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Nostalgia (the impact of memories on our lives)

Young woman in front of a photo wall and taking pictures with a nostalgic camera
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Nostalgia is a feeling about the past and is usually for a specific time or place and is reminiscent of personal memories (Boym, 2002).

When was the word nostalgic first coined?

The word nostalgia is originally a Greek compound and includes νόστος (nóstos), meaning “return home” a Homeric word, and ἄλγος (álgos) meaning “pain.”

 A medical student first coined the term to describe the anxieties of Swiss mercenaries at war.

Of course, you need to know that the definition of the word nostalgia has changed a lot over time.

As we have said, the roots of this Greek word mean “back home” and “pain.” It is interesting to note that nostalgia has been used for centuries to describe a potentially debilitating and sometimes fatal medical condition that refers to intense nostalgia. 

Memories box in bookshelf
Memories box in bookshelf

A modern perspective on nostalgia

But in the modern view, the word nostalgia is referred to as an independent and even positive feeling. Many people often experience nostalgia.

 Nostalgia has essential psychological functions. Reminders of nostalgia improve mood, increase social interaction, and increase positive self-esteem.

Nostalgic reflections do not lead to just one function and are often helpful for those who experience this feeling (Köneke, 2011).

Of course, it may be a reminder of sad memories and a sense of sadness for many people.

Does the experience of nostalgia make you happy or sad?

What concepts in nostalgia do you think? How do you feel when you encounter or remember nostalgia? Are you happy, or do you feel sad?

The answer to this question was examined in a series of studies in a February 2020 article in the journal Personality and Social Psychology by David Newman, Matthew Sachs, Arthur Stone, and Norbert Schwartz, who sought to answer this question correctly (Newman et al., 2020).

Close-up of a senior woman holding a photograph
Close-up of a senior woman holding a photograph

The researchers asked participants to recall a past event they felt nostalgic.

These studies showed that reviewing memories makes people feel good.

Although these studies do not explain much about what goes on in participants’ minds while reviewing memories, the authors conducted two types of studies to address this question.

The researchers asked participants questions based on a scale. For example, how nostalgic do you feel or how emotional you feel about the past?

In general, we should say about the results of this experiment that the tendency to experience nostalgic feelings is related to the experience of negative emotions, depression, and regret. Higher levels of nostalgic feelings are also associated with the search for meaning in life.

Adapting nature photos to current changes
Adapting nature photos to current changes

People who considered themselves nostalgic had more negative feelings and emotions than those who considered themselves less dreamy, and this study found this to be the case.

Researchers conducted another study on daily experiences of nostalgia. This study also showed that when people felt nostalgic, they had unpleasant feelings in those days.

The study also showed that nostalgic people tended to think negatively and experience negative emotions. This study shows that thinking about thoughtful topics creates a feeling of isolation and leads to negative feelings in the future.

Double-edged sword nostalgia

Studies show that nostalgia looks like a double-edged sword.

For example, if we look at memories positively, we will feel satisfied and happy for the events that make us nostalgic.

But if we think about things that are not pleasant and positive when we go through memories, they can harm our good feelings, and even these negative feelings may remain in our minds for a few days.

Advantages and disadvantages of nostalgia
Advantages and disadvantages of nostalgia

Nostalgia is usually associated with remembering memories. When you encounter elements of nostalgia, you remember the people you were close to and friends with.

Therefore, we must say that nostalgia increases social support and communication in people. Zhou et al. (2008) concluded that nostalgia has a vital function for individuals and improves social interaction. (Zhou et al., 2008)

Does reviewing nostalgic memories help increase a person’s self-esteem?

To answer this question, we must say yes. Facing nostalgia helps us improve our self-esteem by eliminating threats to well-being and creating a desire to deal with problems or stress.

Sitting by the sea and talking to friends and reviewing nostalgia
Sitting by the sea and talking to friends and reviewing nostalgia

In a 2011 study, Routledge and colleagues found that nostalgia was positively associated with a person’s sense of meaning in life.

Another study found that nostalgia is effective in better understanding and finding meaning in people’s lives, and therefore helps people experience better social support and better communication.

Nostalgia and music

Listening to an old song can bring beautiful or unpleasant memories to a living person.

A song that is heard at a specific moment and takes a long time to listen again gives the listener a pleasant feeling of nostalgia.

Re-hearing the same song reconsiders what happened at that time in the audience’s mind. (“Music-Evoked Nostalgia.”)

Audio tape with protruding tapes and an old pen
Audio tape with protruding tapes and an old pen

Why do advertising companies use symbols of nostalgia in their advertising?

Today, we see images and sounds related to memories and nostalgic elements in many media and advertisements.

Many artists look for topics that create a sense of nostalgia in advertising a product.

In this way, more is felt between the audience and the connection between consumers and products so that people are more willing to buy more products. 

Collection of travel instant photos
Collection of travel instant photos

Modern technology has made it easier to create nostalgic advertising and style and design advertising (Niemeyer, 2014).

Social media helps to engage multiple senses in the audience and can create the ideas of a brand owner to create the desire to buy entirely in the audience.


What do you think about nostalgia? How will you feel when you encounter old things and elements of nostalgia? Are you happy or sad? In this article, we have examined nostalgia from various dimensions to get good information about it. We examined its effect on self-esteem and empathy and sought information about its impact on advertising.


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