We all have channels that catapult our minds into the past. Under the right conditions, the tiniest trigger can unleash a flood of sunny memories in even the least sentimental among us.
Such reminisces can be healthier than you think. Despite nostalgia’s bittersweet rap and the oft-heard advice to live in the moment, recent studies suggest that the occasional detour down memory lane can give your spirits a significant lift.
Thinking of good memories for just 20 minutes a day can make people more cheerful than they were the week before, and happier than if they think of their current lives, report researchers from Loyola University.
Most people spontaneously reminisce when they are alone or feeling down, which suggests that we reach for pleasant memories as an antidote to feeling blue, says Loyola psychologist Fred Bryant. Think of a new arrival to a big city who remembers good times with friends back home.
“Reminisces can motivate you,” says Bryant, adding: “(Memories) can motivate you and give you a sense of being rooted, a sense of meaning and purpose—instead of being blown around by the whims of everyday life.”
Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Southampton in the U.K. have also found nostalgia to be a potent mood booster. Since memories often star important people in our lives, they may give us a comforting sense of belonging.
The studies also show that people who write about good memories report higher self-esteem and feel more positively about friendships and close relationships.
Previous research has shown that naturally nostalgic people have high self-esteem and are less prone to depression. They cope with problems more effectively and are more likely than not to receive social support after experiencing stress.
Not surprisingly, these well-rooted folks also see their families more often.
But even people who are not particularly nostalgic can enjoy the benefits of recalling the good old days, using positive reminisces as part of a cycle that also includes savoring the past and present and looking forward to the future.
And on that score, we got an interesting e-mail from a Hinton woman the other day, who wanted to share some of her memories with our readers. This is what she had to say:
“If you grew up in a generation before there was fast food, you may recall that pizza was not delivered to our home—but milk was.
“I didn’t have money; I had an allowance—25 or 50 cents a week. I did not ask for this and that.
“I never had a telephone in my room (let alone a portable cell phone). The phone was in the living room, and it was on a party line. Before you could dial, you had to listen and make sure some people you did not know were not already using the line.
“I didn’t have fast food growing up. All the food was slow. It was served at a place called ‘at home.’
“We all sat down at the dining room table together, and if I didn’t like something that was put on my plate, I sat there until I did.
“I also had to have permission to leave the dining room table. Do not laugh.
“My parents never owned their own house, wore Levis, set foot on a golf course, traveled out of the country or had a credit card.
“In later years, they had a charge card from Sears and Roebuck. There is no Roebuck anymore. Maybe it died.
“They never drove me to soccer practice. It was mostly because we never heard of the game of soccer, but also because we did not have a car.
“We didn’t have a television in our house either until I was 11, but my grandparents had one before that. Of course, it was black and white.
“I was 13 before I tasted my first pizza. When I bit into it, I burned the roof of my mouth and the cheese slid off, swung down, plastered itself against my chin and burned that too. That was the best pizza I ever had.
“We didn’t have an automobile until I was 15. The only car in our family was my grandfather’s Plymouth. He called it a ‘machine.’
“I could go on and on, but I’m afraid the teens of today might suffer serious internal injury from laughing so hard…”
Top o’ the morning!