by Stefanie | 03.16.22
You’re sitting at a traffic light, staring at nothing, thinking about what’s for dinner and suddenly it happens. Maybe it's coming from the car next to you or maybe it's a lucky hit on a random playlist. However it got there, it’s there, and so are you. That slow smile spreads across your face, your head starts to bounce, your foot starts to tap and suddenly your whole mood has changed. For those few seconds, whatever nonsense happened in your day is gone and everything is good in the world. That, my friends, is the magic of nostalgia.
Everyone experiences nostalgia in different ways. Maybe a song takes you back to summer camp adventures or the smell of freshly baked cookies transports you to your childhood, hanging out in grandma’s kitchen. Though it comes in many forms, nostalgia reminds you of your past and makes you more optimistic about the future.
Ancient Greek scholars noticed that when soldiers were sent away to war, they would often start to get depressed about being far from family, friends and daily life. The men would combat these feelings by reminiscing about home and all of the things they loved there. That’s where the word nostalgia came from - nostos means ‘return home’ and algos means ‘pain.’
Basically, our brains use nostalgia to remember the good times and shield us from what is bringing us down. And it works. Toys that are popular one year become decidedly uncool a few years later. Fast forward 10 more years and those toys are again the number one best sellers. Why is that? Because those toys really were just the coolest and children today are smart enough to recognize that? Nah, think about it - those 90’s kids who were obsessed with Pokemon are now the parents with the spending power. Those little cards bring back memories of happier, simpler times and they want that for their kids. Same goes for Barbie, Transformers, Lisa Frank and the entire freaking Marvel universe!
But before you rush out and buy a chia pet or search for that old Blockbuster card, remember it’s not just “things” that make us relive the good ole days. Have you ever gone back to your old middle or high school for a reunion or maybe to visit a favorite teacher? Chances are, as soon as you stepped foot in that building the first thing you noticed was the smell, and that smell brought you right back to 2nd period History class. Memories of old friends, crushes, dances and sporting events come flooding back, no matter how much time has actually passed. It’s really a magical and powerful phenomenon that can be harnessed for so much good.
So here’s our March hanni challenge to you: try to think of one great memory associated with each of your five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. Maybe it's the sound of your mom singing her favorite song when she thinks no one’s listening, the smoky smell of a campfire (hello first kiss at summer camp!) or the feel of the wind in your hair and your toes in the sand. Whenever you’re feeling down or just overwhelmed by life, take a minute to focus on one of those memories. Allow those feelings to transport you back to a happy time and hang out there until you really feel like you again.
Then head back to reality, have a Buffy the Vampire Slayer marathon, blast *NSYNC, and eat a big bowl of Froot Loops for dinner. Because you are truly all that and a bag of chips.