The Art Of Nostalgic Thought


Every living thing can be killed, every situation can be changed and every moment will pass. But nostalgia, nostalgia can never be killed, will never change and is unlikely to pass. Nostalgia is the story glowing in the sparkle in your eye, the memory that splashes around in the dampness on your eyelash, and the feeling that flutters in your heart.

As an innately nostalgic person, with a deep desire for new experiences and a passionate interest in mindfulness and living in the present moment, ‘restlessness’ is a feeling I know all too well.

I often find myself reflecting on past experiences, feelings from the past and people that have been left behind in my past. It is a great contradiction to be an individual who attaches apprehensiveness towards letting go of the past, combined with an everlasting longing for new experiences and spontaneous adventures. With that in mind, nostalgia is inevitable and in many ways very necessary and healthy.

Merriam Webster defines nostalgia as ‘pleasure and sadness that is caused by remembering something from the past and wishing that you could experience it again’. In Marina Krakovsky’s article, The Art of Remembrance on Psychology Today, she explains how ‘naturally nostalgic people have high self-esteem and are less prone to depression’. There is no qualifying prerequisite for nostalgia; it is an appreciation for a memory, however big or small.  Nostalgia is a way of reflecting and reminiscing. It is often a way of digesting an extremely enriching experience or life changing event; it can be used as a tool for growing, loving and appreciating. It is reliving past experiences in your mind or through sharing your stories.

Researchers from Loyola University reported that ‘thinking of good memories for just 20 minutes a day can make people more cheerful’. Swimming in a pool of nostalgia can be very positive however, a longing for the past and an inability to let go can be very destructive, leaving a person feeling somewhat empty. It is important to give oneself the opportunity to channel nostalgia into positive ventures and passion projects.

A few years ago, a very impressionable friend named Sven from Luxemburg taught me a lesson about the past and letting go. He used the analogy of a backpacker, which I have adapted slightly into a more descriptive version. Imagine yourself as a traveller walking through life with a backpack on your back. Your life is the journey, the road ahead is your future and the bag on your back is your past. The bag is full of rocks of all shapes and sizes which symbolise memories and experiences from your past. Imagine you are walking forward on your journey with the bag on your back: it will be fine to have a couple of the rocks in the backpack, but if you carry too many heavy rocks around with you, eventually the backpack will get too heavy and you will no longer be able to continue moving forward.

The lesson: acknowledge the past, learn from the lessons, bank the good memories, forgive yourself/others, let the rest go and always keep moving forward.

Everything is constantly changing, moving, transforming and growing. Nothing is permanent and time is merely a societal perception. There are still so many adventures out there, people to meet and love, lessons to learn, mistakes to be made and places to explore. People come in and out of your life at just the right time, everything changes around you, you look back and see how much you have grown and everything keeps getting better or worse, but it never ever stays the same.

The gift lies in learning to embrace your nostalgia and finding new ways to embrace your nostalgia constructively. Constructive nostalgia is developing gratitude for the past, acceptance for the present and excitement and openness to change in the future. One of my favourite ways of connecting with people is through being nostalgic with them about experiences we never had together. Remarkable journalist, David Carr aptly describes how ‘by telling stories and listening to them, our lives become meaningful’.

“Lives are told in being lived and lived in being told.”- David Carr

Gnarly Bay is a film company that uses nostalgia constructively to express their passions through the art of video, music and writing. Their belief is that ‘storytelling through video is one of the most powerful forms of communication in modern times’. Share the nostalgia and watch some of Gnarly Bay’s Passion Projects.