It seems inevitable that while we navigate various stages of our lives, we hold onto certain moments and memories that have helped to shape us. It’s normal to reminisce, especially as we experience the discomfort of change; however, where do we draw the line?
Nostalgia, the feelings conjured when reminiscing on past experiences, has both the power to set us free or to hold us captive. It protects us, in a way, from feeling the full brunt of letting go or facing the unfamiliar. It becomes our comfort crutch when we remember how things once were and how they could be once again.
To all of us, certain moments in time have become the very foundation of who we are and our perception of what constitutes a life worth living.
Moments of unparalleled bliss, nights of laughter behind palms that hid blushing cheeks, wrong turns with the right people; a daily routine of familiar humor, faces, places and a series of “first times.” These are the stories that circulate our mind, reminding us that no matter how life changes, we will always remember it for what it was once was. That’s our nostalgia.
The Danger of Nostalgia
As life progresses and we leave behind places and people we thought would last a lifetime, our minds, ironically enough, have the tendency to do quite the opposite. I’ve often found that discussions of adulthood and the freedoms and opportunities of a world beyond college life did little to interest me or provoke excitement, but rather moved me to keep a firmer grip on what I was about to be leaving behind.
I find nostalgia to be a vortex of sorts, taking control of your daily thoughts at any given moment, knowing exactly where your personal pleasures and pains lie and precisely how to elicit them. It isn’t merely a feeling or a moment connecting you to the past, but more so a practice that, if overused, often converts to a rather detrimental mindset.
The ease of mind, the calming of nerves and the contentment of heart are all comforts of nostalgia; however, the more we prolong the act of reminiscing, the more likely we are to alter the reality of what it is we are reminiscing upon.
In a sense, we often focus on the past through a rose-colored lens, blinding us from the rifts and realities that once were, or, even, blurring the mental lines between what was real and what we want to believe was real. The more we reminisce, the less we let go, thus, the more likely we are to regress, close off and lose our sense of excitement or motivation for the future.
Using Nostalgia to Your Advantage
Allow yourself the freedom of nostalgic thought in moderation. When we think back to familiar people or comfortable places, it can ease the anxiety of unfamiliar, out-of-routine aspects of our ever-changing life. In finding such a way to ease your mind, you create your own happy place.
This subconscious realm can grant you the confidence and stability needed to inspire risk-taking, positive reflection and a welcomeness towards new people and experiences. Learn to appreciate — but not rely on — your fondness for the past. Begin to use these reflections to your advantage in asking growth-prompting questions.
Which aspects of your personality in the past added to your experiences, and which held you back? What personal skills and traits can you hone in on to continue to improve on and make the most of where you are right now? What values and motivations prompted a “good time” back then in comparison to those of your life now? Are you inspired by who you truly were, or who you were trying to be? How can you use who you have grown to be to progress you into the life you want? Use your past to inspire and motivate your future.
Like many things, nostalgia can be detrimental when overdone. Its up to you to find balance and walk the line between innocent reminiscence and an over-attached dependency to the past.
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