After the crisis, the nostalgia: this summer we are looking for salvation in memories

Are the umbrellas, windshields and coolers ready for a holiday at the beach in your own country? That’s nice and nostalgic, and that’s exactly why 2020.

If we were already bathed in nostalgia before March 2020, then we plunged into it unabashedly from the lockdown. Sixteen years after the 29th volume came to an end, ‘Wheel Of Fortune’ has been resurrected on television. Friends and Michael Jordan are hot on Netflix. And who knows, the #TrowbackThursday photos you posted on social media from your old days will be even hotter. What more do you want in the background, while you puzzle, knead bread or rediscover another old hype?

We still have to wait for hard figures, but we would Ad Vingerhoets, professor emeritus of clinical psychology at the Dutch University of Tilburg, should not be surprised if 2020 has made us more nostalgic: ‘It is an emotion that makes it feel easier when things are not going well.’

Mental toolbox

‘Nostalgia literally makes people warmer.’

Wing Yee Cheung

University of Winchester

Wing Yee Cheung, psychology researcher at the University of Winchester, England, agrees how nostalgia works in challenging times: ‘During times of crisis à la covid, we experience a break with our ordinary life. That is a typical trigger for nostalgia, which has a psychological regulating function. ‘ When we feel bad, memories are the tools in our mental toolbox with which we try to overcome challenges.

Whether we look up yellowed beach photos of our droll toddler self, pick up teenage frats with old friends or consciously opt for that white chocolate sandwich ‘like the bomma’, every nostalgic story that follows ‘Remember that?’ is a soothing reminder that despite the years and events we are still the same, according to Vingerhoets: ‘That gives continuity to who we are.’

It goes even further. Nostalgia – the word is derived from ‘nostos’ and’ algos’, Ancient Greek for ‘homecoming’ and ‘pain’ – makes you feel better, strengthens your social connection with others, reduces boredom, strengthens meaning in your life ‘, describes Cheung in recent research.

Nostalgic memories change something in us, even warm us. ‘They really do something with our temperature,’ says Vingerhoets. ‘When subjects recall nostalgic memories in a fresh room at 16 ° C, they judge that room differently from the control group. Nostalgia literally makes them warmer. ‘

Nostalgic memories change something in us, even warm us.
© Getty Images

Shot of optimism

To our brain, nostalgia is what thumb sucking is to a child: a warm blanket of familiar feelings to snuggle under when something goes wrong. It is a typically human superpower, a time machine that not only links the past with the present, but also – if possible – protects the future from misery. The more consciously you enjoy the present moment, the more likely your experiences will transform into a future nostalgic thought that will later influence you with positive effects.

‘We naturally wear pink glasses’

Ad Vingerhoets

Professor emeritus of clinical psychology

That’s not a floaty pep talk, but a finding scientifically proven by Cheung. The ice cream you enjoy to the full today may become the nostalgic shot of optimism you crave later. Just like the memory of the sand castle that you built by the sea as a toddler, brought comfort in the past difficult months.

Summer 2020

Today you may not be building sandcastles anymore, you are a protector instead of the protected toddler. Still, the lure of the sea may be getting bigger than ever this summer. For as the world changed, the sand kept burning under your feet, the waves kept swirling in your ears, and the sun continued to glow on your salty skin at night.

Of course it will continue to rain and the traffic jams will be painful. You’ll keep swearing as beach balls find their way between your drinks and grains of sand appear between your sheets at night. But – another human superpower – you will soon forget that, because the sun shines more often in your memories. ‘We naturally wear pink glasses,’ says Vingerhoets. And unless we are really anxious, we pay particular attention to positive experiences. In this way we deceive ourselves to feel better. ‘

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