Looking back to move ahead

While it is always more empowering to look forward, looking at the path you’ve crossed is actually the bridge between the past and the future

By Delna Anand

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Published: Thu 30 Mar 2023, 4:38 PM

So many of us talk about being in the present moment, not ruminating on the past and often we try to snap ourselves out of old memories, to come back to the now. That’s what we believe is good for our mental health, and up until about 15 years ago, even psychologists would have agreed that dwelling on the past is a trait best avoided. Interestingly, the word ‘nostalgia’, coined by a 17th-century Swiss army physician, also resonated with sadness, literally translating to ‘nostos’ — yearning for home, and ‘algos’ — the pain associated with it. But thankfully, since the turn of this century, things have been looking up for nostalgia.

Years of research have helped redefine nostalgia as a sentimentality for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations, and can be thought of as “the memory of happiness”. Recent studies show how crucial nostalgia or ‘looking back’ is, for us to move forward.

While it is always more empowering to look forward, looking at the path you’ve crossed is actually the bridge between the past and the future.

Why looking back helps:

Self-reflection: It is about looking back and examining your past. If you don’t revisit your key successes and so-called failures, you miss the opportunity to see how you could have done it differently and applaud how far you’ve come. Recall your strengths and learn from the weaknesses that frustrate you.

Past Loops: Only we can recognise where we keep getting stuck, our past negative cycles, or repetitive patterns. Ask yourself why they happened and if there is a lesson to learn from it. Seeing things in retrospect always helps you from making the same mistakes again, predict trends, and move forward positively. In fact, this is a secret of many successful people.

Heart-centered moments: Sometimes talking about the good, old days or looking at photos just warms your heart. All five senses can trigger that heart-warming feeling of nostalgia

• Smell (Aroma of grandma’s home-cooked food)

• Taste (that sweet orange candy you ate on a summer’s day)

• Touch (textures)

• Sight (photos, scrapbooks)

• Sound (old songs)

Whether alone or with friends, a throwback can always uplift your mood.

Backward review of the day: A simple yet powerful exercise I learned from Dr. Marian Alonso at The Farm at San Benito, called “Backward Review of the Day”, is a daily review of your day though backward before you sleep. Begin at the present moment and go through that day in reverse. Review the perceptions, thoughts, feelings, actions, and interactions of all the hours of your waking day, starting from what you did an hour before bedtime, and then an hour before that, and so on. This technique helps unwind your experiences before they get rigidly consolidated into memory during sleep. It frees your soul from the weight of the humdrum, as it enters into a state of deep rest while your body sleeps, and is very useful for people who have anxiety or trouble sleeping.



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