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There are two things that keep my spirits up when everything seems to be going wrong—daydreaming and nostalgia. If you’ve got the blues, there’s nothing like cuddling under a warm blanket, grabbing a mug of hot tea and some childhood snacks, and thinking back to the good old days. (Preferably with an old movie, game, or soundtrack to help you get in the right mood.)
If you’re a nostalgiaholic who loves reminiscing about how things used to be and what we used to have, then the ‘Nostalgia’ subreddit will be right up your alley. A community of nearly 868k people, r/nostalgia is a place for everything—from things to commercials from our past, whether they’re happy, funny, or sad. Get ready to dive headfirst into your childhood. Just remember to upvote your fave pics while you’re swimming through long-forgotten memories.
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Therapist and British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) member Kemi Omijeh explained to Bored Panda that how we remember our childhood experiences directly correlates to the kind of childhood we’ve had. In other words (and to generalize a bit), we’re nostalgic about our childhood if our experiences are full of being loved and nurtured. Meanwhile, the opposite is also true.
“If we’ve had a difficult childhood, it can be hard to feel nostalgic, instead it will feel like something we need to get over in order to move on,” said Omijeh.
According to her, nostalgia, aka our brains reliving the fun and happy times we’ve had, is good and healthy. “Nostalgia can also be a good coping strategy for times of low mood and challenges,” she said. However, Omijeh points out that there’s a limit: nostalgia can become a hindrance to everyday life when it interferes with our everyday lives and our ability to be present.
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“Many psychologists, myself included, believe our childhood is the foundation to who we are as adults. It explains why we frequently revisit our childhood as it influences our present,” she explained.
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“If we end up comparing it to our experiences today and feeling like nothing is as good as it was, then this will inevitably affect our mood and our ability to do what we need to do,” therapist Omijeh said. “We can become stuck in our nostalgia; in which case it might be best to seek help from a counseling professional to help you process your past in order to enjoy your present. You can find a counseling professional through the BACP.”
Another nuance is that when we’re living our past memories, we’re seeing them through a filter. The details might not be accurate and we’re reliving what we want to remember.
Considering that some of us (ahem, yours truly) can get stuck on daydreaming quite a bit, we were curious to find out what can be done to control it and feel more ‘present,’ instead of always floating about in fairyland.
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“Identify your patterns. Think about the times you usually daydream, is there something about that situation or those times that mean you’re daydreaming? Do something about it if that is the case. Set a time limit, use a timer if it ensures you stop,” BACP member Omijeh said. “Write down the biggest thought or feeling as a result of the daydream. That way you’re not just stopping daydreaming. You are doing something positive as a nice transition from stopping daydreaming to doing something.”
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She also suggests interrupting daydreams by reminding ourselves of action points and to-do lists. Even something like singing or humming your favorite song can work wonders to distract you. Not a fan of music? Try reciting a poem or remembering your math skills by doing the times table. In other words, do something, anything to distract yourself from your daydreaming if you feel that it occupies too much of your time.
“Finally, turn your daydream into a visualization or goal exercise. Your daydreams could be a communication about your innermost desires. Could you begin to plan how to achieve those desires?” the therapist mused.
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Seeing how the r/nostalgia subreddit was formed back in 2008, in a very meta way, it won’t be long before someone’s nostalgic for its founding days as well.
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Whether or not nostalgia is good or bad for you is a complex question, as we’ve seen. But, in short, it’s all about balance. On the one hand, living just in your memories draws you away from the present, making you blind to your surroundings and the important events happening around you. We should be happy with where we are in the present, not just the past.
And, well, if we’re not too content with where we are in life, it’s best to make some honest changes so we have some great memories to look forward to in the future. But nostalgia has some great upsides, too, and plenty of researchers and therapists agree.
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On the other hand, being nostalgic can have benefits as well. It’s no secret that the way we think and what we think about affects our daily lives. Similarly, Scientific American confirms that the bittersweet nostalgic feelings we get actually improve our mood, our vitality, and possibly even our mental health.
That’s because nostalgia boosts something known as ‘self-continuity’ which is how connected we feel to our past selves and the narrative we have about our lives. So it really does pay off to reminisce about the brightest parts of your life, full of loved ones, warmth, and wholesome activities. Just remember not to get stuck there for too long, Pandas—it’s time to make new heartwarming memories.
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