"Everything used to be so much better" is a phrase you hear almost daily. Its variations pop up everywhere. Our society might be obsessed with time and age, but it is even more infatuated with the past. What is it in us that makes us think everything was better before? Why are we the way we are? Why is our society on a never-ending Nostalgia trip?

The science behind nostalgia

In a report, titled “Nostalgia: A Neuropsychiatric Understanding,” famous neurologist and psychiatrist, Dr. Alan R. Hirsch defines nostalgia as: "A longing for a sanitized impression of the past,not a true recreation of the past, but rather a combination of many different memories, all integrated together, and in the process all negative emotions filtered out.”

In layman's terms, nostalgia is nothing but a self-defense mechanism, and an efficient one at that because nostalgia:

  • Improves mood
  • Enhances positive self-regard
  • Promotes psychological growth
  • Provides existential meaning and comfort
  • Increases social connectedness

In short, thinking about the past makes us feel better because we look at the past with rose-tinted glasses.

Fads and trends come and go and every generation is nostalgic about something. Millennials seem to be in love with the 1990s, there are even internet communities and forums dedicated to this decade. We like to think that the music was better, that the cinematography was better, that the economy was stronger, that we were safer. But, in reality, things are not like that. In fact, we are doing better than ever.

Undoubtedly, the media is doing its part too, creating panic and cherry-picking information that fits their narrative and their narrative is: we are worse off than ever.

The dangers of nostalgia

If we keep indulging in nostalgia so much, we will keep losing track of what really matters. This works on an individual and on a societal level both.

Instead of focusing on the now, we choose to dwell on the past and make predictions about the Future. Like the great John Lennon sang: "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans".

A little bit of nostalgia can be great, but the nostalgia trip our entire society seems to be on at the moment will not bring us anything good.

If nothing, it speaks volumes about where we, spiritually and collectively, are at the moment. Perhaps we should focus more on the now and try to be Present in the moment. After all, we can leave it to the next generation to be nostalgic about the time we're living in.