Why nostalgia is good for you

I was in Sheffield at the weekend, a city I lived in thirty years ago. Lots had changed but some things seemed the same. I met my husband there, and we went for a nostalgic drink in the pub where we first met (the Bath Hotel). So many good memories came flooding back.

The feeling of nostalgia is good for us. Researchers have found that nostalgic people are more optimistic and find greater meaning in their lives. Nostalgia feels like time travel. It can take us back to a mood, a feeling, an outlook. It can be evoked in many ways.

Professor Catherine Loveday researches the positive effects of musical nostalgia and finds the music we encounter during the ages of 10-30 has the most powerful impact. This is a formative period when we make a lot of life decisions and gain a clearer sense of who we are. I felt musical nostalgia when I went to see Pulp recently. By the end of the concert, I was bopping around like I was in my teens again.

The nostalgic state provides a valuable resource for wellbeing and a point of connection both with people we care about and with ourselves. And nostalgia can be practised rather than waiting for it to happen organically. Recent research* shows the positive impact of nostalgia-based therapy with people who are bereaved, displaced, or living with dementia. It was found to increase social connectedness and reduced intrusive thoughts.

Hypnotherapy clients often talk about how they want to feel (‘less anxious’, ‘more confident’, ‘more able to relax’). The solution focused approach encourages them to recall times these positive emotional states were present in their lives. This is not to be sentimental but to reconnect with positive inner states in a restorative way. Hypnosis helps to deepen this experience so that they can begin to make positive changes in their lives. Contact me to find out more.

*Tim Wildschut & Constantine Sedikides (2023) Benefits of nostalgia in vulnerable populations, European Review of Social Psychology, 34:1, 44-91, DOI: 10.1080/10463283.2022.2036005

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