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Perspective: The super powers of nostalgia


When every day seems like it’s moving faster than the day before, it’s helpful to reach back into your memory for a moment when everything seemed calm and secure. Nostalgia for the past is not a bad thing. Using our memories of better times is actually a tool that can support our sense of self-esteem and wellbeing.

Nostalgia has the "superpower" of helping us feel better about the "now" by connecting us to positive feelings from the "then." Nostalgia can help us feel more in control of the current situation if we're able to channel that positivity into concrete actions or a reframed mindset about the present. It also increases our sense of meaning in life, as well. While it can be bittersweet to remember past periods of happiness and success, especially when faced with loneliness or failure, these memories are transformative – we’re better able to cope with stress if we have positive memories to sustain us.

Have you ever been in the middle of a heartwarming moment and thought, “This is going to be a memory I treasure in the future”? If so, you are practicing anticipatory nostalgia. These special moments are important. There are benefits to being able to let yourself stop and acknowledge the magic of these events. Anticipatory nostalgia deepens our savoring of the moment, and we feel even more appreciative of the connections we have to the people and places that are part of the event. By staying “in the moment” and being present, we create the past that will carry us far into the future. It’s never too late to create the future memories that you will need!

I’m Suzanne Degges-White and that’s my perspective.

Chair and Professor - NIU counseling and higher education