Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Nostalgia Workout

Now here is a workout that you probably won't be able to get at your local gym: a nostalgia workout. A recent BBC News article said that "nostalgia can give meaning to our seemingly dull lives."

Why do we care about our first car, kiss, or visit to the ocean? Some psychologists have pointed out that we care because nostalgia makes us feel good. Once considered a sickness (the word comes from the Greek "nostos"--return--and "algos" --pain). Modern day researchers have found that remembering past times improves mood, increases self-esteem, strengthens social bonds, and imbues life with meaning. 

"Nostalgia," says a researcher from London, "is a way for us to tap into the past experiences that we have that are quite meaningful--to remind us that our lives are worthwhile, that we are people of value, that we have good relationships, that we are happy and that life has some sense of purpose or meaning." 

A lot of times clients come to me with painful nostalgia. Negative feelings from the past--perhaps times they were bullied, painful relationships, or abandonment by others. This isn't the nostalgia I'm writing about here. This nostalgia is about positive life changing experiences.

Here's the workout. Routledge, the researcher from England, says that people who practice this Nostalgia workout for five minutes a day have a significant increase in psychological well-being, feel more alive and energetic, and see there life as more worthwhile.

So, rather than practicing negative nostalgia today, how about trying a different practice?
  • list cherished memories
  • find photos or mementos from happy times
  • close your eyes and think about what is outside the "picture frame" to conjure subtle details
  • reminiscing with people from your past strengthens relationships
  • take mental snapshots and save mementos of happy times for future nostalgia

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