Indulging in nostalgia could be an effective way to combat cold temperatures, according to new research that shows the fuzzy, heart-warming feeling has real body-warming effects.
"Nostalgia is experienced frequently and virtually by everyone. and we know that it can maintain psychological comfort. For example, nostalgic reverie can combat loneliness," Tim Wildschut, a psychology researcher of the University of Southampton in England, explained in a statement. "We wanted to take that a step further and assess whether it can also maintain physiological comfort."
Wildschut and his colleagues set up several experiments to examine the link between nostalgia — a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past — and temperature. In one study, volunteers from universities in China and the Netherlands kept a log of their wistful feelings over 30 days, showing that they tended to feel more nostalgic on colder days.
In another study, participants were placed in a cold room, instructed to recall either a nostalgic or ordinary event from their past, and then asked to guess the temperature of the room. Those filled with nostalgia generally estimated that the room was warmer, the researchers said.
Another experiment also had one set of participants recall a nostalgic event and the others an ordinary event. But instead of guessing the temperature of a cold room, the volunteers placed their hand in ice-cold water to see how long they could stand it. The nostalgic participants had a greater tolerance for the cold, the researchers found.
"Our study has shown that nostalgia serves a homeostatic function, allowing the mental simulation of previously enjoyed states, including states of bodily comfort; in this case making us feel warmer or increasing our tolerance of cold," Wildschut said. "More research is now needed to see if nostalgia can combat other forms of physical discomfort, besides low temperature."
The study was published in a recent issue of the journal Emotion.
Live Science newsletter
Stay up to date on the latest science news by signing up for our Essentials newsletter.