How Nostalgia Helps Us Cope with Reality

As a mom of a teenage boy in a crazy, COVID-19 world, I can’t rely on my own anecdotes of adolescence to guide him through quarantine. These are entirely different times. The video game binges I would have frowned upon a year ago are now a reward for a long day of distance learning. There are no sleepovers or pizza nights with friends, just Roblox and Minecraft and chats over Discord. Instead of reminding him to shower first thing in the morning, I give him a pass. His classmates won’t smell anything from the other side of their screens. His outfits don’t matter either. Why bother shopping for trendy, new school clothes when he spends most of the day in the comfort of his PJs?

For Christmas, I thought it would be fun to spruce up his wardrobe with a few graphic-Ts from one of his approved stores: Hot Topic. He will have to “dress up” at some point. Imagine my surprise when I scrolled through the inventory and half of the t-shirt designs were straight out of the 1990s. Images of Nirvana, Tupac, Biggie Smalls, Selena, TLC and more lit up my screen and brought a huge smile to my face, confirming what I already suspected. The 90s are back in a big way. But why?

A recent New York Times article, “Go Ahead, Binge Old Movies and Jam Out to ’90s Hits” by Jenny Gross, reminds us watching classic movies, listening to old hits and playing 16-bit video games is a way to tap into the good old days before all this political turmoil and pandemic panic set in. “When everything has turned upside down, why not go back to a time when the world seemed simpler?,” Gross asks.

According to research, giving into nostalgia for simpler times by watching favorite films and taking up old hobbies is an effective way to cope with stress and anxiety. Citing Dr. Wing Yee Cheung, an associate professor in psychology at the University of Winchester in England who studies nostalgia, “It can lift people into better moods, boost confidence and inspire a sense of optimism.”

I can tell you riding a wave of 90s nostalgia while penning my unpublished novel SONG OF A SOPHOMORE was incredibly therapeutic and fun. The story is set in 1995 suburban America and features plenty of satisfying throwbacks to fashion, music and pop culture. It is a timeless coming-of-age story about an insecure teen girl who taps into her feminine power to heal childhood wounds and transform her identity. Paying homage to classic films like Sixteen Candles and Clueless, SONG OF A SOPHOMORE is playful celebration of mid-1990s music, pop culture and tropes. However, the novel also takes a serious look at the darkness of bullying, anxiety and depression and the light of self-acceptance and first love.

NOW is the time for my novel. With all the nostalgia recently for simpler times, I hope to find a literary agent who sees the potential market for a feel-good story and teen romance set in the 90s. Maybe it can help bring comfort to adult and teenage readers alike, as they zone out and reflect happier days. We all need a distraction from reality right now.

When everything has turned upside down, why not go back to a time when the world seemed simpler?

Jenny Gross, New York Times reporter

In the meantime, I will continue querying my novel and purchasing throwback tees for my 13-year old son (and me). It’s time to put on some “Friends” and “Golden Girls” episodes and sit back with the family to talk about the good old days. Maybe I can impart some wisdom on my teenage son with talk of yesteryear. I hope you find some comfort in nostalgia during these turbulent times.

Love and Light,


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