So take the photographs and still frames in your mind. Hang it on a shelf in good health and good time. ~ Green Day
If you frequent any social media site, you probably have noticed the trend to post old pictures of yourself every Thursday. The trend of Throwback Thursday (or #TBT if you are so inclined) has certainly grown in popularity. It has become a time to visit times gone by and share memories with friends, old and new. We enjoy referencing the past, and we can have a good laugh at our clothes and hair back then.
Throwback Thursday is great for a laugh or a clever profile picture, but can it actually foster our psychological well-being?
The research suggests yes. Through Throwback Thursday, we get a good, old-fashioned dose of nostalgia. Nostalgia is a feeling of longing or affection for the past characterized by memories of our connection to people and life events.
Wistful, sentimental feelings are associated with experiencing nostalgia. We may feel a bittersweet mix of joy and yearning when we visit these memories, but the overall experience is generally positive.
When we participate in Throwback Thursday, we often reconnect (even if only briefly) with old friends. When we look back at these old photos, we can recall in a way that we may not have appreciated at the time how connected we were and how much possibility and meaning our lives held.
Nostalgia is not new, nor is it reserved for Thursdays on social media sites. People typically experience nostalgia on a weekly basis or more. There are plenty of BuzzFeed lists, vintage posters, and sentimental songs that can attest to our fascination with the good old days. We keep yearbooks, make scrapbooks, and collect the various odds and ends that depict our histories.
The past is often associated with good times. It can feel warm and fuzzy, and we may try to hold on to that feeling. There is also a sense of security, connection, and meaning when we revisit the past.
Nostalgia has a surprisingly dark history considering our feelings about it today. It was once thought of as a neurological disease associated with extreme homesickness and depression. However, researchers currently recognize that nostalgia is quite distinct from homesickness, depression or stress and have identified it as a valuable contributor to our psychological well-being.
Perhaps you already knew about the benefits of nostalgia intuitively. We can indeed engage in nostalgic activities for amusement with our friends, but we also call upon nostalgia in times of distress. Loneliness in particular seems to be a common trigger for nostalgia.
Nostalgia can be an effective remedy for emotional distress as it increases positive mood. Nostalgic activities like Throwback Thursday also increase our positive views of ourselves, feelings of social connectedness, and perceived meaning and vitality in life. It is actually through its impact on our positive view of ourselves that nostalgia enhances our personal growth.
When we engage in nostalgic activities, we view ourselves as curious and open to seeking out new activities. We also experience more vitality and less stress in life. Better yet, keeping this up over time might even help our psychological health as we age.
So, go ahead and put that old picture out there this Thursday, but don’t wait for Thursday to get nostalgic if you are feeling disconnected, lonely, or are missing that spring in your step.
To conjure up nostalgia, think or write about a time for which you feel sentimental or affectionate. Consider your relationship with important people or your role in significant life events. You may think of where you were this time last year, places you used to visit, and songs you remember.
Visiting a place from your childhood, rereading old books, or watching those movies that bring up fond memories can also help you feel nostalgic. Even scents can bring back these memories for us.
You may already have a personal way to feel nostalgic. Whether it is a song, a scent, or a movie, engaging in this activity can be just what you need. Of course, finding that perfect throwback profile picture might also do the trick.
How do you feel nostalgic?
Routledge, C., Wildschut, T., Sedikides, C., & Juhl, J. (2013). Nostalgia as a resource for psychological health and well-being. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 7, 808-818. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/spc3.12070
Baldwin, M., & Landau, M. J. (2014). Exploring nostalgia’s influence on psychological growth. Self and Identity, 13, 62-177. doi: 10.1080/15298868.2013.772320