Nostalgia: Why we love the Beauty and the Beast remake

23 March 2017 - Mindful Living

This month’s most talked about movie is no doubt the live-action remake of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Called a “nostalgia drive-smash” by Disney distribution chief Dave Hollis, many of us who grew up with the 1991 animated movie left the cinema with awe, wonder and a wistful longing for our childhoods.

‘Nostalgia’ comes from the Greek words ‘nostos’, meaning home, and ‘algos’, meaning pain. It is a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, and was once considered a medical disease. It is often thought to be a negative feeling because it implies that the past has overwhelmed the present.

In this digital age, where we have easy access to shareable memories and pasts and the film industry churns out numerous remakes of profitable classic stories, nostalgia is more prevalent than ever.

Every generation thinks back upon their past with a certain wistful fondness. What is it about the past, or the longing for it, that makes nostalgia so attractive and even romanticised?

According to Tim Wildschut and Constantine Sedikides, researchers at the University of Southampton, nostalgia has far more benefits than we think. While positive nostalgic stories are also tinged with a wistful sense of loss, the net effect of nostalgia’s positive elements greatly outweigh the negative.

So what makes nostalgia so attractive to us?

1. Nostalgia makes us feel less lonely.

According to research by Wildschut and Sedikides, nostalgia fosters empathy and social connectedness. It restores a sense of worth, belonging and community. If you grew up with Beauty and the Beast, think of the warm and fuzzy feelings you shared with your friends as you recounted similar memories and sentiments about it. A sense of belonging is cultivated when a group shares similar experiences growing up.

2. Nostalgia helps us deal with difficult situations.

As Wildschut and his research partner Constantine Sedikides found, nostalgia grounds us in difficult situations because when we think back about past events, we realise the transient nature of things, and are able to “evaluate the present as a temporary state, and in doing so it perhaps build resilience”.

3. Nostalgia reminds us to be kind to ourselves.

Nostalgia often involves thinking back on past negative experiences. Instead of becoming attached to anger and bitterness, such memories can be reframed as valuable learning experiences. For example, thinking back on being bullied as a child is painful and difficult, but you can remind yourself of how that experience allowed for growth, made you the person you are today and gives you the strength to conquer the present. As the saying goes, “Tough times don’t last, tough people do.” As bittersweet as nostalgia is, it reminds us that we have come a long way and to give ourselves a pat on the back.

4. Nostalgia gives us hope and makes life more meaningful.

As John Tierney puts it in The New York Times, nostalgia’s net effect is to “make life seem more meaningful and death less frightening” because it creates hope. Speaking wistfully of the past typically results in feelings of optimism and inspires us to push on. As Sedikides says, “Nostalgia made me feel that my life had roots and continuity. It made me feel good about myself and my relationships. It provided a texture to my life and gave me strength to move forward.”

How has nostalgia helped you live your present moments well? Let us know at hello@mindful-company.com.

- The Mindful Company Team

Image credit to Metro.