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Good news: Being nostalgic is actually good for us

Yep. It’s true. Looks like walking down memory lane on a regular basis, is a good thing. Local psychologist, Dr. Sandy Jensen summed it up like this, “Being nostalgic is good for you to the extent that it makes you feel happy or content or connected to others who share the same memories.”

Whew.

We aren't coo-coo if we keep talking about the past. For us moms and dads who are always telling our kids about what was - it looks like it's all good.

As parents. I’m forever talking to my girls – particularly my older girls, 19 and 20 – about the past. My life. Theirs. I’m the mom who  remembers every single gift, who it came from, what the occasion was. Maybe that’s why I love putting dresses on my little girls – that were worn by their big sisters back in the day. Even re-creating pictures. It brings me so much joy.

This picture was taken in 1999 with my girls, Alexa and Maria.

This picture, above, was taken in 1999 with my girls, Alexa and Maria, in their Minnie Mouse dresses.

 

This one in 2016 - with my girls, Emma and Ella. Same dresses. 17 years later.

This one was taken in 2016 with my girls, Emma and Ella. Same dresses, 17 years later.

But, it’s more than just sharing stories with our kids. We’re nostalgic as people: we talk about our history, our country, major events like 9-11.

And as Buffalonians when we talk about sports; the Jim Kelly glory years, or the thriving turn of the century Buffalo; with the Pan-am expo, even the days when steel manufacturing was golden here. We have a rich past that we love to share.

It’s not a Buffalo thing, but it sure seems like it.  Jensen says, “Maybe they just talk about it more. Compound it though, with the fact that a lot of people share the same memories because Buffalonians tend to stay here. And have a shared past; shared memories.”

My husband is a musician – with an album titled “Wired for Nostalgia” – and he’s always been fascinated with memories and music. Memories can creep up just listening to a tune. The songs I loved in my 20s and 30s mean more to me than ever. And while little things can jog our memory, nostalgia can seem strongest during major life events; the loss of a loved one, sending a child off to college, or moving to a new home.

Nostalgia doesn’t always leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy. It can be bittersweet, even painful. But even the most tragic events always have a shining moment or two when we look back. We tend to see the good, even if it was just a tiny piece of it.

Seeing things - at times - how we chose to see them, not how they actually happened, is OK. The truth is, when the future looks brighter, the past can, too. Jensen calls it a sort of defense mechanism, “In essence, nostalgia is a way of both rewriting history in a positive light and to help us cope with current stressors.”

Maybe Billy Joel says it best in his song, "Keeping the Faith" - "Cause the good ole' days weren't always good and tomorrow ain't as bad as it seems."

As Buffalo’s historian and writer of The Buffalo News Chronicles, Steve Cichon makes a living on our desire to look back. He said there’s plenty to look back on. “I think it’s human nature to look back – and when there wasn’t much to look forward to here, we might have spent more time looking back.”

Now, with Buffalo's boom, with things looking up for our beloved city, we may chose to look forward a bit more. The good news, Cichon said, is that we can do that together, too. “But again, as our future gets brighter, things like 998 Broadway and the thought of the scared-to-death feeling that the Comet might crash into Lake Erie seems less like a maudlin exercise in a yearning for the past… And more like a secret handshake to the best community any of us can ever imagine."

Sure, we have to live life moving forward, but it sure feels good to look back, and the truth is, sometimes we can’t help it. Nostalgia has a way of making us feel like our life has deep roots. It can give us strength, structure and a sense of community. Like a "we-are-all-in-this-together" kind of thing.

Being nostalgic can make life more bearable during the tough times. Whether it's a song, a pair of Minnie Mouse dresses or the old Bethlehem Steel Plant, memories bind us together as a family and community. And here in Buffalo, we are – if nothing else – one big community. One Buffalo.

 

 

 

 

 

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