Nostalgia And Its Emotional, Spiritual, And Physical Benefits



What exactly is nostalgia? The term "nostalgia" derives from the Greek words nostos (return) and algos (pain). Indicating that it is the suffering evoked by the desire to return to one's place of origin. 

It could also be simply put as a reliving of a past time, which is usually a more positive light than the reality of that even may have been.

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Starting in the 1600s, through the 1700s and 18002, nostalgia was thought to be as an undesirable state. It was viewed as neurological disorder, which represents homesickness. However, since the 1900s, nostalgia has been regarded as sentimental longing of the past. Nevertheless, even during this century, nostalgia was sometimes regarded as a state that hinders growth, because it is said that people cannot linger and live in the past.


However, a study by The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology showed that nostalgic memories and experiences elicit a series of benefits:  

1.    1.It implants a sense of social connection.

2.    2.Evokes positive effective states and improves self-esteem.

3.    3.One's attitude or perceptions of one's self improves.

4.    4.One becomes more aware of one's desirable qualities.

And many more.


More interestingly was the study conducted by Leboe and Ansons in 2006. It concluded that nostalgic memories tend to be vivid. Because they are vivid, they are processed fluently. However, this fluency has been shown to bias memories. In other words, memories are sometimes incorrectly perceived as positive or favorable.


Another study has showed that daydreaming on events and experiences that have occurred in the past has more benefits to it than one may realize. Nostalgia that fills one's being with strong emotions while going back in time in one's memories can not only improve one's self-esteem (as mentioned earlier), but also can have an anti-depressant effects.

And yet, another study, has showed that reminiscing about the past can combat loneliness and off-set discomfort of thinking about death. 

However, the astonishing aspect of this study is that  it showed that nostalgia brings physical comforts too, making one feel warmer and increases one's tolerance to cold.

The researchers of this study began their investigation by having 19 people keep a diary of their nostalgia activities for 30 consecutive days. It turned out that the participants indulged in more nostalgic daydreaming during colder days.

To test this even more, another study was done that recruited 90 undergrads in China and put each one of them in a cold room, a 20 degree Celsius, a 24, and a 28 degrees. The students were asked to say how nostalgic they felt for things like music and friends they have known. The findings of the study were that students that sat in the colder room tended to be more nostalgic.

A third study was also conducted that involved Dutch participants. The study involved them listening to songs known to provoke nostalgic feelings. The students who said the music made them feel nostalgic also tended to say that the music made them feel physically warmer.

A fourth study with Chinese students also found that those who were being nostalgic perceived the room they were in to be warmer.

Finally, another study which involved 64 Chinese undergrads to think either about an ordinary event or nostalgic event from their past, and they had to hold their hand in an iced bucket of water fora s long as they could. The students who indulged in nostalgia managed to hold their hands in the water for longer. 

I find that quite astonishing. Nostalgia does not only seem to bring about emotional and spiritual comfort, but also physical! 


What should you learn from all of this? 

Well, do not shy away from daydreaming or being nostalgic, since these are very helpful activities that can promote your self-growth. Just know that taking a trip back in time and enjoying it will have the power to boost your self-esteem, reduce any pain you may experience, and even help in solving an issue or problem you could be having.

So what do you think about nostalgia? If you have had experience with it, do you think it benefits you in any way, or the exact opposite? Do you feel the positive qualities suggested by the studies?

For me personally, I completely agree with the studies. Nostalgic daydreaming fills me with life. I always wondered why, I guess I was not the only one.

Other Sources:

Source 1

Source 2 

Source 3



I find it really interesting that nostalgia can have physical effects as well! Who knew that it could make you feel warm-- although, it seems now that I think of it, that would make sense.

I wanted to see how bad memories (the opposite of nostalgia, I guess) can be explained in scientific terms. Here is an article where the scientists try to explain how to get rid of bad memories.

One they say is to "innhibite hippocampal retrival," or in other words, suppression. The other way taht the suggest is to "overwrite it" when it comes up in your head.

What I want to know, from a psychologist's point of view, is if addressing the bad memory helps it to go away. I would think it was (it's worked for me before), but why wouldn't the article I just posted suggest that?

Interesting topic. I think a lot of us experience nostalgia more than we lead on, which would make sense since it is still somewhat regarded as a negative emotion to inhibit, as you stated. I wonder about the conditions of the many experiments you talked about in your examples. There was definitely a lot of replication to prove the physical effects of nostalgia, i.e. the studies were conducted various times with different groups- but what was the control on their nostalgic memories? Could the subjects in the colder room thought about happier times than those in the other rooms, what are other third variables to consider? I consider the quality of the memory and the attachment one may have it to many factor into the effect. Either way, it is definitely interesting to learn about a possible link to temperature and nostalgic memories, but what if there is a link to memory in general?

When I looked into this, I found more results about the effect temperature in a room has on your ability to retain a memory. Could this factor into the nostalgia studies? In this study, albino rats were tested over a 24 hour period in 5 different temperatures to analyze the effects temperature has on memory- it seems being colder helps you remember in general. So maybe this is more of a general correlation rather than something directly dealing with the emotion of nostalgia. I don't know how it could be differentiated, but it is definitely interesting to consider.

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