The year 2020 has undoubtedly been overwhelming for us all. I believe that the coronavirus pandemic has influenced a rise of nostalgic experiences for many of us. In my personal life, I moved out of the family home in July and that has definitely had an additional influence on the memories that cross my mind.

A few weeks ago, I released the first episode of my new podcast series “What’s up, Leech?” and I really enjoyed reminiscing over some childhood memories with my sister, Annalise. Through the editing process, I realised that the topic of nostalgia was something I wanted to explore further on my blog. In this post I aim to focus on how I’ve personally been affected by it recently and how I find value in it.

What is nostalgia?

The definition from Oxford languages is:

“a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past.”

I think this is a perfectly accurate description. It can be quite a complex emotion as it tends to be a combination of positive feelings with a sprinkle of sadness.

What triggers nostalgia?

From experience, sense of smell is probably my strongest trigger in eliciting an old memory. It can also come from our other senses such as sight, sound, taste or touch.

Hearing a familiar piece of music is another popular trigger.

My experience finding value…

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I had become aware of the increase in nostalgic experiences since moving away from my family. Memories would jump into my mind out of seemingly nowhere. Often, I couldn’t connect what had triggered them but I invited them all the same. They were memories of contented moments in my childhood: simple but sweet.

I found that when these nostalgic experiences arose when I wasn’t anticipating them, my mood lifted and my sense of self strengthened. I could use them as tool for self-reflection which I believe to be a crucial part of personal growth. I felt somewhat accomplished for how much I’d grown as an individual and therefore excited for the possibilities of the future.

This week, I decided to try educing feelings of nostalgia by listening to an old music playlist of mine. I was surprised to find that the effects were different. Instead of the wonderfully calm moments I had previously remembered, I was re-living some of the difficult moments I had endured in my teen years. Music itself evokes emotions which is why, I believe, that the memories tied to certain tracks felt so strong.

Afterwards, I allowed myself to reflect and was able to see it as an opportunity to process a part of my past. This now means that I am able to let go more freely and move on.

close up of question mark on (my) notebook page

Final thoughts…

There is always the possibility to obsess over the past to the point where it becomes unhealthy. If ever that became the case, seeking help from a professional would be important. However I don’t believe that nostalgia is inherently bad. In my view, it can be used as a reminder to reflect and connect with oneself.

Nostalgia is able to bring up delightful memories that have been previously forgotten as well as provide the opportunity to process when you most need to.

What’s on your mind?

How often do you experience nostalgia? Is is something you enjoy or would rather not experience? Leave a comment below!

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