Dec. 7—I've considered writing about several topics this week, but the one that keeps recurring in my mind is nostalgia. It seems to be a popular topic in the media right now.
Particularly—why? Why are we so attracted to it? One place we see it recently is in the plethora of classic movie remakes, but it also appears in things like our music choices.
I'm finding myself immersed in YouTube programs of vintage music, TV specials, and ads.
This season I'm clicking on old Christmas record albums, mainly from the 1960's. I recognize many, because I have/had them in my own collection.
If you're old enough, you may recognize the ones from Goodyear and Firestone. They sold cheaply—even for then—as promotional advertising.
Listeners' comments on the YouTube programs state that they love them because they grew up with them. Sort of a musical time travel to a simpler time and place.
And that is the lure of nostalgia. But why is it so powerful?
A study of college students (because we always need a study) found that those who read distressing news stories were more likely to engage in nostalgia than those who read positive or neutral stories.
Interestingly, these are young people. They may want their younger self back, but they may also long for a time further back, when our world really was different.
"Negative emotions or mood states trigger nostalgia." So does loneliness. It becomes a coping mechanism by letting us temporarily escape the pain of the present.
We certainly live in a painful present. The last two years include the losses of Covid, increases in brutal killings and violent attacks, fires and storms resulting in loss of lives and property, and increased political divisiveness.
Surveys show that people feel lonely and isolated, and that pretty much encompasses every generation.
So nostalgia sort of provides a happy place. It "reconnects you to who you are, and that feels like returning to somewhere safe."
If you think this is all just psychological hi-jinks, you may like to study some of the evidence for its reality.
Research has found that feelings of nostalgia release the chemical dopamine in the brain. We call that the "feel good" chemical, but it performs several other important functions, including increasing memory.
Several things, including exercise and protein in the diet, can increase its production.
Chocolate also factors in, which may be why we crave it. Or at least, I do. I figure that, as usual, my brain is just taking the easy way out. Load up on chocolate and forget all the other stuff . . .
Listening to music you enjoy can also increase dopamine. Considering that I've been singing "We Need a Little Christmas" since mid-October, I'd say my nostalgia barometer is running pretty high this year. (And by the way, that is the song's context, because Mame sings it after having lost everything in the stock market crash.)
Between that and chocolate, I should be floating on a cloud of happiness.
But back to the nostalgia thing. We see and hear references to it all through the Christmas season.
These old albums I'm listening to.
Old movie classics (the originals) like "Miracle on 34th Street" and "A Christmas Carol" and "It's a Wonderful Life."
Videos of TV specials, from Andy Williams to Dean Martin to Bing Crosby.
YouTube provides a never-ending list, from "See What a 1950's Christmas Was Like" to a series of Vintage Christmas Commercials and everything in between.
So if you're feeling a little down or distressed about the world around us, you might take a stroll down nostalgia lane and experience the ambiance of Christmas past.
Some of it you might remember; some of it might just entertain you for a while.
Or, if you're like me, some of it may beguile you into forgetting all that stuff you needed to get done today. That's a different kind of stress at this time of year . . .