December 17, 2008
Therapeutic aspects of nostalgia examined
In the 17th and 18th centuries nostalgia was a medical disease, but psychologists are now focused on nostalgia's therapeutic aspects, British researchers say.
Nostalgia was once viewed as a medical disease, complete with symptoms including weeping, irregular heartbeat and anorexia. By the 20th century, nostalgia was regarded as a psychiatric disorder, with symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety and depression and was confined to a few groups, e.g. first year boarding students and immigrants, said University of Southampton psychologist Constantine Sedikides.
Sedikides says research suggests that nostalgia can promote psychological health. Inducing nostalgia in a group of study volunteers resulted in overall positive feelings in this group, including higher self-esteem and an increase in the feeling of being loved and protected by others. Recent work has also shown that nostalgia counteracts effects of loneliness, by increasing perceptions of social support. In addition, that same study found that loneliness can trigger nostalgia.
The authors note that
nostalgia is now emerging as a fundamental human strength. They conclude that
nostalgia is uniquely positioned to offer integrative insights across such areas of psychology as memory, emotion, the self and relationships. Nostalgia has a long past and an exciting future.
The findings are published in the journal Psychological Science.