Between the falling leaves, the pumpkins out on stoops, and the smell of warm cider, autumn feels like a natural time for reminiscing. It is a time of year when it is easy to let your mind slip into the past and remember Halloween costumes from when you were little or the fragrance of your mother’s apple crumble in the oven. Reminiscing like this can feel a little sappy, a little foolish sometimes. We’re told to focus on the future; keep moving forward. But what if focusing on your past helped you move toward your future with greater resilience, energy, and mental wellbeing? What if remembering the past actually motivated you to live a fuller, better life in the here and now?

That’s what psychologists are finding as they study nostalgia, that wistful feeling of longing manages to mix both pleasure and sadness as you think about past places, people, and experiences. For instance, the research of Clay Routledge, a professor at North Dakota State University, found that “nostalgic memories are actually motivational, they can inspire action...Recruiting nostalgic memories gives us a sense of social competence, keeps negative feelings at bay, and sustains us in an important way.”

First, nostalgia provides a sense of continuity. By remembering the person you were, you see how that person lives in you still, which leads to a sense of meaning and purpose as you reflect on your own identity. You see how your past experiences brought you to where you are now and imagine how you will keep traveling towards your future self. Positive nostalgic memories provide a sense of comfort during current stressful life events.

“Nostalgia is like putting on an extra layer of clothing before you go out into a winter’s night; the coat buffers you against the threat of the cold air,” says Richard Cheston, a clinical psychologist and professor of dementia research at the University of the West of England. What a beautiful mental image of bundling ourselves up in our memories to navigate a moment of stress.

“I have two lady head vases that I keep in my kitchen cupboard. Every time I see them I am taken back to my Aunt Pearl’s home for a family Sunday dinner after church. The smell of pot roast and coffee hits me as I picture myself walking in the back door in my mind. There is a kind greeting. The people who love me the most are right there with me around the dining room table again. It’s a sweet, rich memory,” said Beth Sanders, founder and CEO of LifeBio.

October is National Emotional Wellness Month and there are many ways to pursue emotional health: meditation, yoga, therapy, breathwork, even good sleep and a healthy diet. But perhaps you can also take a moment this month to pull out one of your favorite memories—your favorite costume ever, a family milestone, or just a mental image of a place and time where you felt truly content. Allow yourself to get nostalgic, and let that memory provide comfort, like the warmth of a blanket, as you face whatever comes your way this day.