This article is part of TIME on the weekendissue 51/2023.
If at Christmas Driving Home for Christmas is playing on the car radio or a photo of your first love suddenly appears while you’re tidying up, a strange longing can come over you. The longing for what once was and is no longer and will never be again. Nostalgia can be painful, but it can also be good for you psyche. Researchers believe it could even help with dementia, depression and post-traumatic stress.
The Greek word contains the fact that nostalgia is more positive than its name suggests algos for pain – is a relatively new finding for scientists. When the Swiss medical student Johannes Hofer at the end of the 17th century Nostalgia was first described, he still considered it a mental illness that afflicted Swiss mercenaries far from their homeland. In fact, until the early 20th century, it was believed that nostalgia was a psychological disorder, similar to depression. This only changed when psychology increasingly became an empirical science: researchers discovered that many symptoms that they had attributed to nostalgia – such as fear, sadness or unhappiness – were not triggered by it, but were at best accompanied by it .