Nostalgia: Why Do We Do It?


Nostalgia is defined as a bittersweet longing for things, persons, or situations encountered or experienced in the past; often a condition created by homesickness. Nostalgia is a condition that everyone encounters in their lifetime.

Generally, it’s a harmless condition, and often therapeutic; but recent studies found that people between  their late 20’s up to their 40s prefer to reminisce about the past and don’t actually plan for the future because of it. But other experts say nostalgia gives meaning to an otherwise dull and pointless existence, a common trait in many adults.

The word “Nostalgia” derives from the Greek “nostos” (return) and “algos” (pain). The word was originally considered a sickness – “suffering due to a desire to return to a place of origin”. The term “nostalgia” was coined in the 1600’s to describe the anxieties displayed by Swiss mercenaries fighting abroad. Swiss military doctors diagnosed the problem as being caused by the Swiss soldiers missing the sound of Alpine cowbells echoing through the Hills and Valleys.

Or maybe not.

So, is being nostalgic a sickness or a cure?  Like so many other things in life, it can probably be both. What we do know is that businesses, advertisers, motion pictures producers and book publishers know that “nostalgia sells”, and things popular during a person’s youth influences their buying habits throughout a lifetime.  And in Politics as well: how many politicians, and voters, seem to be always talking about “The Good Old Days” of lower taxes or higher moral values?

Research in recent years suggests that nostalgia is good psychological medicine. Studies conclude that selectively remembering past times, (in other words, ignoring the bad parts) improves mood, increases self-esteem, strengthens social bonds and imbues life with more meaning.

So Daydream away… it’s good for you.

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