How Nostalgia Positively Transforms Your Brain: Surprising Insights

How Nostalgia Positively Transforms Your Brain

According to a 2017 scientific study, one of the 27 fundamental feelings that people experience is nostalgia. Naturally, nostalgia is the melancholy emotion we experience when we recall a joyful moment in the past. It’s not the same as just remembering because it evokes sentiments of warmth and longing.

Among many other things, a song that transports you back to a certain period of your life or a scent that conjures up memories of childhood vacations might evoke nostalgia. We don’t really question these experiences because they are part of our everyday lives, yet a lot is actually going on in our brains during those times.

A sense of nostalgia

A memory needs two things in order to be nostalgic. The first is “chronological remoteness,” which denotes an eon-long occurrence. “Emotional and personal significance” is the other.

1. Your brain’s reward system is triggered by nostalgia.

When we feel nostalgia, our brains go through a really special process. Neural circuits involved in processing emotions fire. The only emotion in the brain that links memory and emotion is nostalgia.

When MRI scans were performed on the brains of individuals experiencing nostalgia, a group of researchers found that the reward system was functioning concurrently. This indicates that the area of the brain responsible for rewarding and uplifting us is activated by nostalgia!

2. It can strengthen your fortitude and optimism

Numerous studies have revealed that when we are nostalgic, our viewpoint tends to be more optimistic. It provides us with such a powerful surge of positive feelings that it might lessen anxiety and increase hope for the future.

In one study, participants were asked about their experiences with loneliness. They discovered that participants felt less alone when they were reminded of their past.

The most resilient people, or those who could bounce back from adversity and trauma, tended to turn to nostalgia as a coping strategy. Reminiscing on good moments and people they valued made them feel happier and less alone.

3. It gives you a warmer feeling

Nostalgia can make you feel not just pleasantly optimistic but also warmer! This was demonstrated in a study that examined how individuals perceived their surroundings while in a cold room.

The participants described their surroundings as warmer and more comfortable than previously when they felt nostalgic and thought back on positive recollections. Warm and fuzzy memories are exactly that!

It’s really helpful that during the colder months people tend to feel more sentimental! In the cold, people seem to gravitate toward nostalgia for both emotional and bodily warmth. Additionally, you can also read about- Brain Exercise.

4. It may influence how you make decisions

As a marketer, you’ve undoubtedly seen that appealing to nostalgia is quite effective. For instance, Adobe honored Bob Ross with a series of videos for their Photoshop product, while Spotify collaborated with the luckdragon Falkor from “The NeverEnding Story” for an 80s-themed promotion.

A 2014 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that when we’re nostalgic, we tend to spend a lot of money! This implies that when we’re in a store that brings back memories of our childhood vacations, we probably won’t be as frugal with our money.

5. It has to do with how much sadness you can handle

Sometimes nostalgia makes us happy, and sometimes it makes us sad. When we’re wistful for something we can’t really experience again, like spending time with a loved one who has passed away, it can be painful.

The melancholy associated with nostalgia is not typically persistent, nor is it linked to depression or any other mental health issues. However, studies indicate that people who are inclined toward melancholy also tend to be more nostalgic.

With the Affective Neuroscience Personality Scale, our inclinations toward play, compassion, curiosity, melancholy, fear, and rage are examined. As previously established, those with high melancholy scores are more prone to feel intense nostalgia.

6. It can obstruct unpleasant feelings

Yes, nostalgia can serve as a useful coping strategy to lessen stress and boost optimism. But there’s a negative aspect to this as well. According to a US study, those who have a strong sense of nostalgia for their nation’s past are less likely to feel guilty or ashamed of its past transgressions.

They were able to draw a connection between nostalgia and a propensity to exalt the past, which occasionally also led people to minimize unpleasant experiences. One instance mentioned was how the participants’ exaltation of the US as a morally superior nation helped to allay guilt feelings regarding the incarceration of Japanese people during World War II.

The group of subjects elicited nostalgia on their own when presented with data regarding previous transgressions. The researchers thought it might be a protective mechanism against unpleasant feelings like shame or remorse.

7. It has the power to change your habits

According to a 2017 study, nostalgia can actually change the addictive pathways in your brain, which can help you stop smoking! Public service announcements on smoking were shown to two groups of smokers. There was one video that wasn’t nostalgic.

A sentimental video that brought the second group back to their pre-smoking days was played for them. After smoking, the second group showed a bad attitude about smoking and a stronger desire to cut back.

While it has been shown to be a successful marketing tactic, nothing is known about its ability to promote healthy habits. This study is an exciting first step in a potentially beneficial direction.

8. It eases discomfort physically

It eases discomfort physically

Nostalgia is a beautiful, intangible feeling that can even lessen physical suffering! It may seem strange, but thinking back on pleasant experiences from the past can help us deal with pain better.

According to a study that looked at the experiences of people with chronic pain, when they wrote about happy memories, their pain threshold increased and they felt as though their agony had lessened.

Together with the other outcomes previously discussed, the results of this study imply that nostalgia may be a very useful coping mechanism for both physical and emotional suffering.

9. It facilitates your sense of kinship with the past

Though it may seem apparent, nostalgia contributes to our sense of self-continuity. Being connected to your past, present, and future selves is known as self-continuity. You remember what it was like to be you at that age rather than thinking, “Oh my god, who is that?” when you see a picture of yourself as a teenager.

This sounds like a really good thing. In case you needed more evidence, however, a study found that happiness is correlated with the sense of self-continuity one experiences from wistful recollections.

People that are nostalgic tend to reflect more on their lives, and nostalgia aids in helping us remember our origins.

10. Creativity is encouraged by nostalgia

One of the main traits of a creative person is openness, and nostalgia has a tendency to make us feel more receptive to new experiences. Two groups were given a five-minute writing assignment about an occurrence as part of a study. While the other group was instructed to write about a sentimental memory, the first group was only to write about an everyday memory.