By Eunice Kim
Nostalgia is the distinct longing for a summer day: the warm, periwinkle evening, accompanied with flavorful barbecue scents that waft in and out between picnic blankets shared with friends. It is the old television show with the low picture quality and cheesy theme song that warms the heart enough to make us wonder how times have changed from then to now. Nostalgia is the longing wistfulness for a period of time that once existed, memories tucked away in special pockets for future retrospection.
However, nostalgia has not always been regarded in a positive, fuzzy light. When first coined in the 17th century by a Swiss army physician, nostalgia was considered a psychological disorder that contributed to Swiss soldiers’ desire for home, seen as a deficiency that needed to be fixed. Nostalgia was even seen as creating weak masculinity.
There was a common misconception that nostalgia kept people who thought about the past from moving forward in life.
Only recently have we recognized the many benefits of nostalgia. It is evident that nostalgia makes us feel good, especially significant since one can return to and dwell on warm memories. But, nostalgia instills more in us than just happy feelings.
According to Dr. Krystine Batcho, professor of psychology at Le Moyne College in New York, nostalgia enables a person to maintain track of what has remained stable, which gives a sense of continuity as well as a sense of connection since one can relive the memories with a beloved person at any time.
“It is like creating an inexhaustible bank account which is there for you if you want to withdraw from it,” professor of social and personality psychology at the University of Southampton, Dr. Constantine Sedikides said.
Beyond the abilities to feel a strong emotion and pull from our “bank” for some distant memory, nostalgia has also been proven to have social benefits.
Sedikides and Tim Wildschut at the University of Southampton as well as psychologists from Sun Yat-Sen University found through a series of experiments that the loneliest individuals received the least amount of social support. But, they also turned out to be the most nostalgic. Further research showed that nostalgia increases perceptions of social support, which counteracts loneliness.
Nostalgia plays a particularly important role for students. With the end of the school year just days away, it seems as if another momentous period of whirlwind experiences is awaiting its time to be captured in our recollections. For many, it is a time to embark on a new journey beyond high school, but also a reminder that the high school times are now periods to revisit.
It is okay to embrace our past. It is okay to feel nostalgic for the picturesque times that existed, tears and all. This feeling lets us recognize the importance of our memories and helps us handle the future. There is comfort and hope in the familiarity.
“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory,” Dr. Seuss said.