Nostalgia Linked to Optimistic Outlook

Monday, 18 Nov 2013 04:18 PM

By Nick Tate

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If you’re old enough to fondly remember that old classic-rock hit, "Living in the Past" by Jethro Tull, you can rest assured that your nostalgic memories of yesterday are probably having a positive influence on your future outlook.

That's the upshot of new psychological research out of the University of Southampton in the U.K. that found older people who report having nostalgic feelings for days gone by are more optimistic about the years ahead.

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The findings, published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, are based on four experiments focusing on nostalgia, self-esteem, and mood.

"This research examined the proposition that nostalgia is not simply a past-oriented emotion, but its scope extends into the future, and, in particular, a positive future," the researchers concluded.

For the study, investigators conducted four tests that found:
  • Nostalgic stories tend to include at least some traces of hopeful optimism, compared with ordinary narratives.
  • Recollection of nostalgic (vs. ordinary) events often leads to more positive expectations of the future.
  • Listening to music from the past not only induces positive feelings of nostalgia, but also raises self-esteem.
  • Even lyrics in songs from days gone by can foster social connectedness, increase self-esteem, and boost optimism.
"The nostalgic experience is inherently optimistic and paints a subjectively rosier future," the researchers said.

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