Treading the Line of Nostalgia

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Like many of life’s pleasures, too much of a good thing can unknowingly turn for the worst — nostalgia being one of them. The feelings of nostalgia bring comfort and familiarity, but there is also a dangerous component when dwelling on the past for too long or perhaps for the wrong reasons.

There is no doubt that nostalgia is something we should welcome into our lives. However, it is important to frame nostalgia in a way that prevents us from growth and exploration for our futures.

What Does Nostalgia Look Like?
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Have you ever found yourself feeling warm inside looking through old photos? When you play a song from childhood does it bring back memories? If a favorite show of yours comes back for a reboot, does it make you feel reminiscent? If you answered yes to any of those, then you have felt nostalgia! This sensation comes in a variety of different ways, thus offering many benefits to the mind and soul.

Nostalgia is a longing for the past. It is a highly universal, sentimental experience shared by humans across the world. In an article published by Everyday Health, Deanna Woodhouse, licensed marriage and family therapist and director of clinical operations at Los Angeles–based Lightfully Behavioral Health, spoke about how professionals utilize nostalgia for their clients.

“Sometimes when a client needs a grounding point, we will discuss things they look back upon fondly and draw upon the nostalgia experience,” says Woodhouse. “Nostalgia can be beneficial when dealing with dark times and reminding clients there was once light.”

Some benefits of nostalgia, beside boosting your mood, include strengthening bonds with family and friends, desire for growth and discovering a new sense of optimism.

Yet, even with all of these benefits, looking through rose-tinted glasses for too long can cause some unwanted consequences.

When is Nostalgia Taken Too Far?
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Similar to seeking out an unhealthy amount of escapism, being wrapped up in nostalgia for extended periods of time does more harm than good for some individuals.

While we feel nostalgic, we are looking back on memories of our past. When we do this, sometimes there is the chance of comparing the happy and joyful memories, to the current emotions and experiences you are feeling. If your current state is not the same as the feelings you felt in the past, negative comparisons can potentially set in.

Along those lines, when we think about our past for too long, we may start to think about what we could have done differently. “What if” and “should have” thoughts might seep into your headspace, thanks to our inner critic.

Further, when we dwell too much on our pasts, we could potentially limit ourselves from living in the present moment. Mindfulness and flourishing cannot exist if we position ourselves in a spot where only thoughts of the past are revolving in our headspace.

Can There Be a Balance?
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With all of this in mind, there is surely a line to tread when it comes to nostalgia. However, there is a certainly a healthy balance you can follow to ensure you receive the brightest and warmest sensations of this wonderful feeling.

If you are aware of when you feel yourself slipping too far into the past, remind yourself that there is a future waiting. You can take what you learned from your past and utilize that to carve out a life most special to you.

What are your thoughts on nostalgia? Tweet your opinions @VALLEYMag!



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