Emotions The benefits of nostalgia

The benefits of nostalgia

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Feeling nostalgic, without being anchored in it, offers us the certainty that nothing is as important as savoring the blissful moments of the present.

The other day, my wife asked our little daughter, Céleste, 11, to tidy up her room and get rid of some things: “It’s full of toys that you don’t use. Don’t you want us to give away some? That way you would have more room ”. Céleste began to choose. But an hour later, when I went to see how he was doing, he had barely made any progress!

“Wow, Dad, now that I’ve picked up these old toys, I’ve remembered a lot of things from before. And I’ve gotten a little sad I realize that I’ve gotten older and that it was all a lot of fun when I was little”.

Céleste was going through the experience of nostalgia. I tiptoed away, leaving her with her dolls, teddy bears, toy boxes and her mood.

WHAT IS NOSTALGIA?

Nostalgia is the mixture within us of the sweetness and pain of memories. This is a typical state of mind discreet, tenacious, subtle.

It mixes the pleasant (we remember the good moments) and the unpleasant (we find ourselves sad, sometimes desperate, because those good moments are part of the past).

Nostalgia is like an intimate and melancholic projection of a movie with moments from our past life: we remember, we smile, but we also suffer a little because they are only images and memories.

The mood of nostalgia is very old, perhaps eternal: it appears, for example, in the Bible, in Psalm 137, which inspired the famous Rasta song Rivers of Babylon, which narrated the nostalgia of the Hebrews deported in Mesopotamia. And he also told how important it was for them and for their sense of identity the habit of cultivating the memory of the past, even if it was painful and melancholic. Today, the word nostalgia is also used to describe that subtle link with the past, not only in relation to places (the house or school of our childhood) but also in relation to more or less precise moments (family meals on Sunday) or certain relationships (friendly or loving).

Of course, nostalgia often brings together all these elements: when we remember our childhood, both places and moments come to mind.

HOW DOES NOSTALGIA HELP US TO BE HAPPIER?

For a long time, the negative and dark aspects of nostalgia have been accentuated above all: sadness, withdrawal, the difficulty to accept and live the present. But today there is an interest in its positive dimensions, well, at least in its forms normal, it has many benefits:

  • It allows the use and reinforcement of memory through happy memories.
  • It can prompt us to take actions that reactivate those memories. For example, after thinking about my childhood, I can call my friends from school, visit my home region, take up piano courses.
  • It helps us to know better who we are, to focus on ourselves, to reconnect with those important moments in the past that have shaped us.
  • It teaches us to accept the calmly tragic dimension of life: the time that passes and does not return (or does not return as it was before).

For all these reasons, nostalgia can increase our understanding of happiness life moves quickly and the disappearance of past happy moments should not incite us to lament (negative nostalgia) but to savor the present even more (positive nostalgia).

NOSTALGIA IN PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH

An interesting and moving study showed how recording nostalgia can help us increase our understanding of life.

Investigators asked several people who had been widowed for six months to recall the missing spouse. For a few this only made them sad. But others were also triggered by nostalgia they came to smile sincerely during the exhibition, remembering the good times spent in his company.

The investigation did not end there; After two years it was found that those who were doing better were precisely those people who had been able to smile while evoking the deceased spouse in other words, those in whom sadness had been colored with nostalgia.

WHEN NOSTALGIA IS USELESS

Despite these advantages, homesickness, like all moods, can carry certain dangers.

The nostalgia that appears, for example, in the context of depressive tendencies usually lead to a continuous reflection on the past as sterile as it is painful.

Thus, if we ask patients suffering from depression to think about the good times in their past, we will only aggravate their sadness, since they will focus on the negative dimension of nostalgia on the fact that those happy moments are already past and that  in their depressive logic  they will not return.

For people with a sad and melancholic temperament , nostalgia can encourage an idealization of the past, causing their suffering in the present it is the record of “before everything was better”, classic in older people, nostalgic for their youth and their “good old times”. If it remains in the “desire for something that we do not really know what it is” , as defined by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the author of The Little Prince , we will grope when making decisions.

But if we understand his message that “what counts in our life is joy” and, thanks to the impulse and energy of nostalgia, we turn to the present (our life is here and now) and to action (living from happy moments again) , then nostalgia will have helped us deeply.

MindFixes Staffhttp://mindfixes.com
MindFixes is dedicated to promoting mental health, preventing mental disorders and advocating, educating, and serving all people with mental and substance use conditions. MindFixes is determined to persevere, learn, grow, love and laugh through our wellness journey and we invite all to join.

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