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Nostalgia: A Powerful Drug


You might have heard countless times that looking back at the past is pointless and harmful. It was even considered to be a disorder that needed to be treated by many doctors for centuries. But times have changed and it is no longer considered a disorder. So, is it truly a disorder, which need a powerful drug or does it positively influence the human psyche? Let’s investigate.


Nostalgia Over The Years

First of all, let’s understand what nostalgia is. Merriam-Webster defines nostalgia as “a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for a return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition”.


In the 17th and 18th centuries, doctors believed that only the Swiss had nostalgia as it was observed in Swiss mercenaries who offered their services to foreign armies.

However, in the 19th century, doctors accepted it as a rather widespread condition. And doctors kept changing their minds about it throughout the 20th century. While the misconception of it being a disorder has been done away with, the subject still interests psychologists.

The Role of Nostalgia in Psyche

nostalgic items

The fact that nostalgia was deemed a disorder for several centuries shows that it was considered to have a negative effect on an individual.

But is that really the case? We see people talk about meaningful events from their past with pure joy. Many brands use nostalgia as a marketing strategy to sell us their products.


Several studies have shown that nostalgia is not just a sad yearning for a lost past. It is a blend of sadness and happiness that forms a constructive narrative of past events.

A study revealed that most people experience nostalgia when faced with a difficult situation. Looking back to a happier time of their lives helps them cope with the uncertain situation at hand.

Dr. Krystin Batcho reveals that nostalgia can also help strengthen an individual’s identity. Not only that, a paper published in 2012 reported that it strengthens the sense of social connectedness which increases a person’s willingness to help others.

feel loeliness

We all feel lonely at times. And loneliness can negatively impact our mental health. But guess what! Nostalgia can help reduce its negative impacts.

You think I’m lying? Dr. Andrew Abeyta and his colleagues’ study shows that engaging in nostalgic thinking decreases the harm caused by loneliness, affirms social belonging, and also reduces the fear of negative evaluation. In short, we can say that nostalgia is a powerful drug.

So, walking down the memory lane now and then is not a bad idea after all. The next time you feel bad for looking back to the good old days for reassurance or to gain some joy or buy something merely for its nostalgic value, read this again.

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