6 Ways Nostalgia Can be Good for Your Health

John Egan - The Upside Blog

by | Updated: May 11th, 2021 | Read time: 3 minutes

Terrence Malick, the writer and director of such films as “Days of Heaven” and “The Tree of Life,” once observed that nostalgia is a powerful feeling that “can drown out anything.”

Indeed, nostalgia sends us back to the good ol’ days and can drown out the drama and the noise of the present day. Yet nostalgia also can dip us into a pool of health benefits.

“Nostalgia mobilizes us for the future,” Clay Routledge, a psychology professor at North Dakota State University and author of “Nostalgia: A Psychological Resource,” tells National Geographic magazine. “It increases our desire to pursue important life goals and our confidence that we can accomplish them.”


Here are six ways that longing for yesteryear can perhaps add years to your life.

6 Surprising Ways Nostalgia Benefits Health | Vitacost.com/blog

6 Nostalgia Health Benefits

1. Nostalgia may aid your mind

More than giving you a warm-all-over feeling, nostalgia may benefit your mind.

According to a study published in 2015 in the journal Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, external sources of nostalgia (such as music, smells or tastes, physical coldness) and internal sources (such as loneliness or boredom) can foster self-esteem, spark social connections, reduce anxiety, add meaning to life and produce other valuable psychological effects.

“When harvested properly, the past can provide valuable service to the present and future,” the study says.

Two years earlier, in 2013, researchers reported in the journal Self and Identity that nostalgia can spur positive emotions, which then can feed into psychological growth.

“Modern neuroscientists and psychologists know that a healthy dose of nostalgia is good for you, at least if you’re recalling happy days,” Popular Science magazine says.

2. Nostalgia may promote physical well-being

Nostalgia may be good for the body as well as the mind.

Research published in 2016 in the journal Psychology & Healthy showed that people who jotted down thoughts about a nostalgic event had heightened optimism and positive attitudes about their health and had increased physical activity (for two weeks) compared with people who wrote about an ordinary event.

“Because health habits are often deeply ingrained and difficult to change, future research needs to examine whether engaging in instances of nostalgic reverie leads to greater health optimism, which in turn, promotes longstanding commitment to actual health behaviors as well as better physical longevity,” researcher Mike Kersten.

3. Nostalgia may improve your memory

The apparent power to jump-start your memory appears to improve recall ability in people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, according to Popular Science.

“In 2011, Mary Mittelman, a researcher at New York University Langone Health’s department of psychiatry, founded the Unforgettables, a chorus for people with dementia in New York City,” the magazine reports. “When the ensemble performs familiar tunes — think classic songs like Ol’ Man River’ — participants, even some who struggle with regular speech, start to sing along.”

Popular Science also notes that a nostalgia-oriented app and a nostalgia-based adult daycare center have shown promise with so-called “reminiscence therapy.”

4. Nostalgia may contribute to youthfulness

Searching for the fountain of youth? If so, you may want to look at the past.

A study published in 2016 in the journal Self and Identity revealed that nostalgic memories may make people feel more youthful. This nostalgia-induced youthfulness can fuel feelings of healthiness, confidence about physical abilities and optimism about future health, the researchers discovered.

5. Nostalgia may help people quit smoking

Giving up smoking can be tortuous. But a study published in 2017 in the journal Communication Research Reports suggests nostalgia-evoking public service campaigns may help people kick the habit.

Nostalgia-themed messages that evoke cherished memories can trigger positive attitudes and behaviors, the study indicates. That, in turn, may prompt smokers who hear or see these messages to embrace a future without tobacco.

“A lot of no-smoking messages are centered around fear, disgust and guilt,” researcher Ali Hussain says in a news release. “But smokers often don’t buy the messages and instead feel badly about themselves and the person who is trying to scare them.”

6. Nostalgia may help you cope during tough times

Amid a tumultuous period, nostalgia may bring you the same kind of comfort that a cozy quilt does.

National Geographic says a study conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic found that more than half of consumers turned to TV and music from their youth as an apparent coping mechanism.

“Increasingly, we are weaving nostalgia into our games, our fashion, and even our dreams during the pandemic,” the magazine points out.