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  • Writer's pictureMoira Yeldon

Why We Trip Down Memory Lane

Updated: Jan 29


An important trope in Romanticism, “nostalgia” has been described as a medical condition, a form of melancholy and a sentimentality for the past, typically for a time or place with happy personal associations.

Derived from a Greek word meaning “homecoming”, it has also been used to describe “sorrow” or “despair”. The term nostalgia was also coined by a medical student to describe the anxieties displayed by Swiss mercenaries fighting away from home.






What is Nostalgia?

  • Nostalgia is an emotion everyone experiences at one time or another.

  • Nostalgia is a wistful longing for a past time and place, a yearning for our past selves. We crave to capture the positive emotions we once felt, to be the people we used to be, to re-create the lives we used to live.


Why Do We Long for the Past?

  • Engaging in nostalgia, it seems, is beneficial for our health.

  • Nostalgia helps increase our sense of meaning in life through feelings of social connectedness. 

  • Remembering how good life used to be enables us to recreate those positive feelings


Good For Our Health

  • Nostalgia is beneficial as it seems to bolster our psychological resilience.

  • By revisiting past challenges we have previously overcome, we can draw strength and inspiration for dealing with current struggles, instilling in us a sense of hope and optimism.

  • If we did it before, we can do it again.

  • Our memories of social interactions and shared experiences heighten our sense of social connectedness and enhance our present-day feelings of belonging.

  • Sharing memories of the past can lead to positive feelings and can help to reduce stress and anxiety. By taking a trip down memory lane we can foster a sense of personal continuity, which helps us to feel connected.

  • Remembering the past serves as a coping mechanism evoking healing emotions that cause us to laugh and cry.

  • Nostalgia can increase our self-esteem and produce a sense of fulfillment from re-living and sharing a well-lived past.

  • There is also support for the idea that reminiscence therapy may lead to positive psychological outcomes in dementia patients.



What Are Triggers?


Sensory stimuli serve as triggers into the past. Sights, sounds, and scents can act as potent memory cues, propelling us into states of reminiscence. We experience it when we hear an old song on the radio or when we flip through old photos.

Music is known to be a powerful catalyst for nostalgia. Hearing a song from a particular era in our lives can transport us back, rekindling the same emotions and reactions we experienced at that former time.







The Power of Scent

Similarly, certain smells are strongly linked to memory recall. Have you ever stepped into an elevator with someone wearing a particular aftershave or perfume? You immediately remember a person you knew who used to wear that same cologne. Let’s face it, it’s hard to forget the aromatic musk smell of Old Spice or the floral soap fragrance of Charlie perfume.

Bringing back the good old days? Tripping down memory lane? Call it what you like. This sentimental phenomenon seems to be good for our health. Nostalgia is a valuable emotional resource worth revisiting.

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