Why Childhood Movies Spark Such Good Feelings

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Have you ever watched the movies you loved as a kid and realized they aren’t as good as you thought they were? The acting isn’t up to par, the storyline is a little more predictable than you remember, and the graphics aren’t remotely believable.

But, you definitely still love them anyway.

Reactions like these come from a sense of nostalgia for your beloved childhood memories.

Nostalgia wasn't always such a rosy feeling.

In fact, it was once a diagnosable disease. French doctor Jourdan Le Cointe thought nostalgia should be treated by "inciting pain and terror".

It's true, nostalgia cures ranged from sending sufferers home to threatening them with pain and terror—but some treatments contained sound advice.

However, it has made a complete turnaround among Psychologists. It has gone from symptomatic disorder, to commonly felt, even happy, emotion. Nostalgia does have its painful side — it’s a bittersweet emotion — but the net effect is to make life seem more meaningful and death less frightening...Nostalgia has been shown to counteract loneliness, boredom and anxiety. It makes people more generous to strangers and more tolerant of outsiders.

Although the thought of nostalgia as a disease may seem way off, I think we can all agree that allowing yourself to fall into an endless cycle of nostalgia is a form of self-deception. It leads you to believe that everything was right in the world and hinders the furthering of your adulthood. it invariably involves distortion and idealization of the past, not least because the bad or boring bits fade from memory more quickly than the peak experiences.

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Hundreds of years later, nostalgia is no longer a disease, but a positive emotion.

So imagine this, you are watching Cinderella, and you realize a number of things: she has a fairy godmother and a team of animals who help her make a dress for a ball at which she dances with a prince who immediately falls in love with her. This all seems so far-fetched now, doesn’t it?

Regardless, we still love these childhood movies just the same. This is because of that feeling of nostalgia for the innocence and blind happiness we had in our youth and the events we have chosen to prioritize in our memories--the happy ones.

Like watching the movie through rose-colored glasses, you are able to see the ridiculousness of what is really going on, but you give it more credit than it’s due because it reminds you of your happy childhood. We allow ourselves to reminisce on what was once good because we remember it more clearly.

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When you dwell on the memories of your past, you remember a simpler time without heartache or stress or responsibilities, this phenomenon is called the reminiscence bump.

The reminiscence bump helps you recall your sharpest memories, those experienced between the ages of 15 and 30.

Nostalgia doesn’t inspire anger, but a sense of calm washes over you and you feel nothing but the happiness felt in that time.

This happiness isn't limited to a time that you have experienced either, it spans all the way back to a time when life was simpler for everyone, like the 1950s or 60s. We copy the trends and watch the shows based in that time because it helps us forget out day to day troubles.

We definitely didn’t all have perfect childhoods, I know I sure didn’t. A perfect childhood almost doesn’t exist anymore--- two parents happily married, white picket fence, a big scruffy dog, and perfectly sweet siblings. That doesn’t mean we don’t remember our childhood fondly. In fact, because of nostalgia, most people do prioritize their happy memories because these are the easiest memories to return to.

Personally, I loved Cinderella. It was the first DVD I remember owning and it played on loop in the back of my mom’s white Chevy Blazer. When I was 7, my mom made my sister and I (12 years apart in age) matching Cinderella dresses for Halloween, which I wore every day for a year.

But when I watch it now, I have an enlightened response to the movie. A sort-of, “well this is cute” reaction rather than imagining how my life would be if I were Cinderella.

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This feeling of nostalgia is something that has followed us through our lives and pops up at various points into adulthood, but it has come a long way from diagnosable disease. It shows us what really matters in life by creating a sense of longing for it when it is gone.

Most of all, nostalgia makes us feel good! That is why there are so many remakes of old movies and TV shows, as well as movie adaptations of popular books. They might not be as good as the original, but they remind us of a simpler time in our lives-- and who doesn’t want that!?!

If you want to spark some nostalgic feels here's how for every age group:

20s: Lilo and Stitch

30s: A Walk To Remember

40s: Pretty Woman

50s: The Breakfast Club