Utilizing Nostalgia in Storytelling

When was the last time you played with something that brought back warm childhood memories? It could be something like an Etch A Sketch, a Rubik’s cube, a comic book, or maybe a classic arcade game? Whatever it was, chances are you felt nostalgic, but what exactly is nostalgia and why is it so important in storytelling and content writing?

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Nostalgia is the reason there’s still classic shiny cars driving on the road. It’s why a video game console that’s 2 decades old still sells for over $100. It’s the reason Disney produces live-action remakes of animated movies like The Lion King and Aladdin. Netflix’s Stranger Things is a massive success, and it feels like a movie straight out of the 80’s. If you look for it, there is nostalgia everywhere.

Nostalgia is Born

Up until the end of the 20th century nostalgia was considered a psychological illness. The term nostalgia was first coined by swiss medical student Johannes Hofer in 1688 as a condition for Swiss mercenaries who felt “homesick”. Back then symptoms of nostalgia included high fever, fainting, stomach pain, weeping, and even death. Nostalgia was considered so dangerous that soldiers were forbidden to sing a traditional Swiss song called Kuhreihen for fear that it might lead to desertion or illness. Even through the 18th and 19th century Nostalgia was considered a neurological disease.

Today nostalgia is much different. In fact, research has shown that reflecting on good memories helps individuals feel inspired, be optimistic about the future, and it boosts self esteem. In one study, listening to music like Christmas jingles or your favorite songs can actually trick your body into feeling warmer. Another reason why everyone enjoys holiday classics during cold winter months.

Nostalgia and Storytelling

Nostalgia is an important aspect in storytelling because it connects with people on a more personal level. If you’re trying to sell razors and describe a time when you accidently cut yourself on a cheap pair, odds are someone else can relate to that and it adds a personal touch that makes your story more honest and convincing. Talking about real experiences might also increase your listeners/readers trustworthiness.

Many of us reminisce about the past for a reason. We like to remember things that are enjoyable and that we care about. Actually, relating to past experiences can make writing easier because the information is already there. If you’re ever stuck on how to start writing a story, being nostalgic is a great practice because it literally pulls in heaps of information that can be used to get the ball rolling.


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