Many people remember the “good old days” with nostalgia, others with tears in their eyes because those childhood days were good or bad or so different from today’s world. We all have different opinions about everything, but one thing is for sure, we all go back down memory lane at some point!
What Can Bring You Back to Your Youth
We all have moments in our lives that are important to us. No matter who we’re or what we do, we’ll always remember those moments. If you ever wonder where you’ve been or what you’ve done, all you’ve to do is go back and look at your photos.
When we think about our past, we often have a few photos with us. These pictures may be from a specific time period in our lives or even from different decades. How you relate your old photos to your current life is entirely up to you; perhaps they’ll help take you back to the moment.
I’ve seen many people post their old photos and memories on Facebook, but most of them are irrelevant to most people who don’t know them. Posting old photos is like writing a memoir and almost ensures that they’ll remain in history forever.
Sure, those photos can breathe life into you just when you need it, but can we really be inspired by others who didn’t even witness our personal experiences?
And why do we catch ourselves in our everyday lives thinking:
- Remember that time when…?
- Is it because part of us wants to relive those memories or the moments or the emotion associated with them?
- What do you think is the reason for this phenomenon?
Some Childhood Memories Can Be Happy, Others Can Be Painful
Sometimes we have a specific memory that comes back to mind, or we think about the past in general. Most people experience this at some point in their lives and it doesn’t mean you’re having a breakdown or a sign of a mental illness from your past. Everyone experiences it!
Unless you have been traumatized during your childhood, don’t worry because you think about the past.
Here’s an example: If you remember positively how you played with your sister as a child, and then you see a sister with her child or something like that, it can trigger childhood memories.
You shouldn’t worry too much if you feel good and bad at the same time when you think about the past. It doesn’t mean you’re broken or have mental health if you feel more than one emotion about something that happened to you when you were young.
If you’re having a hard time living in the present when you think about the past, it’s called nostalgia-which means “deep longing or homesickness for the past”-and is generally perceived as a positive or negative emotion. Or perhaps even bittersweet?
For many people, thinking about their past and reminiscing is normal. It’s normal for us to remember or reminisce about old times and events from our past.
It’s Normal to Have Memories or Thoughts of the Past
Some memories are more vivid than others, but that doesn’t tell you if you’re dwelling on them too much or too little!
Memories can also be triggered by different things – perhaps a song, an object like jewelry, a smell, or even just being in an area you spent a lot of time in as a child.
In these cases, the triggers act like memories of the past, causing you to think of old times.
Sometimes We Look for Answers
There are always some answers that our past can give us. For example:
Perhaps you’ve repeatedly experienced bad things in your life and don’t understand why, because you weren’t a fearful child, nor have you experienced complex trauma.
But deep inside you feel that the answers may be coming from an old emotion like fear or phobia that you’ve been avoiding dealing with for far too long. In this case, you may find answers by going back to the past, but for some reason, your mind keeps taking you back there looking for answers.
Another reason could be that you feel social anxiety related to the fact that you were anxious as a child when you were with others and never figured out what triggered your anxiety symptoms.
Childhood Trauma That Needs Attention
There are some traumatic memories where maybe you should have been treated before you became a young adult (e.g. adolescent psychiatry) but couldn’t because of the situations, which can affect your life today.
If thinking about the past brings back some painful memories of difficult experiences that happened a long time ago, you may not have to worry if you have the coping skill to deal with it in a healthy way. But if we’ve had intense experiences, such as child abuse, emotional abuse, or other types of childhood trauma, and you feel symptoms of depression, panic attacks, anxiety disorder, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), obsessive-compulsive disorder, or symptoms of mental health issues, you should seek medical advice.
The Past Is a Real Thing
The past is a real thing that really happened. The future is an illusion that hasn’t happened yet. There’s no time travel, no time machines, and no way to travel back and change the past.
No matter how much we want to change the past, there’s nothing we can do about it. The future may be an illusion, but the past is a fact. Our actions have consequences, positive and negative. They’re real and they’re a direct result of what we’ve done in the past.
The present moment exists only because of everything that’s happened up to this point. Without the past, there would be no present moment, no real now. That’s why it’s so important to look at the past objectively, without trying to justify or rewrite history.
The Past Doesn’t Just Disappear
The past doesn’t just disappear. It’s the foundation of who we’re. We can’t erase it, but we can go into the future knowing that we survived difficult times in the past and will survive again.
We Cannot Control How Our Lives Began but We Can Control Our Present and Our Future
You may have been too young to make a difference then, but you can decide how your life will end up, at least from where you’re now. We have a choice, and as long as we have a choice, there’s hope. It’s the way we choose to think about the past that gives it power over us and helps us progress in life.
Nostalgia Is Helpful When It Leads Us to Be Grateful for What We’ve Achieved
Thinking about the past is natural and can be helpful.
Looking back on good memories and seeing how far we’ve come since then can help us appreciate and value what we have now, while motivating us to make progress in the future.
For example, it can be fun to reminisce about all the things you loved as a child, like your favorite show on TV or your favorite toy. It can be a valuable reminder that there are still many things to love today – if you just look for them more often.
Nostalgia can hold us back just as easily as it can propel us forward. When we spend time thinking about the past instead of planning for the future, our goals can fall by the wayside.
We may feel that our current life isn’t good enough because it’s nothing like the past, which is never a productive way to look at things. Or we may start comparing ourselves to others based on their past successes rather than their current ones – and suddenly feel envious or inadequate.
By understanding how our past built us, we can improve our lives and our attitudes.
When You’re Feeling Down, It Can Often Help to Look Back on Fond Memories
Nostalgia is a form of self-care – a reminder that the past had its good points, too, and that there’s still plenty to look forward to.
Take some time to think about what you treasured most when you were young. What were your favorite toys or books? What were your relationships with friends and family like? What about elementary school and high school?
Then use the opportunity to reflect on how far you’ve come since then – and how far you hope to go.
It Might Even Motivate You to Make Progress on Your Current Goals!
Nostalgia can also be a form of escapism, as it distracts us from our current problems or helps us avoid them.
Nostalgia can also be a form of escapism, as it distracts us from our current problems or serves to help us avoid them. For example, you might avoid dealing with your marital problems by reminiscing about the good times you’d during your relationship and intentionally ignoring the current relationship problems.
Since nostalgia can be used as a distraction to avoid certain problems, it’s important that we don’t abuse it and instead use it in a productive way. To accomplish this, let’s look at some common ways we can abuse nostalgia and how you can tell if you’re using nostalgia as a distraction.
Don’t Use Nostalgia to Run Away From Your Problems
When people have unresolved issues in their relationships, they often use nostalgia as an excuse to avoid dealing with those issues.
The problem is that while they’re stuck in the past, they aren’t making progress in resolving their current problems. They use the past as an excuse not to work on their problems.
Nostalgia isn’t about “all or nothing” – you don’t have to think back only to the good or bad times. Instead, think about the good and bad things that happened in your life, and don’t try to see something through rose-colored glasses.
When we use nostalgia as a form of escapism and avoid seeing both the good and the bad from our past, it can cause us to avoid dealing with our current problems and get stuck in the past.
If you’re having problems with your partner, a friend, or a family member, but instead of working on those problems, you spend all your time thinking about the past ups and downs of your relationship, that’s one way nostalgia can be used as an escape mechanism.
You’re trying to escape from something negative in your life by focusing on the positive aspects of something else. While this is natural, it’s unhealthy when you overuse nostalgia to escape from things. If you find yourself doing this, try to figure out why you feel the need to escape what’s happening.
Just like a baby, our early childhood memories become imprinted on our memory. It may be the first time you saw snow or the day your parents told you about Santa Claus. These impressions can trigger positive or negative emotions that can affect how you function now.
It’s Also Common to Have Vivid Images From Our Childhood That May Not Be Pleasant
You may remember having to go to high school and being teased by your classmates, or being sent away by your parents for singing an innocent song in class. For some people, such memories can make them feel shy and insecure, so they distance themselves from others and cling to their former selves to protect themselves.
It’s actually a great thing to look back on your childhood and especially if you’ve memories or thoughts of the past. After all, childhood memories can hold important information that helps us navigate our lives now.
By learning from and questioning your childhood memories, you can begin to put things in perspective. It’s important to spend time looking back at your childhood so you can find your place in this life. When you know where you came from, you know where you’re now and how to get where you want to go.
Through the process of remembering, we can begin to understand who we’re and why we act the way we do today. Through our experiences, we learn about ourselves and can look at our lives from a different perspective, putting things in perspective.
For example, if we had strict parents, they may have instilled in us a fear of making mistakes.
We can learn a lot from our childhood.
For example, if our parents were strict, they may have instilled in us the fear of making mistakes. This can make us fearful of making decisions and hesitant when it comes to taking risks or trying new things in life. We feel like we’re not good enough and don’t know what the right decision is, so we hold back. This can have a negative impact on our lives because we can’t reach our full potential and it keeps us from doing what we really want to do.
Another example: If one parent was very protective of us as young children, they may have made us feel like they didn’t believe we could take care of ourselves. This can make it hard for us to gain confidence when we become young adults. We may rely too much on others and lack self-confidence, making it hard for us to believe in ourselves and our abilities.
We may think that we’re not capable of handling things on our own or that we’ll break something or ruin everything if left to our own devices. This can be a problem because it keeps us from doing things for ourselves and becoming more independent.
It’s not always easy to identify the things that are holding you back, but once you do, you can find solutions to them.
We remember the past so that we can learn and grow.
Remembering the Past Is an Important Part of Overcoming Problems
The first reason is that remembering and feeling are important to understanding and coping with problems. You may notice that you tend to close yourself off emotionally when you realize that you’re getting close to your feelings about a difficult situation. If this is the case for you, you should take some time to reflect on these feelings, because they can provide important clues about what’s going on in your life.
The second reason nostalgic thoughts help us cope is that we can use our memories of the past to guide our actions in the future.
The third reason nostalgia helps us deal with our problems is that it allows us to avoid dealing with those very problems. For example, if you spend all your free time thinking about the good old days when you were a young adult instead of working to solve a problem that’s bothering you today, then nostalgia may play an unfavorable role in managing your emotions and stressors.
How remembering your youth can be usefulHow Remembering Your Youth Can Be Useful to Your Future
The past doesn’t just disappear into a black void when it’s over, or become irrelevant because it’s not “the present.” So if the past is important for all these reasons, why do we pretend it’s no longer important? Because we have a relationship with the past that’s complex and confusing.
We think that our memories are an incorruptible reflection of events, but in reality, they’re distorted by our emotions and the context – the time and place in which they occurred. It’s easy to wonder how these memories can be useful when they change depending on where you’re and how you feel; they morph like little piles of play dough.
But maybe that’s okay. Maybe there isn’t one right answer to the question “What happened?” but a whole spectrum of possibilities, depending on who you ask and when you ask them.
Maybe remembering isn’t so much about recalling exact details as it’s about putting things in perspective, learning from what happened, developing better coping strategies, making plans for the future based on your past experiences – and finding meaning in the process.
Sometimes Our Memory Tricks Us
Cognitive distortions are common. We, humans, are a strange species for many reasons, one of which is the way we remember and deal with our past. We can be willing to forget parts and moments from our lives that don’t fit into the story we build about ourselves and others. This can lead to a disconnect between what’s actually happening at the moment and what we think it’s in our minds.
Lovers of nostalgia can wander through their own time capsules, reliving their favorite moments from their youth and longing for the life they could’ve lived had they not failed (or not failed so often). It’s okay to romanticize your past: No one in the present will judge you for it; only you’ll know if it’s a healthy way to cope with everyday life, or if it’s an excuse used by people who’ve nothing better to do. Even plants nowadays have time capsules that they use as a source of food in times of scarcity, reliving their pre-apocalypse lives
We Have a Selective Memory
It’s always fascinated me how our memory selects the best or worst moments of our lives. We can remember in detail an embarrassing moment in high school or a wonderful party, but we can’t remember what we ate yesterday. This isn’t a mistake; it’s just how our memory works.
Memory helps us survive, so it focuses on unusual events that might affect us positively or negatively, such as meeting a new person or avoiding danger. The problem with this process is that some memories are false and inaccurate, especially the most intense or traumatic memories.
How to Remember Parts of Your Youth That You’ve Forgotten
Here are some ways you can trigger memories of your youth:
Pictures: Look at old photos – No matter how hard or bad you’d it as a kid, looking at photos will remind you that it could’ve been worse, because we often tend to be photographed when things are at least okay, and you can be grateful for some of the positive parts of your past that you don’t remember.
- Music: listen to music from your childhood. You’ll be surprised how much it clears your head. I remember when I lived back in France after ten years abroad. The supermarkets still played the old music tracks that took me back to the old days, even though I was pretty sure they must’ve changed by now. And sometimes I couldn’t imagine them, but I could feel like a teenager again for a moment.
- Ask a family member: maybe they can fill in the missing memories you’ve forgotten over time. And if not, it’s always good for you to catch up! Just make sure you ask those you trust. For example, it’s very common for an embittered divorced parent to try to manipulate his or her child’s memory over the years in hopes of changing his or her child’s memory. Most of us have witnessed this at least once in our network or through stories we hear from friends. If you find yourself in such a situation, just ask a neutral person about your youth. In some situations, some people opt for professional hypnosis to help them remember the missing pieces of their puzzle, especially for those who have repressed memory.
- Eat something you enjoyed as a child. When I was a kid, food played an important role in my life. I’m not talking about expensive restaurants or Michelin-starred chefs – we didn’t have that kind of money – but simple, home-cooked food or cake or hot chocolate meant the world to me and still does. Food can bring back a lot of memories. For example, when I make French crepes, it reminds me of beautiful moments in my childhood,
- Take a meditation retreat. A meditation retreat can be an option if you want to remember old events and learn to clear your mind. Meditation can be a useful tool if you’re trying to retrieve forgotten memories of past events, friendships, and even relationships.
- Write down everything you remember about your youth. We’re not suggesting that we keep a journal of our younger years, but writing can still refresh some of the memories we keep in the back of our minds until we need them again… which happens to be right now!
What Thinking About Your Youth Can Do to You
Have you ever wondered why, despite your best efforts, you keep thinking about the past? If this sounds familiar, I can tell you why: because the past is alive in so many ways.
The Past Can Even Be a Good Thing if We Use It to Better Understand Our Present Selves
When we learn to look at the past in a healthy way, we have the opportunity to learn how to deal with difficult feelings and complex relationships. A strong sense of self can help us see how we’ve grown and the life we’ve built, but also where we still need to grow in areas like communication or problem-solving.
More importantly, looking at our past experiences can help us see how they shaped us and prepare us for potential future challenges.
Looking at our formative years from an adult perspective gives us the opportunity to learn from our mistakes (or poor decisions) and celebrate successes that prepared us for other areas of life – whether professional or personal.
Actions You Can Take From Remembering Your Youth
As you reflect on your youth, you may feel the need to take action.
For example, if you’re feeling particularly nostalgic for a particular friend or place from when you were a young person, contacting that friend or organizing a trip to your hometown might be just the thing to rekindle the feelings of your youth.
Other activities might be more spontaneous or even risky. You may feel compelled to flee your current life and start over somewhere else. This might mean quitting your job and moving across the country, or being more adventurous in your daily life. Whatever you do, just make sure it’s not an escape from the responsibilities and stability (and maybe boredom) that adult life brings.
Life Is a Journey
When I look back, I see that my life has been full of ups and downs since elementary school! When we look back on our childhood, most of us probably feel some degree of happy nostalgia and painful memories – memories of past childhood activities, friendships, or toys may put a smile on our face. Many people look back on their teenage years or the first few years after leaving home as the best days of their lives.
For me, nostalgia is like time travel, and I enjoy the good times and the bad times like watching a movie.
My philosophy of life is that whatever happened before we’re not here to win or experience the good only, but to learn.
We can learn from both positive and negative memories, and every step in our learning process is a big win, much bigger than you might think!