good old days could accomplish so much?
Nostalgia can be tricky, too, though. For some people, nostalgia can help cure loneliness by making us feel more connected and reminding us of the good times we've experienced; however, for others, too much nostalgia can feel like a poison for the present, because it can create unrealistic hype around the moments we can't get back. Still, on the whole, while nostalgia can bring up sad and negative feelings, it can also create a lot of happiness in us in the present moment.
In fact, experiencing nostalgia can help you enjoy and appreciate the present in a number of ways. Here are just a few of them — all of which totally mean that your fondness for reminiscing about your Tamagotchi is an A-OK habit to have.
1. Nostalgia Helps Us Reconnect
By its very nature, nostalgia helps us reconnect with our past. While it's important to live in the present and strive forward toward your future, it's healthy and normal to reflect back on your past experiences, good and bad, in order to fully appreciate and learn from them. In fact, one study published in Psychological Science in 2014 found that when people revisit ordinary items from the past, they're likely to find new and unexpected meanings and life lessons through reflection and retrospection. This act of reconnecting can increase our bonds and help us gain a better understanding of our relationships with others and with ourselves.
2. Nostalgia Helps Bring Meaning To Our Everyday Lives
As Krystine I. Batcho, Ph.D. notes on Psychology Today, nostalgia allows us to gain understanding of the good and bad experiences we've had with the fresh lens of age and developed maturity and knowledge of ourselves. Adds Clay Routledge, Ph.D. in a different article for Psychology Today, nostalgia can help us better understand the complex nuances of challenges through which we've persevered and help us to answer the "why me?" questions we ponder after difficult times in our lives.
3. Nostalgia Warms Us Up — Literally
We all know that emotions can impact the way we feel physically; for example, anxiety can manifest in physical symptoms including increased heart rate, chest tension, and headaches. In the same way, experiencing nostalgia can actually change our temperatures — for real! This pretty much blew my mind, but a series of studies published in the journal Emotion in 2012 shows that when experiencing nostalgia, participants experience a higher, more pleasant temperature.
4. Nostalgia Helps Us Be Optimistic
Sometimes when we look toward the past, we're looking at the world through proverbial rose-colored glasses, making everything seem sweeter and better in days gone by. Research shows, however, that nostalgia can actually make us optimistic for the future, which actually surprised me. For instance, the study "Back To The Future: Nostalgia Increases Optimism" out of the University of Southampton, proposes that when people are experiencing nostalgia, they're likely to feel better about themselves and more hopeful about their futures.
5. Nostalgia Improves Our Moods
Apparently getting nostalgic can boost your mood when you're feeling down. According to the study "Nostalgia: Content, Triggers, Functions," also out of the University of Southampton, participants found nostalgia itself to create a pleasant experience that brought about a feeling of happiness — or at the very least, made their sadness more bearable.