Why Nostalgia Is So Powerful

Most of the people I know will wistfully tell you of the “good ol’ days” of their childhood. When things were so much better and everything now is just not as good as before. Cartoons were filled with great characters and just fun to watch. Movies were better made. Sitcoms were actually funny. Comics were better drawn. Even the newer malls seem to pale in comparison with the older ones we’ve all been to when we were younger. I myself do feel like this a lot of the times (especially with cartoons and video games).

Actually, our memories has a funny way of making the past a little brighter and shinier than they actually were. I have such vivid memories playing video games on my old Atari 2600. I actually remembered having a blast playing Pac Man on in so many years ago. But, looking at it now, I don’t remember it looking this bad…

Um, it has loads of personality?

Um, it has loads of personality?

So, how come I remember Pac-Man to be one of my favorite games when it actually was a piece of crap? That, my friends, is the power of nostalgia. But why does it have the power to warp our minds and memories into something more grand than they really were?

Well, there aren’t any real studies about nostalgia and why it seems to have such a powerful hold on a lot of us. I guess all of the scientists are busy with other unimportant things like finding a cure for cancer or something (I kid! I kid!). Why does it manage to dress up our recollection of events and things and make it better? And why does it seem we feel more nostalgic about events that happened in our childhood and teenage years rather than our adult years?

Yes. This actually looked cool during my youth

Yes. This actually looked cool during my youth.

Now, I’m no scientist but I’ll try to express my ideas why we feel this way. I’ll try to give my very own impressions why we look at our past so wistfully and think every thing was better before. While I may remember things being much better than they are right now for the most part, logically, I don’t think that’s true. I think video games are better now at giving more expansive experiences. Television shows have better writing. Movies are more elaborate and thought provoking. So, why do we remember “the good ol’ days” as the good ol’ days, anyway?

The way I see it, when we remember something, we don’t just remember the details of the event; we actually recall our feelings during the time. The technicalities and nitty-gritty of the event is a big component of every memory. However, an equally huge element are actually our emotions. So, when something bad happens to us, say, for example, the death of a loved one. When we remember that event, we not only relive going to the funeral, etc., we also relive the pain and sorrow we felt at the time.

Now, the main reason why we feel nostalgic about our childhood loves is because, well… we were kids at the time! When we were young, we didn’t have these things called “responsibilities” to weight us down. So, when we think things were simple during our younger days, well, guess what? They were! But that was because we practically focused on enjoying ourselves!

Selfish jerks!

Selfish jerks!

We didn’t have any complex thoughts about the bigger problems in life like raising a family, paying taxes, getting a job, saving for retirement, etc. Nope! All we cared about was enjoying ourselves. We were given a pass to make mistakes, goof around and slack off (sometimes). In short, we just didn’t know better. Like the old saying goes: ignorance is bliss. And, as kids, we were all very, very ignorant about how harsh life can be.

Now, remember what I said about not only remembering the events that transpired but also our feelings? Since we were happy most of the time, our memories of the old times tend to be skewed towards happy memories. It’s not that things were better then. It’s that we generally were more happier when we were younger.

Try this: try watching a television show you enjoyed as a kid now. There’s a good chance it won’t be as good as you remember it. But you’ll still enjoy it as much as you did before. I recently tried this actually. I watched a few episodes of Voltron on YouTube. I loved the cartoon as a kid but, watching it with adult sensibilities, I started to notice all of the dumb things about the show. It didn’t affect how I felt about the cartoon in any way but, if I watched this as an adult, I probably wouldn’t like it as much.

Nostalgia isn’t a bad thing, though. It’s always nice to take a look back when we were more carefree and didn’t have as many problems. Thinking fondly of the things you cherished as a kid can help you through the toughest of times. Besides, it doesn’t matter if your good memories are real or not. All it matters is that they were real for you.

What’s for favorite nostalgic memory? Let me know by writing them in the comments section below!

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