By: Fadhila Mohammed
The definition of nostalgia has changed through the years since it was first coined in the late 17th-century from its Greek roots meaning "homecoming" and "pain", to the medical condition expressing extreme homesickness, till the modern view that nostalgia is fondly remembering the past or an independent positive emotion that many people experience often, with many functions such as enhancing positive self-regard.
Studies have proved that smell and music are strong evokers of nostalgia; this explains why sometimes a song or a certain smell brings back a good old memory from our childhood. Also, there are less obvious triggers to nostalgia from the mind rather than the environment, for example, the negative feelings, specifically loneliness. Low self-esteem or a sense of despair can also drive nostalgic musing.
Nostalgia is the healthy way to answer the question who am I? which is helpful because we are always changing, going from childhood to being a teenager and some people to adulthood with no proper preparation. We tend to be nostalgic to our good memories in the period from the age of fifteen to thirty, because it is so linked to the formation of ourselves identity, so our brain uses those questions what you used to do, or who you used to be, to cool down the anxieties we experience during times of major transitions.
When people experience negative emotional states they tend to use nostalgia to reduce the stress and restore well-being, a recent medical study has looked at the physiological effects of thinking about past 'good' memories can have. They found that thinking about the past 'fondly' actually increased perceptions of physical warmth. Nostalgia helps us find the motivation to face the challenges of the future when we remember that our lives have a meaning and value.
The social psychologist at North Dakota State University, Clay Routledge has found that nostalgic memories such as those spent with loved ones, inspire a positive feeling of joy, belonging, and meaningfulness in life. He also says that nostalgia is a way that people cope with various negative mental states.
Nostalgia does have its painful side the bittersweet emotion, but it has shown how it makes people more generous to strangers.