Exploring the Benefits and Risks: 5 Ways Nostalgia Is Good for Your Health (and When It’s Not)

Dr. Serenity
April 13, 2023

The Benefits and Risks of Nostalgia: 5 Ways Nostalgia Is Good for Your Health (and When It’s Not)

Nostalgia can make you feel warm and fuzzy, but is it good for your health? Experts weigh in on the benefits and risks of feeling nostalgic, including how it can influence your well-being and be a beneficial coping mechanism during difficult times. Learn about the ways nostalgia can be helpful, and when it’s not.


Exploring the Benefits of Feeling Nostalgic: 5 Ways It Can Boost Your Health

It’s common to look back on fond memories and feel nostalgic. Nostalgia refers to the positive, wistful, or longing sentiment one experiences when they are reminded of something from the past. While some may view nostalgia as a negative emotion, researchers have found that nostalgia can have several positive effects on a person’s overall well-being. In this article, we will explore five ways nostalgia can be good for your health.

The Positive Effects of Feeling Nostalgic

In a review published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers concluded that nostalgia is primarily a positive experience. Practicing nostalgia was linked to positive markers of health, such as meaning in life, self-esteem, and optimism, more commonly than negative ones. However, the researchers did note that nostalgia is a mixed emotion, and its effects can vary from person to person.

  1. Promotes Sense of Self

A study published in the journal Cognition and Emotion found that reminiscing about the past can help you feel connected to who you were in the past, who you are in the present, and who you will be in the future. Fondly recalling memories that align with your values and morals can affirm movement towards those ideas. This can increase the sense of self and motivate confidence. Thinking back on your former self reunites you with your values and what truly matters to you.

  1. Serves as a Barometer for Personal Growth

Nostalgia can show you how far you’ve come. Change doesn’t happen overnight. When we reflect upon positive experiences, we can gauge how we have stayed aligned with our own values and our authentic selves. Looking back at the past can help you see where you have evolved and how you’ve grown into who you are in the present.

  1. Boosts Mood

Nostalgia can lead to a positive affect, according to a study published in Consciousness and Cognition. Recalling positive memories can transition emotions from negative to neutral – or even positive. This can allow someone who is highly dysregulated to calm themselves down and utilize healthy coping mechanisms. For instance, feelings of nostalgia increased during COVID-19 quarantines, serving as a comfort during isolating times.

  1. Strengthens Bonds With Friends and Family

Nostalgia is a highly social emotion that connects us to others. According to a study published in the journal Emotion, nostalgia can be used as a way to facilitate “help seeking behavior” by fostering social connectedness. Reminiscing with family and friends, watching home videos, or viewing photos from the past can help you feel closer and more connected. Nostalgia can even unify experiences between complete strangers, connecting over shared experiences from the past.

  1. Increases Optimism

Nostalgia can increase optimism. Reminiscing about fond memories brings us back to happy times, reminding us of feeling successful and accomplished. Optimism is having the ability to think positively of the future, and recalling moments that made you feel courageous, happy, successful, or any other positive emotion gives you an optimistic lens to see the future through. This can help us live each day to the fullest or even help us see the beauty that is in everyday life.


Nostalgia is a powerful emotion that can have positive effects on a person’s overall well-being. Whether you’re reminiscing about the past with family and friends or reflecting on personal growth, nostalgia can provide comfort, connection, and optimism. However, it’s important to remember that nostalgia can also have negative effects in some circumstances. By understanding the benefits and limitations of nostalgia, we can use this powerful emotion to improve our health and well-being.


The Drawbacks of Nostalgia: Exploring the Positive and Negative Sides of this Emotion

Nostalgia is a feeling that many of us have experienced at one time or another. It’s a longing for moments from our past that we cherish and wish to relive. While the experience of nostalgia is generally positive, it can also have its downsides.

Personal Nostalgia and its Mixed Emotions

When we think of nostalgia, we usually think of personal nostalgia – the yearning for moments we’ve experienced in our own lives. However, this experience can bring on mixed emotions, according to Newman. Anticipatory nostalgia, which is the longing for the past while still in the present, can result in sadness, as described in a study published in Frontiers in Psychology in May 2020. The paper defines anticipatory nostalgia as “premature missing of what is still present” and “future loss.” Additionally, nostalgia can induce sadness if you’re yearning for the past and upset that the times you’re thinking of no longer exist.

Ruminating on the Past and Depression

Woodhouse has seen first-hand how dwelling on the past can lead to depression. Reminiscing about the “good old days” and pondering on the “what ifs” and “should haves” can cause individuals to ruminate on the past and lead to depression.

Positive or Negative: The Introduction of Nostalgia

The experience of nostalgia can be positive or negative depending on how it’s introduced. According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2020, nostalgia can boost optimism, but it is more closely linked to sadness if it arises spontaneously during the day. On the other hand, if you’re asked specifically to reminisce, the experience is more positive.

Historical Nostalgia and its Implications

Apart from personal nostalgia, there is historical or collective nostalgia, which is the longing for a time in history that one did not experience firsthand. Newman explains that it is possible to feel nostalgic for a time such as the renaissance era, even if one never lived during that time.

However, historical nostalgia can be dangerous if used by those in power to push society back toward negative concepts and practices, such as racism or discrimination. Newman warns that while there can be some benefits to historical nostalgia, it can also lead to harmful consequences.


In conclusion, nostalgia can bring about mixed emotions and lead to both positive and negative outcomes. While personal nostalgia can result in a positive experience, it can also cause sadness and depression if we dwell on the past too much. Additionally, historical nostalgia can have harmful implications if used by those in power to push negative concepts and practices. Ultimately, it’s important to understand the potential downside of nostalgia and strive for a balanced approach to reminiscing about the past.

Author Dr. Serenity

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