In this brief guide, we will discuss Nostalgic depression and how to cope with it.
What is Nostalgic Depression?
Nostalgic Depression is a term for a type of depression that results from excessive reminiscing of the past or not focusing enough on the present or on the future.
While it is not included in any of the universally used classifications of mental disorders, Nostalgic depression has gained a lot of popularity to discuss the tendency of being nostalgic about the past and the depression that results from it.
It is a common tendency to reminisce but when that happens so much that you do not focus on the present, it becomes a cause for concern.
What is Nostalgia?
Nostalgia is a concept that means thinking about the past with a fond, happy feeling.
It refers to thinking about the things that were and remembering them as nice and positive.
Nostalgia also means wanting the old days back, and rarely happens without the wish of going back into the past, in fact, it is an important characteristic.
It is common for everyone.
Nostalgia affects us all regardless of who we are.
Everyone has a past and even though some people are more likely than others to feel nostalgic, everyone that does it shares some similarities, that we idealize whatever we are nostalgic about.
Nostalgia can be prompted by something similar to the past, and it can be completely unprompted as well.
A song may remind you of a person, a fragrance may remind you of a song; our brain makes associations in the weirdest of ways and nostalgia is the result of these associations.
The good old days: Nostalgia and Depression
You may have heard people say “if only I could go back and relive those moments. Nothing will ever be as good as that time with my friends as a teenager, the holidays with my family, or playing in the backyard as a child, chasing my dog. Or many other moments in the past that I wish I could revisit.”
This is called nostalgia, and it refers to the tendency of remembering the past with a fondness.
Nostalgia is not a bad thing, but in the current environment when there is so much bad happening all around us, it may start to be an escape, and not something we all do.
Depression can result from this nostalgia when you start comparing the past to the present, and the present starts to look bad in that comparison.
You might start to wish that you could rewind your life and be in the past again, and this can cause resentment for the present and fear for the future.
At the same time you might start regretting mistakes you may have made, thinking “I wouldn’t take it for granted this time, I’d be aware with every passing moment how special each moment actually is”.
This tendency can start to feel like you have made so many mistakes in your life, and so nostalgia can suddenly start feeling like depression.
Nostalgia sometimes feels like a sedative and can have a way of taking past events and make them look more amazing than they were, making the present look bad because it feels so bad right now.
Depression and memories
Depression can make memories feel very attractive and the person suffering from it may not want to stop thinking about them at all.
It is a symptom of depression to be afraid of the future and what does someone do when they don’t want to think about the future or the things they have to do? They think about the past.
In addition, memories have a tendency to look better in depression, making nostalgia seem like an attractive prospect as compared to accomplishing things and trying to do things.
How can Nostalgia be harmful?
Nostalgia can be harmful sometimes because living in the past too much can lead to a disdain for the present, leading to depression.
One may feel like the past was better and since one cannot go back to that time the present can start to feel like a drag.
Future plans may be put on hold and the person may constantly talk about how great it used to be.
Nostalgia can also give rise to dangerous false recollections, which cause depression because nothing can compare to the better our brains come up with.
Especially in those who suffer from excessive worrying or anxiety, nostalgia can serve as a blanket against the worry and cause other related problems, like depression.
A study was published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, done by the researcher Bas Verplanken, a professor of social psychology at the University of Bath and it discovered that, after being exposed to nostalgic stimuli, participants suffering from anxiety showed more depressive symptoms.
Nostalgia can be good to our well being as well, it is the staying in the past that can cause depression and anxiety.
Another major reason why nostalgia is harmful and can cause depression is because of the human tendency to alter memories when remembering them later.
Types of Nostalgia
There are two types of Nostalgia according to the researcher Boym:
· Restorative, where you try to reconstruct or relive the past and try to assess the things you did.
- Reflective which means longing and feelings of yearning, while accepting at the same time that the past is the past.
The Reflective type of nostalgia can make people feel like the past was better, and the present isn’t, and this can lead to depression fuelled by Reflective Nostalgia.
On the other hand, when you try to reconstruct the past too much, like in restorative nostalgia, you may end up regretting a lot of the things you have done, and this can also lead to depression.
Nostalgic Depression Features
The main feature of nostalgic depression is that it is melancholy and bittersweet in nature.
Nostalgic depression is the melancholy feeling you get when something induces a memory from your past.
It can be a smell, something you saw, or something you heard.
Any sensory modality can trigger a memory, although there seems to be a relationship between smell and memories, especially.
Alan R. Hirsch, a leading researcher in the field, published the study, Nostalgia: a Neuropsychiatric Understanding to understand nostalgia: in which he says “Nostalgia, unlike screen memory, does not relate to a specific memory, but rather to an emotional state. This idealized emotional state is framed within a past era, and the yearning for the idealized emotional state manifests as an attempt to recreate that past era by reproducing activities performed then and by using symbolic representations of the past.”
He also says that nostalgia can be positive for some people, yet it can create a depressing state of being in others.
In an interview with The New York Times, he explains this theory: “Nostalgia does have its painful side—it’s a bittersweet emotion—but the net effect is to make life seem more meaningful and death less frightening. When people speak wistfully of the past, they typically become more optimistic and inspired about the future. Nostalgia was originally described as a ‘neurological disease of essentially demonic cause’ by Johannes Hoffer, the Swiss doctor who coined the term in 1688. Military physicians speculated that its prevalence among Swiss mercenaries abroad was due to earlier damage to the soldiers’ eardrums and brain cells by the unremitting clanging of cowbells in the Alps.”
How are nostalgia, depression, and anxiety-related?
People who have been diagnosed with depression cope in many different ways.
Nostalgia can play both a positive and negative factor in anxiety and depression.
On one hand, remembering positive events in depression can make one feel better and uplift the mood.
On the other hand, too much remembrance can lead to regret and maybe wistfulness for the past, thereby making the depression past.
The problem is that looking back on a time of your life that was positive or happy can cause negative feelings if your current life is not as happy, which it will never seem when you pit it against the haziness of memories.
Anxiety can factor in yet another way.
Nostalgia may make you feel comfortable and better when you are constantly worrying about something or the other.
It can be like a safe cozy blanket that covers you and you relax.
However, on the other hand, Nostalgia can make you more anxious, making you feel like that is the happy standard you have to meet again and again.
Coping with Nostalgic depression
To cope with nostalgic depression, you can try to think about something else if you feel like you are reminiscing too much.
You can also try these tips for coping with nostalgic depression:
Think of the memory in peace.
Just giving yourself permission to think about the thing that is making you sad can sometimes get it out of your head.
You may end up being saturated with it after a while and it may go away on its own.
The more you try to avoid it or deny it the more it will come to you, so why not just think about it?
Talk to Someone
It can be a friend, a professional, or even a pet. Sometimes saying things out aloud helps, even if you don’t get much help.
Maybe it’s a difficult memory, and maybe saying it out loud may help get it out of your system.
Experience It like reality
Maybe if you relive it in your mind in all of its glory you might feel like you can finally move on from it and continue your life in the present and focus on the future.
Do Something New
After you have indulged in the memory, find something that makes you happy and do it, play a happy song, listen to some podcasts, go outside for a walk, play with your dog. Just do something active instead of thinking. Give your brain a break.
Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.
In this brief guide we discussed Nostalgic depression and how to cope with it, please feel free to reach out with any queries or comments you may have.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs): Nostalgic Depression
What is a nostalgic mood?
Nostalgic mood refers to a mood where you keep thinking about the past in a fond manner.
Nostalgic is an adjective that is often used to describe homesickness or a feeling resembling homesickness.
A nostalgic feeling can involve a wistful feeling and a glad mood associated with it.
What triggers nostalgia?
Nostalgia can usually be triggered by sensory stimuli, but it can also be triggered by conversations
In other cases, nostalgia can be triggered by unexpected surprises, and sometimes they may be triggered by sadness as a means of comfort and happy feelings.
Is Nostalgic bad to feel?
No, nostalgic is not bad to feel, as long as you don’t overdo it.
Being nostalgic for too long can lead to feeling stuck in the past or just feeling bad about the present.
How does nostalgia make you feel?
Nostalgia makes you feel happy and wistful.
Nostalgia can also make people feel that their past was lovely while their presence is not that great.
Is nostalgia a mood?
Nostalgia is not a mood but it has some very strong effects on mood.
Usually, it acts as a means of improving mood, but sometimes it can also make your mood feel low when you start missing your past.
What we recommend for depression
If you are suffering from depression then ongoing professional counselling may be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.