It looks like nostalgia – “a sentimental longing for one’s past” – may be about more than just reminiscing. According to a study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, nostalgia makes you feel more authentic and aligned with your “true self,” which ultimately has a positive impact on your psychological well-being (PWB).
There are many factors that can improve your PWB. Some are more obvious – like therapy – while others are much less clear. Since prior studies had already found that nostalgia improves PWB and the reason why was unknown, Nicholas Kelley and co. decided to try uncover the answer through four studies.
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In the first study, Kelley and his colleagues found a connection between nostalgia, PWB and authenticity, or “the sense that one is in alignment with one’s true self.” The other three studies, on the other hand, were more experimental, but their findings were all similar.
Where study two showed that nostalgia increased authenticity, study three revealed that authenticity increased PWB. The fourth and final study saw that “authenticity increased PWB across all well-being concepts,” according to PsyPost.
But what does this mean? Well, researchers found that authenticity – when stemming from nostalgia – caused increases in measured components of PWB such as social relationships, meaning of life, optimism, vitality, competence and subjective well-being.
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The study even found that the effect of nostalgia on PWB crossed cultures, with participants – aged 18 to 78 – spanning the United States, China and the United Kingdom.
“We showed, for the first time, that nostalgia instills a general sense of psychological thriving,” Kelley and co. explain. “Our work has implications for process models of nostalgia’s benefits.”
So, next time you’re feeling a little down, try going for a walk down memory lane to improve your psychological well-being.
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