The Unknown Benefits of Nostalgia and Reflection on the Past

Nostalgia was originally regarded as an affliction suffered by soldiers tired of war and wanting to go home.

The term is derived from two Greek words: 'nostros' homecoming, and 'algos' meaning pain.

However, it is often misunderstood and can be beneficial, rather than harmful when taken in small doses. Looking back occasionally, and reflecting on things, can reaffirm your roots and connections.

It can make you feel good about your relationships and your life as it is now.

It can provide a texture and context for your current circumstances and can give you the strength of purpose and resolve to move forward and make progress. It all depends on how you view the past.

Reflections on the past can be very positive
Reflections on the past can be very positive | Source
Don't be scared of letting your past express itself
Don't be scared of letting your past express itself | Source
Sometimes nostalgia can reveal things about yourself that you never knew
Sometimes nostalgia can reveal things about yourself that you never knew | Source
Make your reflection on your past crystal clear
Make your reflection on your past crystal clear | Source

Pros for Nostalgia

Some of the other benefits of healthy nostalgia are:

  • It counteracts anxiety, boredom, lack of purpose and loneliness
  • It fosters a change of attitude that is more generous and welcoming of strangers and greater tolerance.
  • It helps couples develop closer relationships as they share reminiscences and nostalgic memories

Cons for Nostalgia

  • Nostalgia is often two-faced and is a bittersweet emotion that can cause joyful and painful feeling very close together.
  • Sometimes it pays to work through the pain or to pile up the good and bad things to develop an overall assessment.
  • Nostalgia and reflection can be risky but it can have many rewards in providing more meaning for life and seeing it in all its fullness.
  • In a sense it fills out all the pages of your life's story and all your memories. But you need to open the book.

How Often Do People Feel Nostalgic and What Triggers It

Most people, when asked say they feel nostalgic at least once a week and 50% of people experience it 3-4 times a week.

Research studies have shown that positive responses generally outnumber negative ones.

Making people sad by showing them depressing disaster scenes, or inducing people to feel bad about themselves, did tend to induce nostalgia, most of which was negative. However when your nostalgia stories start off being negative, they can be flipped around by a close friend who knows your past and can recall positive things to counteract the gloom. There are many sides and perspectives on past events. The trick is to be able to see the context and range of possibilities.

Researchers found that the fastest way to trigger nostalgia was through music, which has become a favorite tool of researchers. This applies to both positive and negative nostalgia.

Many people are afraid be nostalgic because it could remind them of their failings. So they don't want to recall them. However researchers have found that people who experience nostalgia frequently tend to develop a healthy sense of continuity about their lives, rather than emphasizing the break-points or the negative thing. Resisting the urge to look back an review may be denying a good opportunity to learn from the past.

Nostalgia done regularly can remind us that we are cherished and valued people, who live meaningful and rewarding lives that continue on from the journey of the past. It provides a link and connection and a continuity with the past.

One lesson to learn is to avoid the comparisons between the past and now. Almost inevitably we forget the bad things in our memory and always conclude with 'those were the good old days'. In may ways the comparison is impossible because the context, personalities and personal views about yourself have changed so much. Comparison-free nostalgia can be learned and is very valuable.

Do your reflections on the past tend to be more positive than negative?

See results without voting

© 2013 Dr. John Anderson

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Comments 5 comments

Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 3 years ago from South Carolina

Terrific article discussing the pros, cons, and cautions of a nostalgic reflection on the past.

Am voting this hub up across the board except for funny. You made a lot of great points.


Your Cousins profile image

Your Cousins 3 years ago from Atlanta, GA

My present is definitely better than my past, but I think it is so because I use reflections of the past to build a better future. Thanks..voted up and interesting!


diogenes profile image

diogenes 3 years ago from UK and Mexico

Like Scrooge's partner, Jacob Marley, we carry the past around with us and the bad parts can be like the chains around the Dickens characters.

I believe dwelling too intensely on the past, both good and bad, is not very healthy and we should live in today meanwhile anticipating events in the future.

Bob Gadzooks aren't you putting out some hubs!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York

I agree with and like Bob (DIOGENES) comment, a great analogy. How nostalgic we become certainly depends on how good or bad our past was. Learning to differentiate between happy memories and nostalgia is probably healthy for many.

Voted up, useful, and interersting.


cam8510 profile image

cam8510 18 months ago from Columbus, Georgia until the end of November 2016.

A practical article on Nostalgia. Very creative and interesting as well. I believe most of my nostalgic episodes are positive. With memories of sadness, it helps to have a friend around to help me see the good things too. Thanks for the writing lesson here. If you can write a helpful article on Nostalgia, I can finish the one I have started on the upside of heartburn. Well, maybe not. But good job here.

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