The Healing Power of Nostalgia

Confession: I’ve watched the Keira Knightley version of Pride and Prejudice dozens, possibly hundreds of times. I find it soothing. Lovely piano music, peaceful natural scenery, lilting English accents; what’s not to love? We all have films that we revisit, perhaps not as often as I revisit the Bennets, but we all do it. Films that we watched as kids or timeless holiday classics are nostalgic and, as it turns out, a little nostalgia is good for us.

Since the start of the pandemic, much has been written about the stress-reducing power of nostalgia. The New York Times describes nostalgia as a security blanket to comfort us through the rough spots. National Geographic penned a fascinating account of the history and types of nostalgia, but my favorite nostalgic exploration is found in NPR’s Joy Generator. It’s a quick 60 second listen that I highly recommend.

From well before the pandemic, those of us in the arts understood the importance of revisiting familiar stories. We even have a technical term for the phenomenon, it’s called aesthetic validation. When we measure aesthetic enrichment we consider the ways that someone was exposed to new works, styles, or artists (aesthetic growth) or the ways in which an artistic experience served to validate and celebrate art that is familiar (aesthetic validation). At The Colonial this past season you may have experienced aesthetic growth if you saw the World Premier film Strung Along made by our own White Mountain Cinema Camp and you might have gotten a little shot of aesthetic validation at one of our beloved Anniversary Classics.

So the next time that you decide to re-watch a favorite film for the hundredth time, don’t think of it as a guilty pleasure. A little aesthetic validation is good for you! If by chance, that nostalgia includes the infamous Mr. Darcy, you can sit by me.