Could the nostalgia of renting a video tape be good for your mental health?

Posted on 19 May 2020
By Dana Andersen
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Be it good or bad, we all have times when we find ourselves looking back on the past, through those rose tinted glasses. Losing ourselves in nostalgia has long been seen as a negative state of being, wallowing in the past, rather than looking forward to the future.

The term ‘nostalgia’ was first coined by a Swiss philosopher in the 17th century, considered a ‘disorder’ that explained many conditions soldiers experienced, they simply missed home.

The Cambridge dictionary definition for nostalgia is ‘a feeling of pleasure and also slight sadness when you think about things that happened in the past’, notice how it implies that the element of pleasure, outweighs the ‘slight sadness’ experienced.

For a lot of people, feelings of nostalgia pop up most around Christmas time. When the cookies are being baked like they are every year, the christmas decorations our parents have held onto since our childhoods come out, and the new year lurks just ahead, waiting for us to look back on the last year, and use the experiences we’ve had that year, to decide what we’ll do with the next.

This is because “connecting the past with the present, pointing optimistically to the future” is predominately what nostalgia helps us do, according to Professor Constantine Sedikides, a leading researcher on the subject of Nostalgia at Southampton University.

It’s thanks to a colleague of Sedikides that he began researching this emotion. After talking about nostalgia he experienced for his home, after moving to England, his colleague assumed he must be depressed to dwell in the past.

Nostalgia, it seems, is not about dwelling in the past though. Looking back on our lives, experiencing nostalgia for the things that have happened to us, gives us a feeling on continuity in our lives.

A 2012 study, published in the journal Memory, showed that experiencing nostalgia can boost your mood, and help lower stress. It also increases feelings of social connectedness, makes people feel loved and valued, and increases perceptions of social support, helping tackle loneliness.

If nostalgia has so many positive benefits for our mental health, what can we do to healthily encourage its presence in our lives? Many people are returning to the nostalgia bombs of VHS tapes. Everything about them screams of childhood nostalgia for most of us, from opening the box, putting the tape into the VCR, and finally watching a well loved movie, in the way it was originally intended to be seen.

Even better, at VideOdyssey in Liverpool, you can recreate the full experience by renting a tape! Dubbed the UK’s last video shop, they stay up to date by selling tapes on eBay, but you can also venture in store to be transported back to the 80’s or 90’s. If you have any memory of VHS tapes from your childhood, this is the place to go for the ultimate nostalgia trip.

Sharing your nostalgia with other people can also help strengthen relationships, couples that share nostalgic memories have shown to usually be happier, and the relationship stronger, than those who don’t.

Sharing our nostalgic memories of loved ones after they’ve passed, can help deal with the grief, and help families smile and laugh again. Being nostalgic about past experiences, and achievements, can help us remember our abilities, and help drive us to experience those things again.

Mental health is important and complex. Talking to a friend or family member about pleasant memories, although helpful, will never be an alternative to talking to a professional. Especially during these difficult times, speaking to a professional can help. Don’t try to go it alone – BetterHelp
is a great resource for finding counselling.

While getting too caught up in the past is clearly a negative, the feeling of nostalgia has shown to have a positive influence on our mental health, our relationships, and how we choose to live in the future.

Next time you begin to feel those tell tale hints of nostalgia, look through some old pictures, share some memories with a friend, or even rent a video tape! What better way to learn about the positive affects of nostalgia than by experiencing them for yourself?