I admit, I have a hard time being present in the present – I’m constantly thinking ten steps ahead, and I’m often reflecting on the past. This quality can be a blessing and a curse, but I used to believe it was only the latter. It’s not particularly healthy or practical to go through life always thinking about the future or living in the past. For a long time, I fought against my impulse to plan ahead and my tendency to reminisce.
Recently, I started to explore the benefits of looking forward to the future and back to the past. It’s easier to see the potential payoff of the former. Most things in life can benefit from some sort of “future planning,” from making dinner to building a business. On the other hand, seeing the advantages of reflecting on the past is a little more challenging. Sure, we don’t want history to repeat itself, and we could all do to learn from our past mistakes. However, constantly thinking about the past can spark regret, remorse, or a longing for a life that no longer exists.
In all my days spent reminiscing, I’ve been guilty of pining for the “good old days” of my youth. The last time I started to spiral down the road of yesteryear, I didn’t stop myself or beat myself up for getting nostalgic. Instead, I decided to dig deeper. I stopped focusing previous cities, past friends, and old haunts and started focusing on who I was during that time. I began tapping into my former self – looking through old photos, reading entries in old notebooks, and listening to old music. After about a week of devoting some time each day to this internal exploration, I found myself reconnecting with my former self and bringing her into the present.
As I’ve continued to approach the practice of reminiscing differently, I’ve noticed the presence of several selves living within me simultaneously, reuniting like old friends who had dearly missed each other after being apart for years. I’ve felt more energized, full, and content. I feel like I’ve found parts of myself that were lost.
My experience aside, here’s why I believe you can benefit from reflecting on your former self: when we’re in our youth, we’re typically more creative, imaginative, adventurous, spontaneous, and open-minded. The moment we’re thrust into adulthood, those youthful qualities tend to dissipate, and we become more practical, logical, and judgmental. Taking time to reflect on, tap into, and reconnect with my former self has helped to reignite some of those wild, hopeful, and youthful ideals within me. So, next time you find your mind wandering to the past, don’t shy away – dig deeper.
After writing this post, I discovered this interesting article on a similar subject that was published on the Freelancers Union blog back in 2015. Take a look if you’d like some additional reading on the topic of nostalgia and creativity from a more scientific perspective!