The Nostalgia Cure: How Your Memory Can Change Your Life

Have you ever noticed how a certain favorite dish can instantly transport you into a beautiful memory from your past? How about catching someone wearing your grandmother’s perfume and suddenly feeling like she is right there in the room with you? Or walking down a street from your childhood and experiencing the exact emotions you felt back when you were young?

These journeys deep into our memories are called nostalgia. Nostalgia can transport us from the present to years long past, providing us the opportunity to revel in vivid memories and the deep emotional material that is often associated with them.

Until recently, there hasn’t been scientific consensus about whether these walks down memory lane are beneficial or harmful to our psyche. But in the past few years, scientific research into the effects of nostalgia has deepened and expanded. We now know that nostalgia can boost our mood, reduce anxiety, motivate us in times of hardship and even help us feel more connected to those we love.

Nostalgia and Regulating Our Emotions

Leading researchers on nostalgia—Wildschut, Sedikides, and Cordaro of the University of Southampton—wrote a compelling paper summarizing their research on the benefits of nostalgia. They reported that individuals who thought about nostalgic events in their lives were more likely to “feel more loved and protected, evinced reduced attachment-related anxiety and avoidance, and reported greater interpersonal competence,” than their peers in the study.

An interesting feature of nostalgia is that often when we think back to memories from our past, they contain both uplifting and depressing emotions. Even though the recollection is bittersweet, though, it typically has a sense of resolution attached to it. Researchers believe that it might actually be the feeling of resolution that accompanies our nostalgia that is most uplifting.

This is because nostalgia tends to arise when we are facing challenging situations in the present. When challenging situations arise, nostalgia can be triggered to help us balance our emotional state.

Our nostalgic memories remind us that even in moments that were difficult in the past, there were also positive outcomes and valuable lessons learned. This can help us focus on the moment ahead of us and recognize that even when things are challenging, the rewards can be sweet.

Incorporating Nostalgia into Your Life

There are some interesting, new approaches being studied today about how to engage with nostalgia and incorporate it into your life. Here are three ways that could benefit you today.

1. Aromatherapy

Our olfactory bulb, which processes scent, and the parts of our brain that process memories are found right next to each other, maximizing the potential for aromas to trigger memories and nostalgia. Aromatherapy has even been shown to aid Alzheimer’s patients!

2. Comfort Foods

While comfort food isn’t always particularly healthy, preparing meals that remind us of positive times in our past can be a great way to stimulate nostalgia and help us feel connected to our roots.

3. Our Favorite Songs

Auditory stimulation is another way we can fast track our brain into old memories, and another treatment regularly used by Alzheimer’s caregivers. Pop on one of your favorite tunes from when you were younger, and prepare to be transported to some of your most joyful memories!

The Nostalgia Cure

There is still lots of ongoing research about the power of nostalgia and how it can best be utilized to reframe our minds, stabilize our moods and help us move forward as we seek to achieve our goals. How often do you experience nostalgia? What role does it play in your life? I look forward to reading your thoughts and feedback!

Photo via Getty Images

67 comments

Joemar K
Joemar Kabout an hour ago

Thanks

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William T
William T2 days ago

Thank you for sharing

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Sarah A
Sarah A3 days ago

thank you

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Ganaisha Calvin
Ganaisha Calvin6 days ago

yes! i play old albums all the time!

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Peter B
Peter B7 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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Peter B
Peter B9 days ago

tyfs

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Daniel N
Daniel N13 days ago

Thanks

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danii p
danii p13 days ago

thanks for sharing

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danii p
danii p13 days ago

thanks for sharing

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danii p
danii p13 days ago

thanks for sharing

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