Nostalgia can make you younger

Last Updated on November 27, 2016 by Dave Farquhar

This month’s Social Engineer podcast featured psychology professor Dr. Ellen Langer, whose specialty is mindfulness. Dr. Langer brought up a lot of important things, including the idea of work-life integration rather than the more difficult work-life balance, but another thing she briefly touched on really resonated with me. She brought up a study, originally done in the late 1970s, where a group of 80-somethings were immersed in 1959 for a week. At the end of the week, they didn’t act like 80-somethings anymore. It seems nostalgia can make you younger.

That got me thinking about the power of nostalgia.

I think at some level we as a society have come to realize this, and we have for a while. I remember being frustrated with my parents as a teenager because they seemed to be stuck in the 1960s. The radio station they listened to played about 32 songs from the 1960s over and over again, and they both seemed to be obsessed with John F. Kennedy.

But according to the findings from this study, they were actually doing their brains a favor by paying regular visits to the 1960s. Perhaps the 1970s would have been a better place for Mom to visit, since that would have put her in her 20s instead of her teens, but overall the idea is the same. Going back to those younger years helps us to keep our brain younger, and a younger brain leads to a healthier brain, and a younger, healthier body also follows.

A nice side effect is that we make better decisions, including better security decisions, but this goes far beyond protecting ourselves and our employers from social engineers and hackers and other criminal elements. As with many things, a holistic approach comes with many unintended benefits.

That got me thinking about technology. For a long time, it’s been possible to turn back the clock to a degree by our choice of the music we listen to and the television programs we watch, but as technology marches on, we’re getting even more opportunities. So much of what’s happened for the last two decades was recorded not only on paper and film, but on computers, and while much is lost, a great deal of it is available online, only buried.

The major media outlets could really do the world a favor by making that old content easily accessible via turn-back-the-clock links to bring up the major stories of 10 and 20 years ago today. Our awareness and health would improve dramatically.

And of course all of this is a convenient excuse for me to listen to New Wave music and mess around with old Commodore computers and Lionel trains. But I’d like to think it’s more than that as well.

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