Thinking fondly about the past can make you more excited about what's to come, according to a new study.
Nostalgia seems to spur optimism for the future because it "raises self-esteem which in turn heightens optimism," study researcher Dr. Tim Wildschut, of the University of Southampton, said in a statement.
"Memories of the past can help to maintain current feelings of self-worth and can contribute to a brighter outlook on the future," he added. "Our findings do imply that nostalgia, by promoting optimism, could help individuals cope with psychological adversity."
Wildschut and his team, who came from Tilburg University, the University of Missouri-Columbia, and the University of Surrey, conducted four experiments as part of their Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin study.
For one of the experiments, study participants were asked to either write about a nostalgic event, or an ordinary event. The participants who were asked to write about the nostalgic event used more optimistic words and expressions in their writing, versus those who wrote about the ordinary event.
In another experiment, researchers had study participants listen to either a nostalgic song or a control song (which had been validated in past research to not arouse feelings of nostalgia). Researchers then asked the participants to report their levels of optimistic feelings after listening to the music. Those who listened to the nostalgic song reported higher optimism levels than those who listened to the control song.
Both nostalgia and optimism have been linked with positive outcomes in past research. A 2011 study in the Journal of Consumer Research, for instance, showed that nostalgia seems to make people more charitable. A 2010 study in the journal Psychological Science, on the other hand, suggested that optimism could actually improve health by boosting the body's immune response.