Nostalgia is a complicated feeling. It’s warm and fuzzy but also bittersweet; it’s that intense tug in your heart reminding you of a time long gone.
For some people, this sensation can be overwhelming and debilitating.
If you’re struggling with nostalgia, here are some helpful tips from experts on how to deal with it.
CEO and Lead Therapist, Naya Clinics
Treat it as you would treat any addictive behavior
Living in this modern-day age where everything is fast-paced and requires us all to overcome our internal chaos, it makes sense that we cling to the simplicity and comfort of the past that is gone.
The truth, however, is that nostalgic memories are biased — this is why when we’re feeling nostalgic, we only relive the good parts of it. Left out dark sides of the past justify our lack of feelings of security and clarity in our present state.
The pleasure and comfort of nostalgia are addictive and extremely powerful. Therefore the sure-fire way to manage it is to treat it as you would treat any addictive behavior.
Employ mindfulness meditation
The most effective strategy is to employ mindfulness meditation. Because it is the mind’s tendency to reflect and restore memories that we’re battling with, mental training is the most ideal approach.
Mindful meditation will promote total awareness of every feeling occurring at the moment and focus on the things worth celebrating and appreciating today. With consistent and gradual practice, recurring feelings of nostalgia will be curbed and powerless.
Perhaps in the analog world, nostalgia would invite — and maybe even require a time to be aloof and remote.
One would shut out the world and enter into the recesses of their mind to revisit a sacred or jarring time of their past to revel in a bygone era and/or to confront a pivotal event.
But in the digital society, nostalgia can accompany us with much more immediacy — it can travel with us.
Versus from old songs and poems along with lines from books and movies — and essential pictures can be much more seamlessly integrated into our lives that both preserve the profundity of the past and lightens it.
Here are a couple of quick, fun ways to work with our own nostalgia:
If you can meme it, you can mean it
We all know that memes have to be earned. And our vital nostalgic moments are likely to meet the meme-worthy qualifications.
Drilling down the salience of the event into a pithy line with a cool picture can help us to appreciate our past without getting trapped in it. We can make it bite-sized, fun, and relevant.
If you can emote on it, you can emoji it
We love our emojis, right? And the most die-hard of us will custom design the “mood monitors.” When it comes to nostalgia, aligning the right kind of emoji (or series of them) — can help us to contextualize parts of our ancient times with modern clarity and insight.
While the goal is not to reduce the significance of our nostalgic moments to the latest trends — we can work to organize previous times with a modern means of digital organization. And this process can help the legacy of our nostalgia to live on across many different ways.
Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy | Director of Marketing & Content, Divorce Answers
Start documenting your present
Nostalgia often occurs when the present poses psychological threats. This is your brain trying to cope with the present, so take it as a sign to look at the positives of the present and start documenting them either through photography or journaling.
It helps a lot to connect the joy of the past with your current state to establish a better perspective of your life.
List down emotions you feel on your good days
One way for nostalgia to be associated with optimistic feelings is to list what is good about the present. This helps reinforce that your past has helped you improve yourself and gain more meaning about how you reached this point in your life.
It would be helpful to cope with nostalgia if you are aware of a few things in life that you now have compared before.
Maintain meaningful and fulfilling relationships
Nostalgia is all about the yearning for what you once felt before. In the same way, avoidance, isolation, and lack of communication can trigger nostalgia. Naturally, this can be related to how well you connect with your friends and family.
Seek new relationships as well by making new friends outside your usual circle, so you experience something new and keep yourself grounded in the present.
Senior Editor, Tandem
Whether it’s the teddy bear you received for your 8th birthday, the necklace your grandmother passed down to you when you turned 18, or the shirt your dad used to wear, many items can make you feel nostalgic.
One can’t help but have felt when seeing or touching these items. But what happens when we feel nostalgic? Though some things might bring sad memories, others make us feel joy.
So, how should we deal with nostalgia? There are a few positive ways to go about it, including:
Journal about it
Sometimes, writing things down can help us tune in to our feelings. You might think that you are sad for one reason, but when your writing begins to flow, you might find that your head is somewhere else.
If you are lucky, you might realize why you felt a certain way. Putting pen to paper, or keys to a computer, is a great way to find out how you really feel.
Do what you can to make others happy
If it’s that teddy bear you received as a child, you probably have happy thoughts and memories surrounding it. You can hold on to the item and continue enjoying those happy feelings, or why not pass on the joy?
If possible, donate joyful items like stuffed animals that are no longer used. Then when you think of the toy, you can smile, knowing that you have spread some joy to someone else.
Women’s and children’s shelters always look for items for their residents, and nothing can bring joy to a child’s face like a toy can.
Remember the past, but look forward to the future
Of course, it’s okay to reminisce and remember the good times you had. It’s fun to think of how you were once young and fun. It’s even better, however, to look toward the future and all of its unique possibilities.
Maybe it’s a new degree, a new career, or a new child — fur babies included. Whatever the future has in store for you, it’s fun to imagine the possibilities.
Instead of only having nostalgic thoughts, look positively towards the future and be grateful for the past. After all, your history is what made you who you are today.
Editor, Feel and Thrive
We’re all familiar with that wistful longing for days gone by. We hear a song that takes us back to a better time, or we think of a place that immediately brings us comfort.
When the present is a little sour, don’t bittersweet thoughts keep us stuck in the past? On the contrary, gone are the days when nostalgia was considered a mental illness.
Today, it’s considered an emotion that might actually be good for us. So, the best way to deal with nostalgia is to embrace it and leverage its power.
Nostalgia can help us accept the complexity of human emotions. We can be both happy and sad or frustrated and grateful. Feeling our full range of emotions is not only good emotional hygiene; it opens the door to richer experiences — allowing us to live fuller lives.
Embrace those trips down memory lane and fully appreciate the emotional journey they take you on. By fearlessly connecting your past and present, you’ll draw closer to your authentic self in the future.
Indeed, we can only truly appreciate happiness when we’ve known great sadness. It’s also reassuring to call on better times. We’re comforted by the fact that hardships are temporary. Happy memories tinged with pain or a sense of yearning help us experience gratitude.
Nostalgic thoughts of loved ones we’ve lost make us cherish the people in our lives, leading to stronger connections. It’s about leveraging these key benefits of nostalgia instead of fixating on the past.
Founder, Join the Island
Say the word “stop” repetitively when a nostalgic memory appears
It’s easy to get distracted by happy memories when you yearn to return to them. Unfortunately, these happy moments can interfere with your focus in many aspects of your life like work, relationships, exercise, chores, etc.
Because of this distraction, you might produce subpar work or take a longer time than average to complete chores.
From personal experience, the best way to combat nostalgia to regain focus on your tasks is to consistently say “stop” when a happy memory comes to mind.
The happy memory should appear less frequently in your mind
I used this technique to remove a very happy person from frequently appearing in my mind when I didn’t want this person to show up when I was studying or working.
In moments when I saw this person come to mind, I immediately said the word “STOP” consistently over several months before this person stopped coming to mind frequently.
As a result of this tactic, I was able to do excellent academically in my last year of college, with a 3.85 GPA and a 4.0 GPA in my previous two semesters of college, and perform very well at the part-time job that I had while in school.
I promise that if you use this tactic, any nostalgic memory you have will be reduced over time and allow you to perform very well at whatever you are doing.
Marketing Manager, ReturnGO
Look forward and be thankful for the present
I have my share of nostalgia. I must say that it can really be unpleasant to deal with it at times, especially if you’re feeling nostalgic for a previous job.
Before working as a marketing manager, I worked as a freelance content writer. I liked what I was doing, and I got to work my own flexible hours and had great co-workers. The pay was just minimum wage, but it was a lot more fun working with friends.
Dealing with output deadlines and article proofreading was tricky and challenging at times. However, I made many lasting friendships while I worked there. I was really happy.
I worked at my previous job for five years until I needed to leave to take a higher-paying job. Even though I invested a lot of time and effort in my work and the relationships that came with it, I felt like I deserved more.
I was able to stay for that long because I was just trying to save face and avoid wasting the time I spent. However, it was hampering my growth. I needed to leave.
Right now, I’m doing well with a better-paying job as a marketing manager. I still get nostalgic about my previous job as a writer, but I try to ward off those thoughts with gratitude. I remind myself every day how thankful I am to have been blessed with this job.
My previous job made me happy, but it didn’t let me grow as much as my current job. My heart aches and longs for the old days, but I can’t change the past now. I have to look forward, be thankful for the present, and be optimistic for better and happier work days to come.
Founder, The Karate Blog
Nostalgia deals with our feelings and sends us on a voyage to the past by remembering our past experiences, and it can cause mixed feelings as it depends on the experience that comes to the fore.
Laugh it off
No matter the situation or memory, I always laugh it off in order not to be stuck by it.
If it’s a success, dwelling in the past hinders one’s progress unconsciously, which is why many people live in their fantasies, and when they are cleared from their illusion, they will know they’ve done more harm than good.
And if I laughed it off, looking at the progress I have made after such an experience.
Share your story
For me, I share my story with peers and outline the lessons I’ve learned from my experience and how I’ve been able to develop using those lessons. When I do this, it relieves me of such a burden.
Fashion Expert & Designer, Cicinia
Make tiny goals to avoid regretting your past actions
Since all people have evolved minds, we can recall events or locations that impacted us somehow. It can be good or awful, and both can have positive and negative effects on your life.
Nostalgia is merely a memory-based flashback of everything mentioned above. There is always something in life that you don’t want to remember and let go of. Thus, having a good memory may be both a blessing and a curse.
The best way to deal with nostalgia are:
- You must make goals. Humans are such a species that when they experience success, they begin to forget their past, so they start by making small goals and working hard to attain them.
What if you suddenly left your house with your car keys in hand, unsure of where you were going? After a while, you’ll become bored and take numerous wrong turns before giving up.
Setting tiny goals will help you avoid regretting why you should have done something.
- Stop becoming connected or obsessed with something. When you pursue the thing you are most attached to, nostalgia will strike.
- No one will be around forever, so stop taking life seriously.
- Stop taking anything personally, whether it be victory or loss. You can draw solace from this reservoir of sentimental memories if you’re feeling lonely, unsuccessful, or uncertain about the meaning of your existence.
Still, that solace will only last for a short while. Instead of staying inside when you’re lonely, go outside and try again, this time with greater force, when you feel like you’ve failed.
- Try moving to a different city, home, or workplace, and establish new friends, if at all possible. You might find a setting where you don’t have the time or need to return to your old thoughts.
Related: How to Meet People and Make Friends in a New City
Write your memories on paper
As a relationship expert, there are times that I encounter clients struggling to deal with nostalgia. It keeps them from remembering things that should not be retained in the first place, for instance, memories of their former partners.
However, nostalgia can be a source of a tragic past or joyful childhood. When dealing with melancholy or happy nostalgia, you should write your memories on paper.
Burn the paper together with your memories or keep it in a box
If it is a miserable experience from your past, burn the paper together with your memories. On the other hand, when it is a pleasant memory, you can keep the piece of paper in a box. In this way, you cannot forget the good things that brought joy to your life.
E-commerce Growth Specialist, EZContacts
Romanticize the current moment
I would say that our history appears to have been happier than it actually was. When confronted with adversity in the present, we frequently forget how awful and agonizing past experiences were.
We no longer experience these feelings; thus, the past appears much simpler.
This causes us to romanticize it and often consider it to be ideal. An excellent suggestion is to begin romanticizing our current lives. This is possible via scrapbooking, photography, videography, etc.
As in the past, we wish to emphasize the positive aspects of the present. You can remind yourself that the present is full of enjoyment by displaying photographs of your favorite new experiences.
Save movie tickets, game tickets, and anything else that was recently a memorable experience. If you’re feeling sentimental, you should revisit those objects.
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