The Power of Nostalgia

I’m not one to “look back” much, but I watched a story today on the news magazine show Sunday Morning about nostalgia that got me thinking about the past. Apparently, according to the “experts” who were interviewed on the show, being nostalgic

Gang of friends. I'm on top step.

and looking back into our past isn’t such a bad thing for us to do.

But being nostalgic wasn’t always looked at as being “good” for us. In fact in the 17th and 18th centuries, nostalgia was considered a medical disease and as recent as the 20th century, it was classified as a psychiatric disorder.

Nowadays, many psychologists think it’s healthy for us to look back at our past and recognize that we have overcome hardships and setbacks in our lives and in doing so we gain the inner strength we need to move forward. With time comes perspective and with that comes a certain resolve.

Advertisers have capitalized on the power of nostalgia for years. They pitch and promote new products by connecting them to people’s fond memories of the past or how they perceive the past to have been. Pepperidge Farm commercials were intended to provoke memories of home baked goodies from our childhood and associate them with their products. Or as the fictional character Don Draper from Mad Men said when referring to the power of nostalgia “ It takes us to a place where we ache to go again – it’s delicate but profound”.

So as we close out another year and in fact the first decade of the new century, take a few moments to think about the past. I think most of us will realize that all the obstacles that seemed insurmountable at the time, ended up being necessary for all the other things to happen in our lives. Just like George Bailey in the film “It’s a Wonderful Life” found out when he had been given a glimpse into how things would have been different had he never been born – he really did have a wonderful life. He just needed to look back and take notice.

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