The roots of the word are Greek, combining the words “nostos,” meaning return, and “algos,” meaning pain. Because of its etymology, nostalgia is sometimes given a negative connotation. However, it’s defined as a sentimental feeling of affection for the past. In layman’s terms, it's that feeling that comes over us when we think about, or something reminds us of, the past.
To be clear, nostalgia isn’t living in the past. It’s one thing to have fond memories of past times and experiences; it’s another to try and cling to those things that are gone. We all have things we wish we could redo, bring back or simply re-live; that’s completely natural. But we can’t dwell on them, because that robs us of joy in the present.
While it can sometimes be a bit bittersweet, nostalgia can actually be beneficial. It can help counteract loneliness, fight boredom and soothe anxiety. Similar to the benefits of rekindling an interest in hobbies from your youth, the positive feelings associated with healthy nostalgia can be used to provide a better outlook for daily life. In other words, we can harness those positive feelings and use nostalgia as a tool in our arsenal to get more enjoyment out of our lives by drawing on the good times of the past.
Modern life has a variety of benefits, not the least of which is the technological offerings available to us. Thanks to some of these items, it can be much easier to grab hold of nostalgic moments and use them exactly when we need them. There are multiple things we can do to evoke positive memories and feelings and use them to our advantage.
Here are a few ways to evoke nostalgia for positive impact along with some modern tips and tools for putting them into action.
One of the easiest ways to induce positive nostalgia is through music. It’s usually quite easy to do; many times, the feelings hit as soon as you recognize a tune. Research has shown that music triggers multiple areas of the brain and releases dopamine, which is one of the reasons those musical nostalgia moments can be so strong.
Having that information, you can use it to your advantage. Since knowing music can stir these positive feelings, it can be a way to manipulate your mood for the better. Whether you're making difficult decisions, going through rough patches or simply just having a bad day, listening to music that you associate with positive memories from the past can help you through it. You can also use music to boost your mood in general, help you get ready to be a bit more active or calm your mind after a busy day.
Many modern devices offer options for listening to music. From TVs to mobile phones, modern devices provide almost unlimited music right at your fingertips. Some applications you can download to smart TVs, Rokus, computers, tablets or smartphones to ensure you have plenty of music options on demand include:
• Apple Music
• Amazon Music
Music is a powerful way to stir nostalgic feelings, but it isn’t the only way. Movies can have a similar impact. Films are often made to stir emotions, but even if it isn’t an emotional story, you might still have positive associations due to memories or previous life experiences with or related to the movie. Maybe you saw the movie at a pivotal time in your life. Maybe you went to see it on a date or a group of friends from your youth. Whatever the context, there are certain feelings you’ll have that are associated with certain films.
Stirring nostalgia with movies isn’t just relegated to older films you’ve seen before, though. You can also evoke those same emotions with movies that are set in the times of positive memories for you. For example, watching a movie that takes place during a summer from your past could stir the same things within you that occurred during that time. No matter what the context, there’s plenty of ways for a movie to trigger beneficial feelings.
There are a variety of ways to watch movies today. You can borrow DVDS from local libraries or rent from services such as Redbox. You can also use streaming services to get access to programs and movies any time you're ready to watch. Some popular streaming services you can use on a mobile device, computer or television with internet access include:
• Amazon Prime Video
• HBO Max
• Disney +
Photographs are an excellent resource for deliberately encouraging nostalgia because they capture a specific moment in time. Upon looking at them, you’re instantly transported to a time and place from your past, and that might help evoke the sights, sounds and smells that go along with it. There are visual cues of the time, including clothes and settings.
Photographs are glimpses into moments frozen in time, and they can elicit the exact kinds of warmth and happiness that occurred when they were first taken. It’s good to have pictures and photo albums around for exactly this reason.
There are a variety of ways of looking at photos on modern devices. From personal uploads to archive photos, there are numerous options. Some include:
• Browsing Facebook for photos you previously saved or that others have uploaded
• Using Instagram for the same purpose
• Checking out the Arlington Historical Society's website
People often think of looking to the past as something sorrowful and detrimental to the kind of thriving, vibrant life that we encourage at Bethesda Gardens assisted living community in Arlington. But fond reflection isn’t the same thing as wistful longing for days gone by. Using the wonderful memories we’ve made to fill us with joy and enrich our present can help us get even more enjoyment out of life now.