Yesterday, we tweeted a photo of several nostalgic comedies, asking people which two they would choose as their favourites. Just looking at the photo made me smile and got me thinking about just what nostalgia is and whether it has some form of ethereal power. The results of our research were pretty interesting.
The Collins English Dictionary defines nostalgia as “a yearning for the return of past circumstances, events etc.” I am not sure I was yearning for the return of the comedies, but I guess I understand the sentiment. The New Oxford English Dictionary seems to describe it as a sad feeling mixed with pleasure, bittersweet. I have to say looking at the photo and reminding myself of the side-splitting laughter that ensued whilst watching didn’t make me feel that mixture of sadness and pleasure, but rather a warm comfy feeling that certainly elicited a smile. Yes, I did say smile, my wife did wonder whether it was a grimace, but I assured her it was definitely a smile.
I decided to ask TheBoldAge team what they thought of nostalgia, and the consensus amongst the team was that it was reflecting on saved memories whether that was old photo albums, videos, scrapbooks, listening to an old album and yes, to a person they said that all these sorts of things made them smile. By the way, talking of old albums, my first album was Jethro Tull’s ‘Songs from The Wood’, what was yours? I defy you not to smile and feel that warm embrace.
These feeling of being cosseted in a warm cosy blanket are not just our own anecdotal feelings of pleasure, researchers are also finding that nostalgia can have a positive impact on healthy ageing. Arizona State University researcher Julie Fleury said, “What we found is that given the links between the heart and the brain, and cues of safety, is that this is a mechanism that can be exercised, if you will. And it can strengthen social, physiological, and emotional outcomes over time.”
Essentially nostalgia seems to play right into Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In his 1943 paper, titled “A Theory of Human Motivation,” and in his book, “Motivation and Personality,” he proposes that people are motivated to fulfil basic needs before moving on to more sophisticated ones. The first three rungs of his pyramid, encompass physiological needs for food and air etc, second is to feel secure and safe, including being healthy, cosseted if you will. The third is about social needs, being part of something whether that is part of a community group or team. Nostalgia, for me, seems to pull all three of these together. To underpin the final two needs of his pyramid, self-esteem, and self-actualisation. The last one being about personal growth and fulfilling potential. As Maslow succinctly put it “What a man can be, he must be.”
The American Psychological Association said, “Nostalgia is an emotional experience that unifies.” It helps to unite, not just that sense of who we are, but also our identity as we move through time. Essentially, it is part of the process of ageing. Feeling safe can improve our overall feeling of wellbeing, our morale and motivation, as well as our overall physical state.
From what I have read, it seems to me that a good dollop of nostalgia on a regular basis is every bit as important as brain teasers or exercise. As we grow older, our experiences of past things and events will naturally help us in shaping our futures, that’s just human nature. So go on dig out those old videos, photo albums and records – yes even the vinyl- and remember nostalgia is just like the eponymous film title “Back to the Future.”