In the Loop

The power of Nostalgia

Posted at 10:56 AM on March 10, 2009 by Sanden Totten

I've been feeling down about the state of the economy lately. I've also been listening to a lot of Blind Melon. I didn't think the two were related but it turns out they just may be.

Let me start by saying that I've always wondered what the point of feeling nostalgic was. One minute you're watching an episode of the Wonder Years, drinking some Kool-Aid and the next you're a gooey puddle of emotions mulling over "the good old days" . . . many of which weren't even that good!

But that doesn't matter to your brain. Nostalgia can be triggered by all manner of cues, and it has an uncanny capacity to make even lousy situations look good in hindsight. Research on the subject from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that feeling fond for the old days even "increases positive self-regard, and generates positive affect."

So the brain uses nostalgia as a way to "pretty up" our sometimes sour pasts.

"In this context, nostalgia might be seen as a natural anti-depressant, something to hang onto to keep us motivated," says Patrick over that the VeryEvolved blog.

The theory is, If our pasts made us sad then we'd all be too depressed to get much done in the present.

Patrick goes on to say that surrounding oneself with nostalgia inducing music and pictures actually comforts us. Advertisers certainly get this. And apparently clothing designers do too - just look at recent 80's fashion revival in Paris' Fall season for proof. Feeling better about our past makes us feel better about ourselves overall. So nostalgia becomes a powerful coping mechanism for bad times of then and now.

And thus, I've been listening to a lot of Pearl Jam and Blind Melon. I've been watching clips of Pete & Pete on YouTube and even dug out an old copy of Wayne's World on VHS. And I encourage you to do the same. Maybe with a healthy dose of nostalgia we can make the old days and the present seem a little less awful.

But please, no Hammer pants revival.

Have you been comforting yourself with retro tunes or movies? If so, what's your fix?


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