Confronting Nostalgia, In Order To Live In The Now

“The past is a candle at a great distance: too close to let you quit, too far to comfort you.”

Amy Bloom

Nostalgia is a weird little thing. It comes and goes like waves. Nostalgia is the yearning for the past. Many people say that it is bittersweet. Sweet because it reminds you of all the lovely memories you have, and bitter because it reminds you that you will not have such memories again.

We find ourselves being sucked into that whirlpool of nostalgia, in the midst of working or just going about in our day. Maybe you were in your camera roll, wanting to delete unnecessary photos when you come across one particular photo, where you seemed really happy. And then you spiral down memory lane and that nostalgia increases. More often than not, it starts off with sweet thoughts, ‘I really enjoyed that day!’, and then you find yourself questioning your life, ‘Will I ever be like that again?’. Nostalgia can be very cunning at times.

the two faces of nostalgia

When it comes to nostalgia, we all tend to think that we only get nostalgia, when remembering the good times with our loved ones. But nostalgia is more than that.

There is personal nostalgia. The definition of personal nostalgia is, “missing what has been lost”. Personal nostalgia is the regret or overwhelming feeling of what had never happened. That is a whole different type of nostalgia one faces. Another type of nostalgia is anticipatory nostalgia. Anticipatory nostalgia is when one starts to miss what has not yet been lost. In this situation, one uses their cognitive process to imagine their future, where they are missing the said ‘past’, but that individual is still in the present. Our brains and emotions are indeed very complex and powerful, as they make us feel sadness for things that have not happened.

These are the two faces of nostalgia. They might seem similar, but something of one of them just sticks out.

“The Greek word for “return” is nostos. Algos means “suffering.” So nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return.”

Milan Kundera, Ignorance

how does one face nostalgia?

1. enjoy today’s joy

Practicing mindfulness and enjoying each experience you go through each day, is one way to create memories to enjoy in the future. Living in the now, being consciously aware that you are having fun, will help you accept that nostalgia will exist and will come back to you in the future and that it is okay. Just sit back and enjoy.

2. you are doing your best today

When you start to get those overwhelming feelings of your past, and how much you were happy back then, compared to now, do not misinterpret that emotion in a negative way. It just means that you did a good job in the past and that you lived a good life in the past. And that you are doing your best today and every other day to be in the moment.

3. practice gratitude

And lastly, the most important one, practice gratitude! It will do you wonders in the future and in the present. You never know how much you value something or someone until it is when you lose them. And that feeling of not being grateful slowly turns into dark regret. So to avoid having those moments, start practicing how to be grateful for the things you have in life and for the people who surround you!

Nostalgia has both positive and negative effects on how we perceive our past, present, and future. Sometimes it is good to sit in it and revel about good times, and sometimes it is better to face it and be in the present before today vanishes as well!

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