She was up at dawn preparing bacon and eggs, fresh fruit: the smell of fresh bread baking, like the bright sun shining in the early morning, was indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight. We spent summers there, my sisters and I, in my grandmother’s kitchen, deep in the heart of Connecticut. Life was good, the days rich with the bounty of summer and the tastes of her talents.
She canned, she baked, she introduced us to the simple savoring of life as good as it gets: fresh corn from the garden, just picked strawberries, chickens roasted with potatoes and rosemary – all things fresh and delicious. I remember seeing green beans canned and shelved in perfect order and fresh peach pies cooling on the windowsill. She chopped and sliced, she stirred and simmered, and always the results were sublime. I have such luscious memories of that red linoleum floor, the old gas stove, and the delights that were ours everyday. Oh how we loved summer days in Gramee’s kitchen.
Do you ever find yourself recalling a fond memory and wishing you could recapture that moment? Why not give in and let yourself enjoy the memory? It may give you just the boost you need to deal with a current challenge or to simply feel better — not just about your past or present, but also about your future.
Reminiscence is the behavior of reflecting on your past and nostalgia is the emotional response it sometimes triggers. It often feels bittersweet — mostly happy and comforting, but with a tinge of sadness that whatever we’re remembering is lost in some way.
Nostalgia is the warm, fuzzy emotion we feel when we think about fond memories from our past. Most truly and most meaningfully, nostalgia is the emotional experience — the feeling that overcomes you when some minor vanished beauty of the world is momentarily restored — whether summoned by a familiar scent, a piece of music, an old photo, or some other cue. In that moment, we are connected; we have placed a call directly into the past and heard an answering voice.
Much can be said for nostalgia’s benefits. In a 2012 study published in the journal Memory, Routledge and his colleagues showed that nostalgizing helps people relate their past experiences to their present lives in order to make greater meaning of it all. The result can boost their mood and reduce stress.
Making Nostalgia Work for You
We tend to nostalgize when we are in a negative mood or feeling lonely. When we experience nostalgia, we tend to feel happier, have higher self-esteem, feel closer to loved ones and feel that life has more meaning. And on a physical level, nostalgia literally makes us feel warmer. In addition, nostalgia can produce increased optimism about the future.
Strategically using nostalgia may be just the thing to give you a welcomed fresh perspective. Everyone has at least a few fond, precious memories that can be used as a source of nostalgia. Make the most of them by bringing them to mind when you need a little boost of positivity, warmth or meaning in your life.
Here are three ways to do it:
Let the past inform your future: Feel your motivation flagging? Recall personal milestones and past achievements in order to reinvigorate your energies and stay focused on achieving your current goals.
Make nostalgia a group activity: Asking others to share their nostalgic memories with you is likely to give you all a psychological boost. And you might just be surprised what you learn about your friends or family members!
Create new memories and keep traditions alive: make deposits into the nostalgia bank you can draw on when you need a boost in the future — what happens today will become the memories you hold onto forever.
Let’s honor the preciousness of the everyday and the many delights found in the simplest of moments. What memories do you cherish?