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Reminiscing Can Increase Self-Esteem, Optimism

Reminiscing Can Increase Self-Esteem, Optimism Researchers from the University of Southampton have determined that feeling nostalgic or reminiscing about the past can increase optimism about the future.

In the study, investigators explored the concept that nostalgia or reminiscence is not merely a reflection of the past; rather, its scope extends into the future, with a positive outlook.

The research is published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

“Nostalgia is experienced frequently and virtually by everyone and we know that it can maintain psychological comfort. For example, nostalgic reverie can combat loneliness. We wanted to take that a step further and assess whether it can increase a feeling of optimism about the future,” said Tim Wildschut, Ph.D., a co-author of the study.

In one of the reported studies within the paper, the researchers asked participants to bring to mind a nostalgic event and write about it.

The number of optimistic words included in the narrative was compared to a control group who were asked to recall and write about an ordinary event. The nostalgic narratives contained a significantly higher proportion of optimistic expressions than the ordinary stories.

A further study capitalised on music’s capacity to evoke nostalgia. Participants listened to either a nostalgic or control song (which had been previously validated). Those who listened to the nostalgic song reported higher levels of optimism than those who listened to the control song.

In a final study, participants were presented with song lyrics that half the group had previously identified to be nostalgic. They were then asked to complete questions about how they felt.

Those who read the personally nostalgic lyrics reported higher levels of optimism than those who read the control lyrics.

The studies also highlighted the roles of self-esteem.

Said Wildschut: “Nostalgia raises self-esteem which in turn heightens optimism. Our findings have shown that nostalgia does have the capacity to facilitate perceptions of a more positive future.

“Memories of the past can help to maintain current feelings of self-worth and can contribute to a brighter outlook on the future. Our findings do imply that nostalgia, by promoting optimism, could help individuals cope with psychological adversity.”

Source: University of Southampton

Woman with happy memories photo by shutterstock.

Reminiscing Can Increase Self-Esteem, Optimism

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Reminiscing Can Increase Self-Esteem, Optimism. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 14 Nov 2013)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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