The power of nostalgia: How those favourite tunes from your youth can boost happiness

Therapist reveals the incredible power of listening to those good old songs and why she prescribes it to her patients as a way to take a healthy trip down memory lane. Source: Getty Images.

We all know that feeling! A favourite tune from those heady days of youth plays on the radio and we are instantly immersed into nostalgic memories of a time when the future seemed endless.

According to licensed therapist and Tik Tok user, Nikki Roy, there is a name for that surge of happiness we get from listening to nostalgic music and it’s called neural nostalgia.

In a video shared to Tik Tok, Nikki explains the phenomenon and why it’s so powerful for our adult brains even though the music was from our teenage and early adult years.

@nikkiroy.collection Replying to @Amanda G | Travelmation Agent neural nostalgia with the coolest connections as to why this occurs #neuralnostalgia #musichealingvibes #innerchildhealing ♬ original sound – Nikki // Real 🌎 Mental Health

Nikki explains why neural nostalgia has such a powerful impact on adult brains. 

“Researchers are actually finding that the music we listened to as teenagers binds to our brains differently than anything we’re ever going to hear as adults,” she said.

As a result, she says it’s “one of the best coping skills” and admits to listening to the music she loved when she was a teen.

“It actually helps us,” she explained.

“It makes us feel alive again.”

Nikki’s followers were quick to echo her observations about neural nostalgia.

“Omg this makes SO MUCH SENSE!!! I am probably my happiest when in the car blasting early 2000’s.”

“So that’s why I still listen to the same music 15 years later.”

Some even shared the music they like to listen to when they’re feeling down.

“Avril Lavigne “I’m with you” whenever I’m down.”

Speaking to BuzzFeed, Nikki revealed more about the effects of neural nostalgia.

“Neural nostalgia is more than just a cultural phenomenon where we enjoy the music of our teenage years,” she said.

“Researchers have uncovered evidence to suggest that it’s a neuronic command, meaning that singing and dancing along to songs we bonded to in our adolescence can activate our premotor cortex, prefrontal cortex, synchronize our neurons, and trigger emotions.”

She said the songs we enjoyed listening to with our friends while growing up create a “firework show” in our brains.

“When we make connections to a song, we also create a strong memory trace that embeds with emotion,” Nikki revealed.

“This can happen across the lifespan, but because of the rapid brain development and hormone surges during adolescence, the music can become fundamentally intertwined.”

Nikki also explained the physiological activity that takes place in our brains when we listen to those old school songs.

“Our bodies will experience surges of dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin, which will increase optimism, inspiration, meaning in life, memory, emotion regulation, and social connectedness,” she said.

When asked about listening to music associated with trauma and negative experiences she said, “Music can bring back memories, emotions, and bodily senses of times in our lives that we did not feel safe.

“Each individual person’s experience with this will be different, and it’s important to trust your own intuition with what you feel safe and regulated with,” she revealed.

Nikki added that listening to music that makes us feel sad can sometimes give us the permission to “feel our emotions, relate to the artist and feel a compassionate sense of common humanity.”


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