By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On Thursday night, “Murphy Brown” came back on the air 20 years after the series ended, stirring up some warm memories among fans.

So, why does nostalgia feel so good? Good Question.

From sledding down a hill to Christmas on the grandparents’ farm, to a son’s first birthday, those stories make people feel happy. Researchers say people report feeling nostalgic two or three times a week.

“It is tinged with a sense bittersweetness, but they’re predominantly pretty positive,” said Bridget Robinson-Riegler, professor of psychology at Augsburg University. “And remember, you’re seeing this with rose-colored glasses.”

The new “Murphy Brown” (credit: CBS)

The concept of nostalgia was coined in the 1600s when a physician that Swiss mercenaries thinking of home caused anxiety.

“But 300 years of research and empirical evidence has showed us that instead, that causal arrow goes the other way,” said Robinson-Riegler. “When we are depressed, when we are feeling alone, when we are feeling angst-ridden, we turn to nostalgia because that makes us feel better.”

Robinson-Riegler says the neural substrates, the things responsible for how people construct memories of the past, are the same mechanisms by which people project about the future.

“So it’s really easy then to project those positive feelings into our present and into our future, so we feel optimistic,” said Robinson-Riegler.

Heather Brown


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