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  • Writer's pictureVal Lonergan

Easy Mind Hack for a Stressed & Anxious Mind

Did you know that nostalgia can be a form of happiness?

It's called Nostalgic Happiness. Strolling down memory lane and reliving happy moments is something we do regularly as a family -- and I’m so grateful that modern technology gives us a way to pile into bed and watch family videos instantly, whether they were filmed this morning or 10 years ago.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I noticed I was going through old photos and videos way more than usual, and found it interesting. Why would that be? I did some digging about nostalgia (aka 'my happy place'), and here’s what I’ve found:

What is nostalgia?

Nostalgia is considered a ‘blended emotion’, which comprises both an emotion (typically a feeling of fondness) and a thought process (engaging the memory-recalling parts of your brain).

It can sometimes be bittersweet, because although we find comfort in reliving happy moments, they might be accompanied by a sadness that they’re gone.

Early days of nostalgia

Nostalgia wasn’t always considered a good thing. In the 1600’s a doctor coined the term while studying soldiers who were homesick and depressed -- it was believed that you could die from nostalgia.

Later, in Freud’s time, psychiatrists looked at nostalgia as a form of depression. They believed that people who thought about their past were unable to move forward. (source)

Fast forward to today, in our hyper future-oriented culture, we’re obsessed with progress. We think science and technology will give us all the answers. Nowadays, nostalgia can still be perceived as unhealthy or, at best, a trivial waste of time.

But it isn’t so.

The benefits of nostalgia

Turns out, nostalgia is actually a source of strength, one that enables us to face the future. It can help people deal with stress and anxiety by contributing to a sense of continuity that grounds us. It helps combat loneliness by reinforcing a sense of connectedness to people you miss. Nostalgia can raise optimism, evoke inspiration, and boost creativity.

Nostalgia can encourage healthy emotions (such as being loved and feeling a sense of security), and healthy behaviors by remembering fondly (and taking up again) the activities we enjoyed so much as kids.

Finding benefits of nostalgia even with a difficult past

Even if your memories aren't so pleasant, there can still be benefits: people who are more nostalgic tend to have healthier coping strategies, better social networks, and are more likely to turn to other people, counselling, or other healthy forms of help.

Uprooted from your past? People whose lives have been disrupted can create future nostalgia by inventing new customs and family traditions that help them feel like they belong.

How to tap into nostalgia for relief from stress & anxiety

If you’re feeling stressed and anxious (as many of us are these days) here are seven ways you can tap into nostalgia to bring yourself some comfort and happy feelings:

• Music - neuroscientists have discovered that listening to music activates not only memories but also positive feelings in the reward center of the brain, so seek out music you loved in the past to elevate your mood

• Conversations (talking about ‘the good old days’)

• Self-directed memory recollection (you can Google or Pinterest-search journaling prompts for happy memories) (source)

• In going through old photos, videos, journals or other items from our past, we can even find ourselves appreciating the past more than we did in the moment it happened (hindsight can allow us to assign more value to certain periods in our lives) (source)

• Watch your go-to favorite movies from childhood or teenaged years

• Create new traditions now -- the gift of future nostalgia -- especially around the holidays and birthdays (and even more so if these events bring sadness)

• I browse fun instagram accounts like @forever_90s_fan and and of course, as you may have already gleaned from previous posts, I rewatch the Golden Girls! (recently added to Amazon Prime in Canada)

So if you wanna feel better today, dig into the better parts of your past!

{100 Days of Happiness, Day 14}

📷: @zenshmenblog: my sweet boy waving to a passing sailboat; this image makes me nostalgic! Also: Carousel swing ride, La Ronde

Additional source


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