The Future Of… Nostalgia: Why We Look Forward to Looking Backwards

There are those who advise, “Never look back. Regret nothing. Let go of the past”. In fact, nostalgia was once viewed as a disease. In the late 17th century, Johannes Hofer, a medical student, noticed a strange illness affecting Swiss mercenaries. Its symptoms, including fatigue, insomnia, irregular heartbeat, indigestion, and fever were so strong, that soldiers often had to be discharged. But today, lots of people are fans of this so-called ‘Swiss affliction’—and for very good reasons. Studies have shown that when we engage in nostalgia, we experience a boost in positive psychological states, such as feelings of social connectedness, self-esteem, and perceptions of meaning in life. Indeed, when people experience negative states (like loneliness or meaninglessness), they use nostalgia to regulate distress. So, as we look forward to looking back over the past year, we should recognize the benefits that nostalgia offers—as a healthy way for our brains to seek meaning in all that’s happened in the last 12 months. As always, I’m looking forward to hearing from all of you in 2022, even if to remember better times.

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