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World Mental Health Day: Mental health benefits of nostalgic music

Music offers many mental health benefits, including reducing stress. On World Music Day, we tell you the mental health benefits of nostalgic music.

There is a reason why those born in the ’80s or ’90s love listening to songs from that era even today. Those are the songs they have grown up listening to. And there is a deep sense of nostalgia attached to it. Nostalgic music is the music that we connect to a point in our lives. It triggers an emotionally charged time travel, offering a ways to relive key life experiences that may have shaped our sense of self. It may remind us of graduations, celebrations or a special relationship. In retrospect, nostalgic music mostly has a happy effect on us. On World Music Day, let us tell you the psychological and mental health benefits of nostalgic music.

What is nostalgic music?

Nostalgic music is a phrase used to describe songs or compositions that evoke sentimental nostalgia for the past. This happens when listening to music generates an emotional recollection of past events, encounters or periods of life. Neurologically speaking, listening to nostalgic music stimulates the hippocampus, striatum, and prefrontal cortex — areas of the brain connected to the retrieval of autobiographical memories and the processing of pleasure and reward, explains psychotherapist and life coach Dr Chandni Tugnait.

woman listening to nostalgic music
Nostalgic music has mental health benefits. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

What are the mental health benefits of nostalgic music?

Here are certain key psychological benefits of listening to old and gold music for health:

1. May improve mood

Dopamine and other feel-good neurotransmitters can be released in response to nostalgic music, elevating mood and boosting emotions. Negative thoughts are countered by the good emotions connected to happy memories.

2. May reduce stress and anxiety

Stress and anxiety levels can be reduced by the soothing familiarity of nostalgic music. Reconnecting with happier moments gives one a feeling of stability and safety, says the expert.

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3. May help you fight loneliness

Music associated with one’s history frequently evokes memories of beloved social connections and associations. Loneliness is reduced by this feeling of connection with one’s past and sense of belonging.

4. May increase self-esteem

Researchers found that listening to nostalgic music was positively associated with self-esteem, according to a 2021 study published in the Psychology of Music journal. Memories of significant life experiences that shaped one’s identity are evoked by nostalgic music. Re-establishing favourable memories of oneself from the past helps boost one’s self-esteem.

5. Could help you control emotions

This kind of music offers a way to explore and experience challenging emotions, such as fear, guilt or anger, but in a comfortable setting. This supports coping strategies and emotional control, says Dr Tugnait.

6. May help you reflect on life

Nostalgic music stimulates life review, which in turn helps people derive meaning from their personal recollections. This can strengthen one’s feeling of purpose in life, especially in times of change.

7. Boosts brain health

Nostalgic music stimulates intense memory retrieval. It works the brain’s recall, imagination, and ability to make connections between different events in a person’s life, says the expert.

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How to reap benefits of nostalgic music?

Here are a few practical ways to enjoy nostalgic music’s positive effects on mental health:

  • Make your own playlists with songs that are deeply meaningful to you in terms of nostalgia and good vibes.
  • When you listen to old music again, take the time to really feel it by paying attention and losing yourself in the moment. Consider carefully the feelings and recollections that the music brings to mind.
  • While listening, write in your notebook about the significant events, life chapters, and autobiographical recollections that the nostalgic songs remind you of. This is a great way to combine nostalgic listening with expressive writing.
  • Play some nostalgic music for people who were a part of your life in the era it depicts. Reminiscing with others about “back then” fosters a social connection that enhances the advantages.
  • Express yourself creatively through painting, writing poetry or even creating new music to channel the sentimental feelings that come from listening to old songs again.

The secret is to approach nostalgic music with attention and mindfulness so that you may really connect with the good vibes, meaningful relationships, and personal narrative that those songs represent for you, says the expert.

A woman happy listening to nostalgic music
Nostalgic music has a happy effect on people. Image courtesy: Shutterstock.

Does listening to nostalgic music have side effects?

While nostalgic music has several advantages for mental health, there are also some possible drawbacks or side effects to be mindful of:

  • Some people may experience an overwhelming wave of nostalgic feelings brought on by music.
  • Losing yourself to nostalgia can spark unpleasant recollections or make you feel depressed about how much has changed.
  • Those who are prone to rumination may find it difficult to stay present-focused and instead become trapped perpetually, reliving happy memories and events. This may exacerbate anxiety or sadness.
  • If a person excessively listens to nostalgic music, they may become unhealthily socially disengaged from their relationships and current life.

Nostalgic music may be healthy for you, as its advantages are around elevating happy emotions, and controlling negative emotions. But don’t make it a habit, as it may have side effects.

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