by Alex Baer

courtesy of

Ratings for retro-feel shows like “Regular Show,” “Gravity Falls,” and Nickolodeon’s “Nick at Nite” are soaring- but not all of those viewers are in their intended age group. It seems that the so-called “kids of the 90s”, or the 20-somethings of today- have succumbed to acute nostalgia.

It could be said that the strength of nostalgia now is a result of these “90s kids” growing up. Film critic Bob Chipman points to what every decade before it stood for. “The 1920s were a party, the 30s was a really bad hangover, the 40s was war… the 60s was revolution… the 80s was about materialism and brief, superficial re-embrace of 50’s style conformity. …What was the theme of the 90s?” His recent video for The Escapist Magazine, titled “The 90s Didn’t Suck,” points to the big cultural media touchstones as proof that it didn’t have a theme.

Quentin Tarantino’s first three films (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and Jackie Brown) are flush with a sense of retrospection; remember the diner dance scene from Pulp Fiction? Nor was a sense of chronological stability to be found in the music; much of the pop scene hearkened back to styles of the past, and while there were huge acts in the burgeoning grunge movement, there was never a uniform sound to the movement for long, and it soon became enveloped by the hard rock scene at large and bastardized into “post-grunge” (Chipman).

Not only has it been a major factor in media for the past thirty years, but it has also been a major topic of interest to psychologists, even more so now.

In the 20th century, nostalgia was declared a psychiatric disorder with symptoms that included insomnia, anxiety, and depression. Back then, it was primarily found in boarding school students and immigrants. But its roots can be found even earlier than that. Treated as a condition like melancholia or hypochondria, nostalgia was, as Svetlana Boym calls in her book “The Future of Nostalgia,” a disease of an “afflicted imagination.” Galenic doctors thought it was an overabundance of black bile that overpowered the blood. Treatments ranged from leeches, to opium, and a trip to the Alps. By the 18th century, some doctors suggested treating nostalgia with pain therapy (Boym 4-6)!

Back in 1993, Dr. Morris Holbrook of Columbia University released a study of nostalgia and consumer preferences in the Journal of Consumer Research, and his results “appear to offer clear support for the importance of nostalgia as a phenomenon” (Holbrook, 1993, p. 254).

Nowadays, nostalgia has been shown to be therapeutic and often has positive effects on mood and emotional stability. Some of the most recent breakthroughs have been made by University of Southampton psychologist Constantine Sedikides and his colleagues, who have published their findings in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

A “Nostalgia Workout” which consists of writing down a favorite memory and/recalling a good experience for about 20 minutes per day has been shown to be effective in mood-boosting and wellness studies.Those who practiced this “workout” felt more alive and energetic on average. It essentially behaves as a sort of natural anti-depressant.

According to The University of Cologne’s Dr. Filippo Cordaro , “Recalling these experiences makes us feel a stronger sense of social connectedness with others. We’ve done some research looking at what people usually describe as a ‘typical nostalgic experience’ and find that people typically think about positive experiences in which the self is the protagonist, but they are surrounded by and interacting with others.”

        So if you’re feeling rundown, or just sad, remember to sit back and look back, because nostalgia is good for you. References