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COVID-19 lockdowns: What’s up with nostalgia for the 'outbreak era'?

Most people around the world associate the spring of 2020 with the anxiety of being stuck infectious-disease, the pressure to take care of others and a fear of the unknown, among other unpleasant memories. 

But some young people have expressed mental-health” target=”_blank”>nostalgic, even optimistic<

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Teens and young adults have been expressing that nostalgia on TikTok. They’ve been posting videos with background music that was trending around March, April and May of 2020.

A young woman is shown on the couch at home. Some young people are expressing a nostalgia for the lockdown era. Fox News Digital spoke to experts about these sentiments. (iStock)

A young woman is shown on the couch at home. Some young people are expressing a nostalgia for the lockdown era. Fox News Digital spoke to experts about these sentiments. (iStock)

Many of these creators mention a “feeling” in the spring air, the cancellation of major events, pop culture references to the pandemic and other references to the days of restrictions.

What, exactly, is the psychology behind nostalgic feelings for a traumatic period?

Los Angeles-based psychiatrist Dr. Itai Danovitch, in an interview with Fox News Digital, said that this might start with a feeling of shared experience amid tragedy — even though people’s individual experiences varied.

“[Some] people suffered a great deal, while other people experienced silver linings.”

“People experienced more time with their kids, or the opportunity to connect with neighbors for the first time,” he added. He said some benefits were “the joy of open roads [and] gaining flexibility at work.”

Dr. Danovitch also suggested that some of the sentiment may lie in making meaning out of adversity and stories retold about “what we’ve overcome.”

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“People who have the ability to tell a story of healing and recovery probably aid in their [own] ability to internalize and, in fact, respond to what they’ve overcome,” he said. 

He added that “the stories and the narratives we tell about the trauma are an important part of that.”

NYU Langone psychologist and anxiety specialist Dr. Thea Gallagher, PsyD, also commented on how the complexity of the human experience comes into play. She told Fox News Digital how the “parts theory” in psychology complements the public’s varied experience.

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“There [are] parts of [the lockdown experience] that were kind of nice,” she said. She said that in some ways, there was a lack of pressure, a lack of expectations, “that were nice. But I think if you look at it in its wholeness — if you could choose to travel back in time and be there full time, I don’t think that would happen.”

Those who are idealizing the past might be forgetting the more frightening and anxiety-inducing aspects of the early pandemic, Gallagher suggested.

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“We tend to not be great historians of the past,” she said. “There is something in the brain that has a tendency to not remember, sometimes, the hardest part of things. That’s what nostalgia is.” 

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The NYU Department of Psychiatry clinical assistant professor said that, ultimately, it comes down to this: Those who were locked down had to step back from larger society. Many of them wound up binge-watching TV, working or studying from home and focusing on the only thing that mattered: surviving a pandemic.

A mother works from home as her son holds a tablet on the sofa. (iStock)

A mother works from home as her son holds a tablet on the sofa. (iStock)

“It’s easy,” she said, to look at that time through “rose-colored glasses. There weren’t the same expectations … Survival was the main focus.”

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“There was less pressure to do it all and survive.”

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