The Power of Music Nostalgia
How many songs can you associate that sentimental longing and wistful affection with? Have you ever wondered how and why you feel this way?
The nostalgia we associate with our favourite songs is a "neurological wormhole that gives us a glimpse into the years when our brains leapt with joy at the music that's come to define us," says Mark Joseph Stern in a Slate article.
I have my "feel good" memories with a selected number of songs. Every time I listen to them, I enter another realm of reality, and it's like I'm on cloud nine. I could jam to any new song, but my "feel good" list of music never fails to transport me back into time.
That's the power of nostalgic music. These songs happen to stimulate specific parts of our brain that give us a rush of the pleasure neurotransmitter dopamine, urging us to repeat the behaviour that made us feel rewarded and good.
This might explain why we listen to the same song repeatedly, especially when one part of the song sends chills down our spine and makes the hair on the back of our necks rise. You know what I'm talking about. Did the specific lyrics to that song come to mind?
Listening to these songs repeatedly during the formative times in our lives makes us develop an emotional attachment to them, so they stick to us for life.
In an article, Katherine Gillespie says, "listening to music lights up the brain's visual cortex," meaning that when we hear a song or a particular tune, we immediately associate with memories, experiences, or images. Maybe the minute a soundtrack comes on the radio, you think about your crush or that hangout spot with your friends from high school or college.
Music tends to provoke general recollections, such as the feeling of being a 6-year-old with no responsibilities or stress, a college student, or the feeling you get before you're hopping on your flight to travel across the globe. Some songs make us nostalgic over more detailed events, including our first kiss, getting married, landing an interview, or even prom night.
When it comes to music nostalgia, the music we listened to when we were younger will always influence us for the rest of our lives, and researchers have proved this through neurological explanations.
Katherine Gillespie mentions that "Your brain develops during these years, and so it stands to reason that the music you listened to as a teenager becomes quite literally formative." She even highlights the results of a 2008 study of humans retaining more memories in their teenage years and twenties than in any other phase of their life.
During the teenage and roaring twenties phase of our lives, people seem to listen to more music than ever. That includes at parties, while studying, a road trip with friends, dealing with a first love or first heartbreak, and swapping playlists with close buddies.
So go back to those nostalgic songs and detach yourself from reality a little bit! I assure you it's a magical feeling.