The chorus of a song that is ten years old, the sweet scent of a familiar shampoo, the sight of an old and fraying photograph: all these things are seemingly insignificant. But in reality, these tokens of the past can evoke such strong feelings. It is truly remarkable how our senses can stimulate our memories and along with them, the powerful emotions that had once accompanied those lost moments.
Nostalgia—defined as a sentimental and wistful appreciation of the past, usually regarding a time or a place that has positive personal associations—is a universal experience shared by humans across the globe. A picture of your favorite beach can flood your mind with images of the crashing waves. You can feel the warmth of the sun on your skin and the hot sand between your toes. You can smell the muddled scent of saltwater and sunscreen. You can remember the countless laughs you shared with friends. You can remember how happy and carefree you felt.
Though it is unhealthy to dwell too much on the past, recalling pleasant memories can be uplifting and even inspirational in times of lowered moods. These recollections may be bittersweet. You may be sad that these moments are locked in the past, but focusing on the favorable emotions of that time can be beneficial. These positive sensations of nostalgia not only bring about feelings of satisfaction, but they can also result in us feeling more connected to those around us and increase our sense of purpose.¹
So the next time you may be feeling a bit down or are in the company of people you may care about, consider reminiscing about the past. The results might surprise you.
After all, who are we without our memories?