How watching Stranger Things could make you a happier person

Sarah Orme investigates the mental health benefits of indulging in on-screen nostalgia

Stranger Things kids

With the pop culture references to books and films of the 80s – from Stephen King to ET – the clothes, the hair (we’re looking at you Steve Harrington) and, of course, the music, how could you not feel nostalgic while watching Stranger Things.

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And who doesn’t enjoy a bit of retro TV? It allows those of us of a certain age to relive rose-tinted recollections of our childhood – of riding around with friends on a Chopper bike, hanging out in the amusement arcade and playing Dungeons and Dragons.

Studies have even found that nostalgia can be good for our mental health and can have a range of benefits from calming anxiety to increasing empathy.

Why nostalgia is good for your mental health

Historically, nostalgia was seen as a bad thing. Back in the 19th century, it was given as a cause of death during the American Civil War and doctors warned that excessive nostalgia for lost places and people could make the sufferer waste away. Grim stuff.

Today our view has become more positive and there are several studies that recognise the psychological benefits.

Nostalgia can help to reduce feelings of anxiety, counter negative emotions and increase feelings of compassion towards others.

A study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that people who experienced nostalgia were more likely to feel optimistic about their future lives and have a better sense of self esteem.

And, of course, nostalgia feels good too.

Why nostalgia feels good

Looking through photos of happier times has been shown to improve our wellbeing and our sense of being connected to a wider community.

It reminds us of loved ones and gives us the chance to remember how we felt at the time. Studies by the University of Southampton have found that nostalgia creates a sense of belonging and researchers have even created the Southampton Nostalgia Scale to measure how nostalgic a person is.

Their research may lead to nostalgia therapies for depression and Alzheimer’s.

Stranger Things behind the scenes (Netflix, JG)

7 ways to preserve and relive positive memories

There are lots of techniques you can use to enjoy and safeguard your positive memories:

  1. Make a memory box. This is a technique that’s sometimes used to help dementia sufferers because it helps them to reconnect with good memories. You can fill the box with photos, old greetings cards and even scented items, such as candles, to evoke powerful memories. Whenever you want to relive the memories, you just need to get the box out and rummage through it.
  2. Create a photo collage. We’re all guilty of leaving our photos languishing on our phones, in an album or on a memory card, where we can’t really appreciate them. Spend an afternoon going through all of your old pictures – print them out and put your favourites in a frame – this makes a great gift for friends and family as well.
  3. Start a memory diary. A memory diary is a great thing to pass on to children when they’re old enough, so that they can know who you really are. But writing one can be an enjoyable process in itself. You need to think about experiences in your life that you’re happy to share. This can be anything from your memories of your school days to recollections of family holidays. If starting your own is too intimidating, you can find ready-made memory journals with prompts to kick off your journey.
  4. Have a retro film night. Pick few favourite films from your childhood and settle down to watch them with some old friends.
  5. Sit down with an old friend. Get some old friends together and talk about your younger years – and write down your memories. They’ll remember details that you’ve forgotten.
  6. Focus on an item or photo. Find a calm place and focus on the memories tied to a specific item (such as jewellery) or a photo of an event.
  7. Relive a happy time. Thinking about a positive memory can help to improve your mood, particularly if you have depression. Spend some time thinking about a good time and how you felt then. Who was with you? What did you see and do? What were the smells? What did people say to you? It’s important to keep your thoughts positive though – if you find that your mind is lingering on negative memories or feelings then it’s time to stop.

Sarah Orme is digital editor of In The Moment

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In The Moment Magazine is a beautiful, practical magazine for the modern-thinking woman. Visit CalmMoment.com for the latest trends in mindfulness, wellbeing, food, travel and more. Follow In The Moment Magazine on InstagramTwitter and on Facebook.

In The Moment Magazine cover, TG