Why does sometimes music bring back memories? Why you get stuck with rhythm that you heard some years back? Why you relive that feeling? Actually that feeling, emotion is nostalgia which you get because that music, dance and songs stuck in your head, all revolves around a common theme that is your identity. Because in the physical matter of world who are you? You are a body of atoms and cell. Every single day you are losing atoms and gaining new ones from what you eat and drink. So in every five years our body changes physically by replacing old atoms with the new ones. And that is the reason when you meet with your aunt after years she used to say “you have changed a lot”. It means in this process all we see that every human on earth is just a temporary group of atoms and molecules. A bunch of atoms shapes us and then leaves. So what’s consistent here? What are we?
We all are soul who are living with moments, emotions and feelings which get captured in our mind as memories. We physically change but these things side by side go with us that is lead to nostalgia, which is fondly remembering the past what you used to do and simply be a way for your brain to answer that question or at least cool down the anxieties it causes. Even at macroscopic scale you are always changing, you have different friends, different preferences, different behaviour, different moods, different tastes, all the time but memories of all of these never fades.
People never heard or used the word nostalgia, might be there was that feeling. But that feeling didn’t have any name before existence of the word nostalgia that’s because nostalgia was termed in 1688 by Johannes Hofer. The word nostalgia is a combination of two greek words nostos which means homecoming and algos which means pain or longing. Nostalgia was originally seen as a quite serious medical condition and symptoms of this strange illness was fatigue, indigestion and fever were too strong. And affecting soldiers who missed their home and family so much that they broke down and were unable to fulfill their duties. The only solution that Hofer seen was to sent them back to their home. Yes to their home because nostalgia is really about your memories, your past, who you used to be, from where you belong and consequently who you are now. Well you’re a person who remembers specific events in the past, you existed in the past and are a continuous being.
But with the time the meaning of nostalgia expanded from homesickness to general longing to the past rather than a awful disease. A popular theory argues that the psychological effects of nostalgia connecting with your younger self and building a continuous identity are advantageous and so we’re naturally selected to be rewarding experience. You changes your habits, your friends, your job, you learn things and forget things, but nostalgia allows you to connect with all of those. Nostalgia is the strongest at specially helpful events during the times of major life transitions like entering adulthood or aging.
But why don’t you feel nostalgic for everything in the past? Why don’t you feel nostalgia for what happened an hour back? Well there is the lifespan in which we retrieve information that might offer some clues, and we plot different autobiographical memories and which in the end reveals what is called reminiscence bump. A time period between 15 and 30 years of the age where more memories are encoded. This time in your life thought to be important because it’s so linked to the formation of our self-identities. We are most nostalgic about the memories that formed during the bump because we want our continuous identities to be positive. We tend to be nostalgic for good memories not for bad ones. Individually and collectively we also tend to be nostalgic and reminisce on things as if those were felt better to us. So this makes sense when you consider just how important it is for our brains to not only construct a continuous identity within the group that we belong.
It is also found in studies that inducing the feeling of nostalgia in people, encourages their psychological growth. It usually help you in capturing positive memories about you, your friends, families and special events and it makes you feel better about yourself and it reminds you those friends or family and encourages you to connect with them. So this feeling also increases social belonging and self-esteem of the people and even make them more charitable. It is also noticed that nostalgia might be a good emotion as it relieves people from negative emotional states and restores well being by reducing their stress.
Today nostalgia also become a powerful marketing technique for advertisers from which people easily get influenced. So nostalgia helps us to remember that our lives can have meaning and value and helps us in finding the confidence and motivation to face the challenges of the future.