Looking Back: Nostalgia's Effects on the Self

SouthamptonUniversity of Southampton psychologist Constantine Sedikides and his colleagues conducted an experiment to look at the effects of nostalgia on people’s sense of loneliness and social support. Historically, nostalgia has often been viewed in a negative light. It has been seen as an a way of living in the past and as an impediment to hope and the future. However, Sedikides’ research suggests that nostalgia can have positive effects as well.  In his study, researchers induced nostalgia in their participants by asking them to recall past events.  The participants who did this reported higher self-esteem and increased feelings of being loved and protected by others. At the same time, the researchers found that people who reported feeling lonely were also more likely to report low levels of social support and more likely to engage in nostalgia. Considering these results as a whole, Sedikides and his colleagues speculate that nostalgia can help mitigate loneliness in people who have little social supports.

The research suggests that using nostalgia as a temporary measure to get through periods of loneliness in one’s life can be helpful. By definition, nostalgia is a yearning to return to some treasured experience from the past. Of course, if too much time is spent engaging in this activity, they’ll be no new experiences to reminisce about in the future! Again, it is a question of balance.

How and when have you used nostalgia to get through difficult times? What are your feelings about nostalgia?

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