Nostalgia Increases Optimism

Can’t help but smile and think of high school when “Smells Like Teen Spirit” comes on the radio, despite the fact that it’s not really a smiling kinda song? According to psychologists, there’s a reason for that: not only does nostalgia combat loneliness and provide comfort, but it actually increases your optimism about the future.

In a study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, researchers demonstrated the optimistic power of nostalgia with a series of tests. In the first, they had a group of subjects write about a nostalgic event, and a control group write about an ordinary one. Researchers compared the number of optimistic words used in both groups, and found that the nostalgia group had a much higher rate of optimism.

In the second test, participants listened to either a nostalgic song or a control one (we like this think it was this one), and those who listened to the nostalgic one reported a higher level of optimism.

In the final test, half of the subjects read song lyrics that they had previously identified as nostalgic, and the other half read from the control song. Once again, the nostalgia group reported higher levels of optimism. According to one of the study’s co-authors, Dr. Tim Wildschut, “Nostalgia raises self-esteem which in turn heightens optimism. Our findings have shown that nostalgia does have the capacity to facilitate perceptions of a more positive future. Memories of the past can help to maintain current feelings of self-worth and can contribute to a brighter outlook on the future. Our findings do imply that nostalgia, by promoting optimism, could help individuals cope with psychological adversity.”

So, break out the Super Mario World 2; it’s time to look forward to the future.


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