Why Do We Feel Nostalgic?
20th September, 2018
Like with all things involving the mind, the science behind memory and nostalgia isn’t necessarily complete, but scientists do have some pretty clear ideas as to why and how we form memories and feel nostalgia. We take a look at what nostalgia means and why we feel it from time to time.
What is Nostalgia?
Nostalgia occurs when you are remembering a memory, often looking back through rose-tinted glasses, and feeling a sense of longing for this version of the past. While we may sometimes simply recall fond memories of childhood or a special moment in our lives, nostalgia often kicks in when we are wishing to a return to a simpler time. This is especially the case when life is getting a bit hectic, and you feel like you would rather return to a time with less responsibilities!
The mention of nostalgia providing a rose-tinted view of the memory is due to the fact that feelings of nostalgia often only show us the best moments of a day or time, leaving out anything that gave us a negative emotion. For example, a feeling of nostalgia for a childhood holiday would remind you of the great fun you had playing on the beach and the delicious ice cream you enjoyed afterwards, but would cover over the fact you spent three hours in a traffic jam on the way there! Likewise, mum’s will want to think back about how adorably tiny their little one’s were in their early years, while forgetting all about those sleepless nights! Essentially, this means that nostalgia shows us only the good memories, out of their full context. Nostalgia is really less to do with actual memories, and more to do with an emotional feeling that idealises the positive aspects of a particular time!
Nostalgia certainly isn’t a bad thing. For most of us, rather than a longing feeling making us sad, it instead allows us to reflect on some happy memories. Therefore, the occasional trip down memory lane isn’t something to worry about! This hasn’t always been the case though, as, before the 20thcentury, it was believed that feeling nostalgic was actually a mental illness and a sign of depression, as it was thought that people should only be living in the present, rather than looking back on the past!
In modern times, there are certainly no such issues with nostalgia, as it is instead encouraged by many companies, who tap into our emotional reflections with ‘retro’ toys and reboots of classic childhood shows and films, which certainly appeals to our nostalgia!
Who Feels Nostalgia the Most?
While you may presume that older people would feel more nostalgia, thinking back to the good old days as they grow older, studies have revealed that this is in fact not the case. Instead, it is young adults, in their twenties and thirties, who feel the most nostalgia for their childhood. Feelings of nostalgia then begin declining as you reach middle age. This is because young adults tend to be at the most tumultuous period of their lives, with little certainty and newfound independence which unsettles the routine of life as they knew it in the family home. Therefore, in this transition between childhood and adulthood, the longing for a return to the simpler childhood days is at its strongest.
What Triggers Nostalgia?
There are many factors which can trigger nostalgic feelings, but for the most part, engaging your senses is a sure way to unveil a sense of nostalgia. When memories are recalled, we do not just see a set of facts about what happened, but rather a collection of the things we saw, a song we heard playing at the time, or a smell associated with the time. These factors really help to make strong memories, and as such, hearing the same song or smelling the familiar smell can help to bring back these memories, and as such, trigger a sense of nostalgia.
Physical items are also a great way for enhancing memories and feelings of nostalgia, with trinkets, souvenirs and photographs acting as little reminders for these times. Another way to create a physical reminder of a very exciting time in your life is to get a stunning hand cast made, to commemorate the birth of your child, whether it’s your first or your fifth! Make an incredible memory to treasure, to keep you remembering how tiny and adorable your little one was when they were first born. As they grow older they too will be fascinated to see what their hands and feet looked like as a baby, as our beautiful casts show off every little detail, from the cute wrinkles of the fingers to the delicate nails.
Display your hand or foot cast pride of place in the family home, so that when you come to pass on the beautiful cast to your child when they have grown up, they can be reminded of all the wonderful memories of childhood associated with this keepsake to treasure.