Why are we all so obsessed with nostalgia?

Font Size:

If you get together with a group of old friends, chances are you’ll spend a large chunk of time reminiscing about the past.

Shared memories from bygone times are comforting, and can make you feel warm and fuzzy. Not only this, but reminiscing also has the power to bring you closer to the ones you love – particularly if you’ve been drifting apart.

The Oxford English Dictionary definition of nostalgia is: “A sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past.” The word itself evokes positive feelings of the past – you don’t really look back nostalgically at anything bad.

Even when we’re on our own, we love anything nostalgic, whether it’s listening to the Backstreet Boys or re-watching old episodes of I Love Lucy. Our obsession is real, but why is that so? We asked Dr Meg Arroll, psychologist and author of The Shrinkology Solution, to explain a bit more about why we have this obsession.

It brings people together

Nostalgic presents are a big industry – just think of the tongue-in-cheek remakes of Enid Blyton’s books, which have been updated with titles like Five Go Gluten Free and Five On Brexit Island.

Dr Arroll says: “I both personally and professionally see the benefits of nostalgia – for instance, buying retro gifts immediately connects both the giver and receiver not only with one another but also with a shared past.”

The same applies to going to remakes of films with your friends and discussing memories from the original.

“Nostalgia has the ability to bring people together who may have drifted apart – friends may have very different lives now, and so lack a common thread, but childhood memories bind us,” Dr Arroll explains. “Studies have demonstrated this and found that when feelings of nostalgia are triggered, social bonds strengthen, positive self-regard increases, and there’s a boost in positive effect [good mood].”

It can improve your mood


Speaking more about the potential impact on your mental state, Dr Arroll says: “Further research suggests that nostalgia may protect against future bouts of depression.” It’s true – looking back on the good times has the peculiar ability to make you feel good.

In a scholarly article by Clay Routledge, Tim Wildschut, Constantine Sedikides and Jacob Juhl, the authors describe how from the 17th century to the end of the 20th century, nostalgia was considered a neurological disorder – but now it’s been shown to have a positive impact on our mental health.

They write: “We argue that nostalgia, far from being an illness, is an important resource for maintaining and promoting psychological health.”

But there are some negatives


Nostalgia does, however, have some drawbacks.

Reliving the past can bring people together, but it also has the power to make you feel even more lonely than before. It’s altogether too easy to look back with rose-tinted glasses, and that can make you feel sad when comparing that time with today.

Instead of using memories to work through new challenges, some people use it as a way of living in the past without moving forward.

Dr Arroll also notes we need to beware of “longing for the way society used to be, known as collective nostalgia”. After all, society didn’t used to be as accepting or diverse as it is now, and looking back nostalgically can gloss over the more insidious aspects of the past.

But if it’s flicking through a 1998 copy of a glossy magazine, slurping on a cocktail you used to drink with your girlfriends in the 1980s or snuggling up on the sofa watching Breakfast At Tiffany’s, we’re confident a nostalgic cuddle with the past is most definitely a good thing.

– With PA

Do you find yourself looking back on old photos? Do you find that nostalgic content improves or dampens your mood?

If you enjoy our content, don’t keep it to yourself. Share our free eNews with your friends and encourage them to sign up.

RELATED LINKS

Why memories flood back when you visit places from your past

A lifetime of memories… but not always readily accessible.

Ten of the best classic desserts that deserve a comeback

Puddings from the past still hold a place in our hearts.

Written by Prudence Wade



SPONSORED LINKS

Sign-up to the YourLifeChoices Enewsletter

continue reading

COVID-19

Another vaccine ruled out as second blood clot case emerges

Australia's Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA) has announced that a second case of blood clots is believed to be linked to...

Superannuation News

Super funds fight for changes to reforms

Your Super, Your Future legislation will be enacted within three months and leading players are weighing in on the impact...

Finance

Ambulance costs around Australia

There should be no hesitation when you have to call an ambulance in an emergency situation, but some people rushed...

News

Four tell-tale signs that you may have a blood clot

A blood clot is a clump of cells and protein in your blood. Blood clots form to slow down bleeding...

Beef

Sweet Potato and Shredded Beef Bowl

When it comes to serving a lot of people, chilli is a miracle dish. You throw all the ingredients into...

Finance News

How much you can save on electricity in your home state

As we prepare to head into the colder winter months, there is good news for those worried about heating costs...

COVID-19

What is thrombocytopenia, and why did it stop the AstraZeneca jab?

Anthony Zulli, Victoria University; Maja Husaric, Victoria University; Maximilian de Courten, Victoria University, and Vasso Apostolopoulos, Victoria University Australia's medical...

Wellbeing

Ways to manage death anxiety

Winston Churchill once said: "Any man who says he is not afraid of death is a liar." But while it's...

LOADING MORE ARTICLE...