ight blue background with a black fill in illustration of two faces connected by the brain, but one side with a lightbulb and the other side with an actual brain.

What Can Trigger Nostalgia or Déjà vu?

By Allison Schroeder
Web Content Assistant Manager

When you watch Instagram reels and hear a familiar song or watch a movie and see something that takes you down memory lane, you might wonder what triggers nostalgia. Or, when you experience a sensation that you think you have felt before, even if you don’t remember when, you might wonder what triggers that sensation, or déjà vu.

According to Neurology Live, “nostalgia is a powerful emotion that can be conjured by events that bear a resemblance to past experiences in a person’s life.”  

In the age of social media, nostalgia seems to occur often. With ‘70s trends returning according to Paige Greene’s article “Why Are We Obsessed with the ‘70s,” to early 2000s shows being remade or having a sequel made, nostalgia occurs almost daily.

Recently, I took a vacation to my former home in Illinois. Everywhere I looked, nostalgia seemed to hit. 

Driving past the St. Louis arch for the first time in over a year was almost like a welcome home sign and the memories resurfaced.  From the time my mom and I went prom dress shopping to the time I successfully completed an escape room with my best friends. 

Healthline said that déjà vu “describes the uncanny sensation that you’ve already experienced something, even when you know you never have.”  

Déjà vu is an odd feeling to experience. Sometimes, when I experience déjà vu, I recognize a singular moment from a dream, and it confuses me as to how a dream can become a piece of reality.  

Nostalgia to déjà vu, although different, are quite similar. Nostalgia is often triggered by scents, like maybe a specific detergent your significant other uses, or tastes, sights, or touch.  

Déjà vu on the other hand seems to not have an actual trigger source but happens spontaneously and without cause.

Both nostalgia and déjà vu promote a feeling of remembrance. Every day we have an intake of information that may be stored into our brains or forgotten.

When nostalgia or déjà vu hits, information or feelings come back to life, and you get to feel what you once felt before despite the difference of time when you last remembered that memory or felt that same sensation.  

Next time you randomly feel like you have experienced something before or smell something that triggers a memory, just remember it is normal!

Featured Image by Allison Schroeder

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