Why Do People Turn to Nostalgia in Times of Crisis?

Ever since the coronavirus pandemic started, New York Times writer Danielle Campoamor says she’s been longing for items from her past. “For some reason, I pine for the days when I would call a friend on her landline and get a busy signal, or inexplicably hid behind my precarious swivel chair the moment my crush logged on to AIM, the AOL messaging service,” she writes–and she’s not alone in this pandemic-prodded pining for nostalgia.

“Trauma takes away our gray areas. It divides our timeline into a before and an after,” says Dr. Valentina Stoycheva, who’s a clinical psychologist. “And while it has the danger of creating this longing for the before, when things were maybe safer, and when we were unaware of all of this and protected by our naïveté, there’s also something about nostalgic behaviors—fashion, clothes, movies, music—that serve as a transitional object. Anything that can help you calm yourself down, feel more soothed, feel more grounded, is very useful.”