Food creates memories. Food from your childhood creates nostalgia for a time and place that you left behind. I recently chanced upon Rukmini Srinivas’ book Tiffin which is a delightful food memoir and an ode to food of the community I belong to. Double dose of nostalgia – stories from a time gone by and food that I grew up eating.
Over time, I have got more and more nostalgic about things that remind me of childhood, none of which I was particularly fond of during my teenage and young adult years. I always disliked the smell of jasmine, but now I am inexplicably drawn to it. I prefer to read comics that I loved as a child to unwind after a long day at work.
Whether it is books, food, music or movies that take you back to happy times, nostalgia has the power to lift your mood. Nostalgia is more than just reminiscing. It is an emotion – a warm, fuzzy feeling that takes you back to fond memories from the past. As I sat in my garden inhaling the sweet scent of jasmine, carnatic music in the backgound and tea in hand, I idly wondered why this is and if there is evidence or science to support it.
A quick internet search reveals that there is. Research shows that nostalgia helps people relate their past experiences to their present and give more meaning to your life. It can provide a window to your true self. This can boost mood and reduce stress. Nostalgia can also strengthen the relationships, making you feel more valued and loved. My husband and I are often nostalgic about our many road trips on the bike during monsoons in India. It makes us feel young, fun, free. When I remove my nostalgic, rose-tinted glasses, I briefly wonder if they were really as fun (being soaking wet for hours in pouring rain does not sound like it), but I push that thought away.
Research also shows that nostalgia can produce increased optimism for the future. Isn’t it strange that we hold on to rose tinted pieces of the past while we build our future and live our present? Probably, nostalgia is a mental time machine – reflecting on our fondest memories from the past to gather inspiration and create a better version of yourself in the future.