TED Talk Outline


  1. The story of Odysseus
    1. After the Trojan War, Odysseus takes ten years to return to Ithaca
    2. Uses the thoughts of his family and his penelope to get back home
  2. Nostalgia seen as a bad thing
    1. Derived from Greek “nostos” meaning return and “algos” meaning pain
    2. Assumed suffering that went along with the thoughts of the past
  3. Nostalgia isn’t a bad thing, can actually be a good thing

Nostalgia in the past

  1. 17th century medical student coined the term for anxieties displayed by swiss mercenaries fighting away from home, “neurological disease of essentially demonic cause”
  2. People seen as maladapted to the present and afraid of the future
    1. Seen as a mental illness, a disconnection from the real world, and a coping mechanism for the pathetic and melancholic
  3. Example: Constantine Sedkides moved from the University of North Carolina to the University of Southampton, England. Told a colleague about thoughts about his previous home, who told him he was depressed for living in the past. But he said those thoughts didn’t make him sad, they showed him he had roots and a community. The gave him the strength to move forward.

The past is what makes us able to handle the present and move forward to the future

  1. “Nostalgia is a way for us to tap into the past experiences that we have that are quite meaningful— to remind us that our lives are worthwhile, that we are people of value, that we have good relationships, that we are happy and that life has some sense of purpose or meaning”
  2. Usually involuntary and triggered by negative feelings, so people assume it’s bad
  3. Acts as an anti-depressant
  4. Makes us feel meaningful and tied to a shared history
    1. Gives us a wider lens
  5. Counteracts loneliness, boredom and anxiety

Nostagia in this fast paced world

  1. Paradox of technological advances – internet and TV channels allow us to go back to the past
  2. Most common in young adults, who are coping with important life transitions; and older adults who are looking back and reevaluating their lives
  3. Triggers: smells, music
  4. Most people experience it once a week, nearly half experience it three or four times a week
  5. Important to find a sweet spot
    1. Don’t let the past remind us of what we are not now
    2. Don’t be nostalgic for something that hasn’t ended yet


  1. Build nostalgic-to-be memories (anticipatory nostalgia)
  2. Experience is a prized possession— no one can take it away, it should be cherished

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