Ever thought about how nostalgia can help you connect with your audience? Me, neither. Don’t confuse nostalgia with sentimentality, but do learn how to use it to draw readers in.

Do You Remember?

We had a pastor once, who started every sermon the same. He would stand up, lean in close, and say, “I remember…” Parishioners would settle down on the pews a bit, and kids would set aside their crayons and coloring pages. Everyone loves a good story, and our pastor always had one.

When he baptized our daughters in the cold waters of a nearby lake, he started with a story—the story of the first time he met our girls. Later, when he officiated at our oldest daughter’s wedding, he started with a story about when he baptized the groom.

He used nostalgia to connect with the audience. We not only thought about the couple’s happiness in the present, but ways they had changed, matured, and grown from careless kids to responsible adults. Which in turn made us think of the stages of our own lives.

Ever thought about how nostalgia can help you connect with your audience? Me, neither. Don't confuse nostalgia with sentimentality, but do learn how to use it to draw readers in. #nostalgia #powerfulwriting #blogger #blogging #amwriting #write28days

It’s Not a Mental Disorder

In the 17th Century, when a Swiss physician, Johannes Hoffer, used the Greek words nostos (home) and algos (pain) to form a new word—nostalgia, he used the term to describe suffering soldiers.

And for centuries, people believed that nostalgia—”wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for a return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition” could harm a person and make them feel depressed. Even the dictionary definition makes it sounds harmful.

But new research proves otherwise. Dr. Sedikides, Professor of Social and Personality Psychology within the Psychology Department at the University of Southampton (England) has studied nostalgia for the past twenty years. He and his research team have discovered the positive psychological benefits of nostalgia and how people use experiences from the past to cope with the present.

“Nostalgia confers psychological benefits. When engaging in nostalgic reflection, people report a stronger sense of belongingness, affiliation, or sociality; they convey higher continuity between their past and their present; they describe their lives as more meaningful; and they often indicate higher levels of self-esteem and positive mood.”

Dr. Sedikides

They even introduced a new word—nostalgize, to describe the act of bringing up nostalgic memories. Nostalgia makes us feel better (it can even make us feel warmer when we experience cold).

Nostalgia Sells

Marketers and politicians have known for hundreds of years that nostalgia sells. If they can evoke feelings of ‘better times,’ childhood, weddings, college days, or just about any positive aspect of our lives, they will have success in selling their product.

In a recent episode of Building a Storybrand with Donald Miller, Ben Weprin describes how he’s created a successful line of boutique hotels based on story and nostalgia.

He builds or renovates on property near university campuses and builds a story around each hotel. Weprin and his team interview graduates from the universities to collect stories, moments, and fond memories—the building blocks of nostalgia.

He uses the memories and anecdotes to create an avatar with a story that would resonate with his potential customers. Everything from the lobby to the rooftop restaurants evokes memories of the past and brings hope for the future—two key elements of nostalgia.

How to Use Nostalgia in Your Writing

Jesus understood the power of story. Stories, even stories about someone else, evoke memories in us, giving us an emotional tie to what we read. That emotional tie helps us learn the lesson, acknowledge the truth, or come to an important realization as we read.

Without story, blog posts can end up feeling like a college textbook. Skillful writers can evoke nostalgia from the lobby to the rooftop by using story to invite readers into their experience.

Without story, blog posts can end up feeling like a college textbook. #amwriting #story #nostalgia Click To Tweet

You can incorporate story into your blog posts in a variety of ways:

  • Start with dialogue.
  • Share an anecdote (very short story) that raises a question, and then circle back and answer the question at the end.
  • Incorporate the five senses into your story (and post, if possible).
  • Approach your topic with the heart of a storyteller rather than an information giver.

The power of nostalgia lies in how skillful writers use it to form deep connections or shared experiences with the reader. Our pastor could have started with a Bible verse and followed an outline point by point. Instead, he used a story to draw us in and evoke nostalgia so that our hearts would open to receive deeper truths.

Nostalgia endures because it forms deep connections with the reader—lasting connections. Don’t just write for the moment, write for eternity.

Come back tomorrow, when we talk about the overwhelm of change and how to make the impossible possible.