Whether elicited by an intense interaction with a blast from the past or by an old picture on social media (#TBT anyone?), we have all experienced the bittersweet feeling of nostalgia at some point or another.
Throughout our lives, we are often advised against dwelling on the past.
We are consistently told to stay optimistic about the present and to not get sidetracked by captivating memories of “the good old days.”
Although it is dangerous to stay unreasonably fixated on the way things used to be, a healthy amount of nostalgia isn’t always such a negative thing.
Here are four reasons why getting nostalgic can actually be good for you:
1. It may allow you to feel more connected.
According to Clay Routledge, PhD, associate professor of psychology at North Dakota State University, “Nostalgia increases feelings of social connectedness to others. It makes people feel loved and valued, and increases perceptions of social support when people are lonely.”
Remember your 21st birthday when you managed to get kicked out of three bars in a span of 20 minutes? Of course you don’t, but your best friends at the time sure do.
After all, they were the ones feeding you tequila shots and then frantically calling local jail's the next morning when you were MIA.
Next time you catch yourself smiling about a random but hilarious memory, text your long-lost roomie and ask her if she wants to catch happy hour after work.
Reminiscing with a friend is always better than reminiscing alone, after all.
It’s easy to feel upset about losing touch with people from whom we were once inseparable.
However, by making a conscious effort to reconnect, you can potentially strengthen those bonds once again.
2. It can help you cope with transitions.
Young adults often have to face the initial discomfort of making significant life changes. These could include moving away from home for the first time or starting your first real job.
In times like these, it is natural for us to fall back on childhood memories or even long for the days when things were simpler and worry-free. (If you’ve ever wished you could go back to naptime in kindergarten just for a day, then don’t worry; you’re not alone.)
Reflecting on the past can be beneficial, if you do it correctly.
It’s important to focus on savoring those particular memories for what they are rather than comparing them to the way things are now.
This way, you are simply observing these memories in a positive way rather than negatively dwelling on them.
Additionally, we sometimes fail to recognize how many transitions we have really made it through.
Leaving for college may have been a slightly scary concept at the time, but we managed (and probably loved it).
Moving to a new city is also terrifying, but nostalgia can help us remember how we effectively dealt with change in the past.
By reflecting on what we've accomplished, we can apply this same mentality toward our latest challenges.
3. It can allow you to be more positive toward upcoming endeavors.
“Memories of the past can help to maintain current feelings of self-worth and can contribute to a brighter outlook on the future,” says Dr. Tim Wildschut, who coauthored a 2013 study on nostalgia at the University of Southampton.
When we recall fond memories from our pasts, our eyes light up in excitement as we take an enjoyable trip down memory lane.
This feeling of elatedness can serve as motivation for what’s next.
Getting nostalgic about a family vacation to the beach? Send out a mass text and plan another one; it’s long overdue.
Instead of getting sad about the past, we can become mindful of the positive feelings these memories induce.
This can then serve as further inspiration to continue making similar ones.
4. It reminds us of how meaningful our lives are.
Nostalgia allows us to store positive emotions in our memories and utilize them intentionally throughout our lives.
Therefore, when we are feeling angry or depressed, drawing on cherished memories can help lift our spirits.
Maybe you are temporarily annoyed at your significant other. (You just hit him or her with the “K” text, so it’s all downhill from here.)
Reminiscing on the good memories between you two serves as a reminder of how important your SO is to you and how lucky you are to have him or her.
In this case, nostalgia can prevent us from getting sidetracked by trivial issues and it makes us focus more on the big picture.
Overall, nostalgia does not have to be regarded as a sad, homesick feeling for “the way things used to be.” Instead, treat it like a prized possession.
No matter how many changes or bumps in the road you may come across, you can always reflect on these valuable memories.
Nobody can ever take that away from you.