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The University of Southampton

What Nostalgia Is and What It Does

Hepper, Ritchie, Sedikides, and Wildschut (2012, Emotion) describe nostalgia as a complex emotion that involves past-oriented cognition and a mixed affective signature. The emotion is often triggered by encountering a familiar smell, sound, or keepsake, by engaging in conversations, or by feeling lonely. When waxing nostalgic, one remembers, thinks about, reminisces about, or dwells on a memory from one’s past—typically a fond, personally meaningful memory such as one’s childhood or a close relationship. One often views the memory through rose-tinted glasses, misses that time or person, longs for it, and may even wish to return to the past. As a result, one typically feels emotional, most often happy but with a sense of loss and longing; other less common feelings include comfort, calm, regret, sadness, pain, or an overall sense of bittersweetness.

Nostalgia confers psychological benefits. When engaging in nostalgic reflection, people report a stronger sense of belongingness, affiliation, or sociality; they convey higher continuity between their past and their present; they describe their lives as more meaningful; and they often indicate higher levels of self-esteem and positive mood. Although nostalgic engagement (especially when it is carried out habitually and excessively) may not be beneficial to all, it is in general a resource on which people can capitalize to harness strength—a resource that allows them to cope more effectively with the vicissitudes of life.

Why Does Nostalgia Feel So Nice?

"The holidays have a way of bringing up fond memories that can warm your heart. But are there any actual health benefits to nostalgia? It's more than just a longing for the past, and as Anthony and Laci explain, these sentiments can be quite good for us. "

(D news, 25/12/13)

Video link to:

 Why Does Nostalgia Feel So Nice?

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