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Monday, 16 Feb 2015

Is nostalgia good for us?

By Dr. Becky Spelman



We all fall prey to nostalgia from time to time. When we are middle-aged or elderly, we tend to remember an idealised version of the past, when we were young and gorgeous, and everything seemed to be so much simpler.

Similarly, collectively we often yearn for times gone by. Looked at from the distance of today, it often seems that things were easier in the past. This seems to be a sort of nostalgia to which the British are particularly prone, as evidenced by the massive success of TV shows like Downton Abbey, and plenty of Merchant Ivory films.

But were things really easier in the past? The answer is no. Some things might have been easier, for sure, and many some things were even better, but people have always had to deal with challenges as they move through life. Do you really think that our grandparents and great-grandparents always had an easy time of it? Was life always rosy for you when you were eighteen?

While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wallowing in our fondest memories, or the fantasy that there were really was a kinder, gentler age at some point in the past, if we devote too much of our emotional energy to nostalgia, we can overlook something that is really much more important; the here and now.

Rather than focusing on how things were so much easier in the past (even though they likely weren’t really), what could you start doing that would make your life happier and more fulfilling today? What steps could you take now that will make all of your tomorrows brighter? And what can we do, collectively, as a society to move into a brighter future without constantly harping back to a mythologised past?

The past, whether it’s our own or that of our culture or society, has many lessons to offer us, and should never be forgotten – but it’s over, and it should stay that way. When it comes to how we live today, and how we plan for our futures, one well-worn phrase says it very well: onward and upward!

Who can I speak to further about the issues in this article?

For help with Nostalgia that’s discussed in this article speak to one of our therapists here at Private Therapy Clinic for a free chat.

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