Feeling nostalgic? Well, according to recent studies, that might be a good thing. An article in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology has stated that “nostalgia confers psychological well being by increasing authenticity.” So, if you ever find yourself wistfully staring into the distance, reminiscing on past memories, don’t panic—those tears streaming down your face are a symbol of positive growth. Or at least that’s what the experts are telling us…
The academics in question, when considering nostalgia’s impact, stated: “We hypothesised that it does so—at least in part—via authenticity, a sense of alignment with one’s true self.” They then proceed to consider a whole bunch of evidence, supporting literature, methodology—you get the idea. And while these scholarly findings are incredibly important, I’m slightly more intrigued by what rogue netizens had to say in response.
Naturally, I found myself swimming among the mucky waters of Reddit and pretty quickly, an overwhelming consensus began to appear. Science may advise us nostalgia is a good thing, but personal experience tells a very different story.
It only took a few seconds scrolling down a particular subreddit thread before I found myself drowning in nostalgic sad times. Most users took umbrage with the academics position, with one person casually pointing out, “That’s not how it feels when I’m crying my eyes out at 3am after going down a nostalgia rabbit hole.”
Another equally melancholic victim noted: “Okay. As someone with horrible depression thinking about the past or even the feeling of nostalgia kicks my ass bad. I am deeply confused how they came to this conclusion.” This one hurt. Many users did point out the potential lack of nuance, emphasising the need to remember that not everyone will have a cohort of happy memories to look back on.
Other users, on the other hand, took a slightly more juvenile approach—I chose Reddit, I only have myself to blame. “Remember how happy you used to be, now open your eyes and take another look at the cold harsh reality you’re in now. Feeling better yet?” one user wrote.
“Have the people who ran that study ever actually met a human being?” another knackered user chimed in.
Despite public uncertainty, these recent studies may prove we know less about ourselves than previously considered. Yes, deliberately seeking out sad memories won’t be the recipe for a good day, however, thinking back on happy times—days at the beach or winning a free McFlurry from a McDonald’s monopoly, that surely has the potential to brighten things up.