Are you familiar with this extraordinary feeling of nostalgia that washes over you while watching an old movie or listening to your grandpa's stories from an era before your time?
It makes absolutely no sense to miss something that was never ours to begin with - a time in which we weren't even alive. Yet, I’m sure many of us find ourselves reminiscing about the good old days. The days when life seemed a bit more simple, humble and stable.
There are two kinds of nostalgia: reflective and restorative. The first one appreciates the past and savours the sweet moments while knowing that those days are gone. The latter looks back on the past with jealousy and "desires to re-create or relive it in the present", writes Nicole Johnson.
Nostalgia is translated from Greek as the pain (altos) of homecoming (nostos).
Up until the 18th century, it was considered a brain disorder and a neurological affliction. Nowadays, understanding this phenomenon, thanks to scientific research, puts nostalgia in a much more favourable light. Not only is it a source of stability in our lives but also a way to remember our essence - a way to come back to what is meaningful.
Nostalgia appears when experiencing feelings of loneliness or meaninglessness. However, in its own magical way, this phenomenon acts as "a psychological immune response that is triggered when you experience little bumps in the road".
Clay Rutledge, a psychological scientist and the author of "Nostalgia: A Psychological Resource", names many beneficial psychological functions of nostalgia: reduction of stress and fear of death, positive mood stimulation, increase in a positive mood, self-esteem, facilitation of social connectedness and pursuing important life goals.
It is believed that eliciting nostalgia is a way to ensure a healthier and happier future. Dr John Medina says that "by focusing on positive memories, we can stimulate, rejuvenate and heal our brains".
Here are 3 ways to elicit and embrace nostalgia:
1. Meditate on the happy memories from your past:
take your time to create a mindful space, light incense or brew your favourite tea
choose one wholesome memory from your past, close your eyes and visualise it
try to remember as many details as you can (time of year, how old your were, who was with you, what were you wearing or talking about?)
try and recall all of the ways your senses were stimulated (what were you smelling, hearing, seeing, touching, tasting?)
feel free to write it all down or share it with a close friend later
you might also like to try this exercise as you fall asleep
2. Put the treasures collected throughout the past years on display in your home:
ask yourself: "What objects symbolise emotionally significant moments for me?"
choose to honour your most cherished memories by giving them a special place in your home
3. Bring back the sounds/smells/tastes from your past:
revisit your past frequently by cooking meals from your childhood
elicit nostalgia by looking at photographs or creating a playlist of your teenage years
bring back the powerful memories with the use of specific smells that trigger childhood memories.