New research from the University of
Southampton shows that feeling nostalgic about the past will increase optimism
about the future.
The research, published in the Personality
and Social Psychology Bulletin, examined the idea that nostalgia is not simply
a past-orientated emotion but its scope extends into the future, with a
Dr Tim Wildschut, co-author of the study,
comments: "Nostalgia is experienced frequently and virtually by everyone
and we know that it can maintain psychological comfort. For example, nostalgic
reverie can combat loneliness. We wanted to take that a step further and assess
whether it can increase a feeling of optimism about the future."
In one of the reported studies within the
paper, the researchers asked participants to bring to mind a nostalgic event
and write about it. The number of optimistic words included in the narrative
was compared to a control group who were asked to recall and write about an
ordinary event. The nostalgic narratives contained a significantly higher
proportion of optimistic expressions than the ordinary stories.
A further study capitalised on music's
capacity to evoke nostalgia. Participants listened to either a nostalgic or
control song (which had been previously validated). Those who listened to the
nostalgic song reported higher levels of optimism than those who listened to
the control song.
Nostalgic song lyrics
In a final study, participants were
presented with song lyrics that half the group had previously identified to be
nostalgic. They were then asked to complete questions about how they felt.
Those who read the personally nostalgic lyrics reported higher levels of
optimism than those who read the control lyrics.
The studies also highlighted the roles of
self-esteem. Dr Wildschut explains: "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