Subjective well-being, the overall satisfaction with one’s life and positive emotions, has been a prominent topic in positive psychology. Nostalgia, being a reservoir of positive emotions, is closely related to subjective well-being.

A study reveals that it helps in reducing loneliness and promoting social connections, making it an important coping mechanism in times of chronic isolation and widespread deprivation of freedom.

Nostalgia is associated with bringing back memories of close people or significant events, which make it easier for individuals to find meaning in life and increase their satisfaction with life. Despite the known benefits of nostalgia on subjective well-being, little is known about the mechanism behind this link.

Gratitude, a positive trait and emotional experience, is an important component of positive psychology. Studies have shown that gratitude has positive effects on well-being, including increased optimism, greater satisfaction with life, more prosocial behavior, higher social support, and lower negative emotions. However, few studies have explored the role of gratitude in the temporary evocation of well-being in daily life and how nostalgia affects subjective well-being through gratitude.

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To fill this gap in the literature, this study aimed to examine the positive effects of nostalgia on emotional well-being (positive affect and negative affect) and cognitive well-being (satisfaction with life) and to investigate the mediating role of gratitude in this relationship.

Two experiments were conducted, with samples of young adults who were randomised to experimental or control conditions. The first experiment (N = 196) induced nostalgia using a guided autobiographical recall procedure. The results showed that the nostalgia group had higher levels of positive affect and gratitude, and gratitude partially mediated the association between nostalgia and positive affect.

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The second experiment (N = 102) induced nostalgia by showing a nostalgic video from the participants’ childhood period. The results showed that the nostalgia group had higher levels of positive affect and lower levels of negative affect, and gratitude partially mediated these associations.

The findings of this study suggest that nostalgia can improve emotional well-being by increasing gratitude, but may not alter cognitive well-being. This research highlights the importance of gratitude as a mediating mechanism between nostalgia and subjective well-being.

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Nostalgia, as a universal experience, has become an important topic in psychology, and the results of this study contribute to our understanding of the positive effects of nostalgia on subjective well-being. The findings of this study have implications for the development of interventions to improve well-being, such as gratitude-based interventions that include nostalgic elements.

The study provides evidence for the positive effect of nostalgia on emotional well-being through gratitude. The results suggest that incorporating nostalgic elements into gratitude interventions may be an effective way to improve subjective well-being. Further research is needed to replicate these findings and to explore the role of nostalgia and gratitude in well-being across different populations and cultures.