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Can Nostalgia Help you Cope with the Pandemic

Have you indulged in nostalgia to feel better during the pandemic? Could cherishing old comforting feeling calm your restless mind and uplift your mood?

Indulging in nostalgia

Photo by Yoann Boyer on Unsplash

Do you frequently revisit your past to cherish those comforting feelings? You aren’t alone who is doing this.

Most of us are indulging in nostalgia to feel better during pandemic to avoid the fear lingering in our head. The corona virus is making us long for the past.

And revisiting good old days to bring in those nostalgic feelings to uplift mood at the time when going gets tough is a common coping mechanism.

Psychologists say memories are deeply embedded and recalling them can bring people peace of mind.

Indeed, nostalgia is the way when we look at the past to pick positive memories and indulge in them. And in this ‘unprecedented time' many of us are doing it.

When Facebook or Instagram ‘throwbacks’ feature supply me with a photo—or an articulated post-two years ago, five years ago, ‘On This Day’ you did this - kind of a post - I used to avoid that bait of self-indulgence.

But in the pandemic, I am savouring those ‘memories’.

Clearly, our memory takes us back to the event with its tiny details and we seek comfort living there. After all our brain has the capability to build associations and most of the time emotions and events get tangled up.

This is why looking at a certain item takes you back, rustle up memories and stir up feelings in you.

Like a smell of a perfume could remind you of a person who used to wear it.

What makes us return to old favourites?

In distressing times, we look for uplifting feelings. We crave for a sense of safety and belongingness. Now, many of us are pining for the past to evoke those soothing feelings which are threatened currently.

Just like children, who carry around transitional objects such as comforting blankets or soft toys to provide them the symbolic security. We adults also unconsciously look for emotional pacifiers to help us transition from one stage of life to the next, or help us navigate specific stressors. That's why we are turning to the memories of the past.

Revisiting past for comfort:

“When I listen to my old favourite music, it made me think about happy times in the past. It made me sad, I know those times are gone. I look back and appreciate how I have come so far. It reminded me of people I spent time. I enjoy thinking about them, so I keep revisiting to my go - to – play list.”

Corona virus has completely derailed our sense of perceived control, so we’re looking for other ways to feel grounded and this is filtering into our choices.

After all, there’s comfort and safety in what we know. Now we are trying to look at the past with a cocktail of emotions through a rose-tinted glass.

We are recalling memories of people who we feel close to. We are trying to transport back to the experiences we had once. So when I picked up my old favourite novel, I unconsciously tried to avoid the uncertainty of the times.

Maybe I pine for the days. When things just seemed easier when we weren’t sheltering in place, losing our jobs or potentially exposing ourselves to a virus.

“In the novel I picked, at least I knew exactly what's going to happen in the story — and how it's going to end.”

How old memories help us cope”

Nostalgia is the warm glow of the past conjured up into the present moment. Engaging in it is like bringing in the warm glow in your life.

Research suggests that it also may be beneficial, as it reduces cortisol levels associated with the body's acute stress response. As nostalgia gives a sense of continuity from your past to present.

Contrary, we are commonly admonished not to ‘live in the past’, till now we were preached to not let our ‘past take away today’. But during the pandemic, looking at the past evokes positive emotions, which could help us sail through tough times.

Studies have found that people who frequently nostalgise have a greater sense of self-continuity.

So when you look at the past, you know where you were and how you are now. It gives a sense of meaning and purpose towards life to keep moving. It's fit in discrete movements to give you a coherent narrative.

Is it fine to indulge in nostalgia?

Florence Saint-Jean, a trauma specialist and the executive director of Global Trauma Research, said, “as a way to cope during times of duress, our brains often take us to places that we subconsciously designate as ‘safe,’ like past memories of a joyful vacation or happy childhood moments that made us feel loved.”

Dr. Saint-Jean said. “Right now, we may not necessarily feel safe, but we can take our minds to a safe place, which will create a chain reaction in our body.”

Like, I have ‘feel good safety box (imaginary)’ which has a list of people, places, or events which make me feel good.

I go there when I feel troubled. It helps me calm down, feel more soothed, feel more grounded. It’s work for me.

And I try to connect with people I love and reach out to them instead of just drowning in isolation, it helps me.”

What is the problem with Nostalgia?

Does it happen to you that any memory looked amazingly fascinating in your head like any food, place, person, experience, but now, when you see it again, it lacks the same charm. And you think why it was great when I think about it, but now it doesn’t feel the same.

It is because memory is our brain's attempt to connect us with the past. Also, memory reconstructs the events whenever we revisit it, as we don’t have a recorder in our head. That’s why reliance on the accuracy of the moment is deceptive.

It’s like you hold a brush and paint up all the unwanted details to get the perfect moment to reside in your head.

While the moment gives you pleasure that what you want at the time of crisis to revisit the perfect picture and evoke all those comforting feelings.

But chances are that you are looking for escapism in the past, leading to rumination and further increasing your stress. Turning you into a habitual worrier.

Basically, spending too much time revelling in nostalgia can actually highlight the disparity between our positive memories of the past and our current situation, leading to more distress.

Researchers said, ‘as with most things in life, it seems like balance is key.’ How tough reality might look, but avoidance and escapism should be avoided.

While there’s no harm in revisiting the past, but it’s important that we don’t spend too much time thinking about the past and comparing it with today.

Being appreciative for what we have now and being present in our everyday lives is what will see us through, but equally, there’s nothing wrong with doing that accompanied by a little 90’s sitcom background noise.


Though I often indulge in a nostalgic past to invoke positive emotion, enhance my well-being, seek a meaning to my life. I resist the temptation to overdo it. After all, the past is past, and be better left there.

I can’t keep myself anchored there. The present is where I belong. So I avoid relying on the past to fix my present problem. Because I know avoidance of present is actually one of the main things that maintains a stress reaction.

So whenever I find myself over-indulging I ask myself why am I doing this? What am I longing for? What do I hope to get out of it?

Nostalgia is neither good nor bad, but that you should think introspectively about what, exactly, you are truly getting out of it.

What are your nostalgic moments? Would love to hear from you. Share your views in the comment section below.

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Hi there! I’m Muzna, the Founder and Editor of The Bliss Key, I live in San Francisco with my family and by profession I’m an eLearning consultant with more than a decade of experience, and a degree in Business Management and Instructional Design

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