Nostalgia Is More Than Just a Good Feeling

When the word "nostalgia" was coined in 1688, it was considered an illness—Johannes Hoffer, the doctor who originated it, called it a "neurological disease of essentially demonic cause." Centuries later, researchers recognize it as a pleasant feeling that almost everyone experiences. But the feeling of nostalgia isn't just mental; it's also physical.

Warm And Fuzzies

For a 2012 study in the journal Emotion, psychology researcher Tim Wildschut and his team performed a series of experiments to examine the relationship between nostalgia and temperature. In one experiment, subjects were placed in either a cold, warm, or neutral room and asked to fill out a survey about how nostalgic they felt about various items in their past.

Sure enough, the subjects in the cold room experienced more nostalgia than those in the other rooms. On the flipside, when another set of participants was asked to recall either a nostalgic or ordinary event and estimate the temperature of the room, those who recalled nostalgic memories rated the temperature as warmer.

In another experiment, participants who recalled nostalgic events could keep their hand in ice-cold water for longer than those who recalled ordinary events. The researchers noted that the ability of nostalgia to make us feel better in uncomfortable circumstances is probably not limited to cold: concentration camp survivors, for example, tell stories of how recalling satisfying meals from their past helped stave off hunger in the present.

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Written by Ashley Hamer August 16, 2016

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