Nostalgia is related to the longing for home, country, people or memories. What evokes the feeling of nostalgia in us and how does it affect human functioning? Theoretically, nostalgia could seem to have only negative consequences, but experiencing nostalgia can be beneficial for us.
What is nostalgia and how does it manifest?
Nostalgia was first described in the 17th century and Johannes Hofer is considered to be the creator of the concept itself, who observed the occurrence of this phenomenon among Swedish soldiers living outside their homeland.
The longing, considered nostalgia, can relate to the past, relationships, or various other positive situations. In essence, a nostalgic mood can occur in each of us: but why does this phenomenon occur and what is the influence of nostalgia on human functioning?
When do we experience nostalgia?
Nostalgia can appear out of nowhere – it happens that memories of old friends, partners or the past suddenly appear in our heads. However, there are several factors that can evoke nostalgia. These are, for example, olfactory and tactile stimuli – it happens that, for example, a scent reminds us of a unique holiday trip that took place in the near or distant past.
Olfactory and tactile sensations are closely related to the amygdala, which is a component of the nervous system and particularly affects human emotions. That is why smells and touches have such a special influence on the occurrence of nostalgia.
Weather and music are also other factors that can evoke nostalgia in us. As an example, we can mention a song that we heard during an extremely important event – such as the first kiss – and in such a situation, re-listening to that song can evoke positive memories and lead to nostalgia.
Nostalgia is not a disease
The view of nostalgia has changed significantly over time. Initially, it was basically considered a disease. Recognition of nostalgia as a disease lasted quite a long time – even in the nineteenth century, doctors discussed it, but at the end it ceased to be considered a pathological entity.
With all these changes, it happened that nostalgia was considered a symptom of some mental disorder or one of the stages of the development of various problems of this type. It was also related to melancholy.
Over time, however, the handling of nostalgia as a negative phenomenon was abandoned – this happened after scientists presented several different interesting conclusions about the effect of this phenomenon on human functioning.
Nostalgia can pay off
However, it turns out that this longing associated with nostalgia can have an exceptionally positive impact on our emotions and well-being. It can improve our mood, increase our self-esteem, or lead to a sense of having close relationships with various people.
We may experience nostalgia, for example, when we generally feel bad – either in our professional lives, if we have relationship problems, or financial problems. In such situations, we may feel a desire for old times, a different workplace, or the early stages of a relationship.
It seems that the contrast between these positive aspects of the past and current unpleasant events should lead to even greater sadness. However, it’s different – most people feel better because of nostalgia.
If we remember the past that was better than the present, it means that since it was that way in our lives, it can be that way again sometime. With such an approach, it can even be said that nostalgia can awaken hope in a better tomorrow within us.
Nostalgia can have beneficial effects on us: by remembering various friends from the past or longing for loved ones we haven’t seen in a long time, thoughts about how strong these bonds were can appear in our heads. And in such a mechanism, it is possible that nostalgia will not hurt us at all, but rather lead to beneficial effects for our minds.