Nostalgia, that bitter-sweet feeling we get when we think back on better times, has made its way back into our lives as a desirable thing.
We are on trend if we are spending more time thinking back, looking through photo albums, sharing photos from our youth on social media and watching old tv series. I’m guessing shows like Friends and Sex in the City, are popular. Our isolation from one another has caused us to reflect on better times.
We have the technology to chat with friends around the world at any hour of the day, without bothering to get out of pyjamas, but we are tired of our screens, tired of the news, and tired of the worry. So instead, we are opting for old school entertainment: making funny home movies with the dog, playing board games with the kids, knitting never-to-be-worn scarves and doing jigsaw puzzles (OMG!).
Others have chosen a more productive but equally nostalgic path: cleaning up the collections of travel souvenirs, re-arranging inherited ornaments, or fixing up that old rocking chair.
If you are missing dining out, going to book club or choir or cheap movie night, physically being with family and friends, you are not alone! 😉
So how does nostalgia help? Have you ever felt a bit sad and chosen to play music that makes you feel sadder but kind of warm inside too? Music that triggers this response through inducing memories, perhaps REM’s Everybody Hurts or Carole King’s You’ve Got a Friend, consoles us by making us feel nostalgic.
So, what is nostalgia? It is the paradoxical state of being uplifted and sad at the same time, brought on by thinking of time’s past. It is a wistful desire to return to the happiness of a former time, like summers spent at the beach when we were ten, or home when we are somewhere else, like Dorothy and Kansas. It is a sentimental yearning or something that elicits such feelings.
Is it good for us? Apparently, it is. Nostalgic people are more sociable and empathetic. It is a coping mechanism and assists with forward planning by helping us see past mistakes.
There can be a bad side to nostalgia as well, if people get too immersed in memories or feel depressed because they mourn the loss of the time that has gone and have no hope for the future.
My gripe with nostalgia is when I am flung into it without wanting it. Facebook Memories do this, bringing up old Posts from several years ago, surprising me when I was just looking for a short diversion into the world of others. Having been divorced in the last few years, having lost loved ones and dogs, these memories can make me unhelpfully nostalgic.
But I get why nostalgia is experiencing a resurgence. Looking through photos of our babies, of days at school, of firsts – first car, first anniversary, first trip overseas – can make us feel all gooey inside. Sharing stories with old friends makes us relive the feelings generated at the time, often with the benefit of improvements: backpacking in Europe with a humorous slant on the disasters, bonfire nights in the middle of a frosty winter, being so poor a gourmet lunch was cheese with the vegemite sandwich. Yes, nostalgia can be wonderful.
There are certain things that for me are nostalgic: apple crumble (kindergarten), any jewellery from the Bluebird of Happiness collection (an intense need to have that was never indulged), my grandmother’s darning needles and cotton reels (still used, occasionally), a plate painted by my eldest child (so artistically talented), a necklace bought for me at Paddy’s Markets by my youngest child (with his own money), …
I feel that this trend for nostalgia is good. So, let us seize the yesterdays, until this day becomes yesterday too.
Ref: All in the Mind podcast 28 June 2020 The Psychology of Nostalgia