Nostalgia Does Not Equal Depression? Wow, Thanks, Association for Psychological Science.

This (not) just in: I’m not depressed. 

No, I don’t mean to imply by that double negative that I am, in fact, depressed–what I mean is that this is NOT breaking news. I read a piece of old newspaper, ok? Sometimes old newsprint comes into play when I clean up the bakery before closing, and this one article caught my eye…from, I guess, 2009. (Don’t worry, it was a CLEAN old newspaper.)

The article said that the Association for Psychological Science had just announced that they no longer considered nostalgia to be a symptom of depression.

My reaction? The bloggable version? “You don’t say, Sherlock.”

I love to live in the past. I’ve kept an active journal since October 1975, and I love reading back on it. (Also a great way to win arguments, btw.) I can lose myself in photo albums, the digital or “real” kind. Hell, I can lose myself in a single photo.

Music? The other day on the highway, the Eagles’ “I Can’t Tell You Why” came on the radio. I turned to my husband. “This song was playing when we first drove up to the Grand Canyon,” I informed him. That happened in 1980.

Smell? Walking along a country road in Vermont last month (where we went for a wedding), I caught a whiff of billygoat. Instant mental picture: the old goat barn of the field station at Duke University where my dad did his research. Late 60s, early 70s.

Helen and Gretchen 2012

I also love the recent past. There’s this game I play–OK, high trust, I’m letting y’all know right now how anal I am–called “A Week Ago.” While on a long walk or bike ride or drive, I will challenge myself to remember something that happened exactly a week ago. For example: “Had so-and-so over for dinner, and had my music lesson.” “Was driving home from the airport.” I can usually go back a whole YEAR doing this, but I limit myself to six months. Hey, I’m not a complete nutter.

I’d like to say I play “A Week Ago” as a strategy to stay as mentally alert as my 103 year-old grandmother was before she passed away, just in case I inherit those genes. But the truth is, I simply enjoy it.

And anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m the least depressed person they know.

However, lest you have your doubts: I also enjoy the hell out of anticipating the future. And the present? Aces with me. In fact, I think I’ll get back to it right now.

How about y’all, though? Living in the past? Does that bring you joy, and if so, in what ways? Or can you get stuck there? If your past contains sorrow, do you still find some joy in thinking about it, or does avoidance work better?

2 thoughts on “Nostalgia Does Not Equal Depression? Wow, Thanks, Association for Psychological Science.

  1. What great idea! Visit the past. Methodically. A fun new mental activity…that’ll stir those brain connections. And bring joy, As for you–impressive…you can resurrect each day for six months to a year? Wow! Has anyone ever told you that’s a pretty amazing feat? There’s a story there… an absorbing plot line or two…anyway, thinking about you and imagining your bicycle wheels spinning you safely to your next destination. Enjoy! Ann

  2. Thanks, Ann! I don’t think I could have successfully played “A Week Ago” while I was in my former work life; the days were too indistinct. But these days my life follows no very set pattern, making days stand out more.

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