Do you have memories of places you visited as a child? Were you one of the lucky kids who's family went on a trip every summer or maybe enjoyed a yearly trip to a classic Minnesota resort? Do you still recall what it felt like when you arrived at your destination, the names of the friends you made, or maybe even still connect with on social media?
Have you shared these places with your own children or provided them with the opportunity to make their own nostalgia?
It turns out, taking a nostalgia vacation is good for you. When you go back to a happy place from your past — whether it’s a place you visited as a child or one you took your own children to as an adult — good memories overtake your brain.
“In these situations, the unconscious mind does not know the difference between the present and the past,” says Dr. Wendy Nickerson, a Florida psychologist who founded International Health Coaching Enterprises.
And the “happy hormones” experienced the first time are re-triggered.
Taking a nostalgia vacation can help adults feel more optimistic about the present and the future.
“They may recall their child in awe when seeing the ocean for the first time or their screams of laughter as they chased squirrels around the trees at a national park campsite,” Nickerson says. “When this happens, oxytocin is immediately released throughout their bodies, creating a sensation of happiness and contentment.”
The benefits go even deeper than that. Taking a nostalgia vacation can help adults feel more optimistic about the present and the future, according to a 2013 study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, because they help us put things into perspective.
“When we can learn to be in acceptance of times gone by, we are freed up to experience feelings of great gratitude and are able to see the bigger picture and legacy of the divine unfolding of our lives,” Nickerson says. “We begin to feel appreciative for the things that we did right as parents and the inherent gifts that we have passed down to our children. This type of nostalgia vacation has the propensity to activate this grander and divine acceptance and feelings of inner peace.”
A road trip may offer purely physical benefits, too. A study from UC Berkeley suggests that the positive emotions we experience when looking at the breathtaking natural beauty of say, the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone Park, can actually lower levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
And the more one experiences happy and peaceful emotions, the more one experiences good health, both mentally and physically.
There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered ~Nelson Mandela