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Nostalgia is a sweet, intimate, and strong emotion. While walking down memory lane might bring back incredible memories, thoughts of missing your old life might be holding you back from living your best life now.
Though nostalgia is associated with many positives, it can also bring a touch of cloudy grey. Intense feelings about your past—whether it’s a trauma or a memory, and everything associated with it—can be so strong that it might knock you right off your feet.
Are you missing your old life because you’ve become a parent and you find yourself getting lost in dirty diapers, feedings, and sleepless nights? Have you recently changed careers? Or maybe you’ve been bit by trauma and are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. These types of scenarios can lead to heavy and challenging feelings.
Nostalgia can pour down and bring back all the memories you hold dear while avoiding the negatives or the things you didn’t quite like. Even though there can be many reasons why you miss your old life, there are several things you can do at the moment, and habitually, to help yourself stay present, grounded, and grateful.
How To Stop Missing Your Old Life
The first thing to do if you’re drowning in these feelings is to identify what about your old life you actually miss. When we’re lost in nostalgia, we often forget all the parts of the past and focus on the good moments. But, unfortunately, we forget the pieces that we didn’t like.
There are both good and negative parts to all seasons of life, and if you’re reminiscing about your old life, it might be time to reexamine what you miss, remind yourself of how life genuinely was, and then incorporate the positive parts that you long for into your new, current life.
1. Get specific about what you miss.
Rather than hanging on to the general idea of what your old life symbolizes, get very specific about what you miss. For example, if you’re a new parent struggling with these feelings, maybe you miss uninterrupted sleep, hearing your own name rather than mom or dad, or not having the financial stress of caring for another. Of course, you’re not a bad person for missing those things, but you can cope with your new life.
Sit with your feelings about what your old life means to you. For example, did it mean you could sleep in? Perhaps you moved communities for work or your partner’s work and you miss friends and neighbors. Once you identify the specifics of what you miss, you can restructure your new life to include those parts.
For instance, if you’re a new parent struggling to get enough sleep, you might ask family and friends for support.
Perhaps you’ve moved communities and are craving community connection; once you identify that, you can look online for information about community events, local support groups, parent groups, church, and more.
If you experienced a trauma and miss who you were before, I want to tell you that you’re not alone and you will get through this challenging time. The person you were before your trauma is different from who you are now.
Whatever you miss, seek to move forward while planting seeds of positives from your old life to foster healthy and strong roots where you are now.
Recognizing the parts of your old life that you miss can help you put those pieces into the life you’re living now. Work to stay present and incorporate the old pieces with the new, but be mindful that your previous life and your current one might not always mesh perfectly.
Identify what you miss—examples to consider:
- Lifestyle – Perhaps your lifestyle has had to change, and you’re missing how you used to live. If this is a financial concern, you might consider starting a side hustle, cutting back on expenses, or finding a new job that you like better.
- New parent – If you’re a new parent, you might miss many things from your old life. Recognizing them and then planting some of those pieces into your new life is essential. Becoming a parent is a journey in itself; you won’t be the person you were before. But, by remembering the pieces of your old life you miss, you can add those parts in and slowly grow more comfortable with your new life, especially once the baby starts smiling, laughing, and showing you their love.
- Diagnosis – In my experience, receiving a diagnosis is like closing the door on one part of you and forcing another open to the new one. While that is scary, frustrating, and filled with so much uncertainty, it also answers your questions, such as, “Why do I feel this way?” Once you receive a diagnosis for whatever is going on, you can start moving forward to your new life in a healthy, positive way.
- New job – Changing careers can be tricky. It’s hard to get comfortable and become confident in a new environment. If you’re struggling with this, remember the pieces of your old job that you enjoyed and try to put some of those things in your new one. In addition, keep it in perspective. Remember that you probably didn’t love everything about your last job; there were likely some things that were a bit of an annoyance, right? So imagine your new job as a fresh start.
- Grief – The feeling of grief is a heavy, thick emotion you must work through. Seek professional help if you can and connect with loved ones. Talk about your feelings, look at pictures, write about them, and so on. Express your feelings in whatever way feels good to you.
Reflecting is a healthy practice that involves examining where you are and then pondering how you feel about it. Reflect on your old life, the pieces that brought you joy, and how you feel about your life now.
Personal reflection questions:
- What emotions are you feeling?
- Are you holding onto something that you need to let go of?
- What brings you joy?
- What are the most important things in your life?
The art of personal reflection is one that is intricate and complex but incredibly rewarding. It involves sitting with your authentic feelings and assessing your needs and whether they are being met.
It’s sort of like a quiz but for yourself, and there aren’t any wrong answers. It’s questioning yourself, not in an amped-up anxious way, but rather in a positive, “I trust you” way. Personal reflection can show you what your true feelings are, help you identify possible nostalgia triggers, and help you understand how to make your new life feel as good as your old one did. It’s also a great way to track habits, events, and other positives that can help you stay on a happy note.
3. Practice gratitude.
Gratitude refers to being thankful and appreciative of what you have. It doesn’t diminish the past life you’re savoring, but rather highlights and accentuates the good things that are right before you. It helps you to embrace the life you have right now and notice small, wonderful things that you’d typically pass over.
Practicing gratitude has been proven to have enormous benefits, from improved mental health, better-quality sleep, stronger relationships, and more. Take time to slow your pace and be in your present life. Allow yourself to feel the feelings of missing your old life and then bring the focus to the present. Notice the things you’re lucky to have. Notice how you feel when you silently acknowledge your gratitude.
With the help of gratitude, you can shift your perspective from missing your old life to being grateful for the opportunity you have right now. Every day that you wake up is another opportunity to be great, do something great, accomplish your goals, and so on. It’s a brand new canvas each day, waiting to be painted. Gratitude can help you find all the colors and assist you in gaining perspective on the overall image.
4. Take breaks.
By the time you’re reading this, you’re probably well aware that life is full of complexities. Between relationships, parenthood, careers, and various family dynamics, it can be very overwhelming even to attempt to stay present, never mind start incorporating gratitude. Don’t worry. You’re not alone in this. Notice when you’re feeling this, and permit yourself to take a break.
Take a time out from the day and just be. Anything goes, whether that’s with meditation, lying down and relaxing, or listening to a podcast. Just allow yourself the time to take a break. You can’t be perfect all the time, and you’ll be better if you take care of yourself. Taking a break is self-care, my friend. It’s absolutely necessary.
5. Be authentic in your life.
Do a brief scan of your life and how you feel about it. Missing your old life might mean that something is not quite right in your new life, or you’re having to live by standards that aren’t your own. Living an authentic life takes effort, patience, and persistence.
First, you must allow yourself to peel back the layers of societal norms and expectations to find out who you are right at the core. To live with more authenticity, you must allow yourself to be vulnerable and give up the act. Feel your feelings, acknowledge your emotions, and be real.
Ditch all the things in your life that don’t feel authentic and focus on what really matters. Authenticity affects all parts of life, from cognitive functions like judgment, decisions, and behaviors to how a person manages relationships. Once you begin to understand what it means to be real, you can start living your life with realness. Get rid of the inauthentic pieces of your new life and embrace who you are.
6. Establish connections.
Connections are important in life. Build strong connections in your new life if you feel they are missing. Whether incorporating them from your old life or breaking out and trying to build new ones, strong and healthy connections are key.
Real human connections can help a person to overcome challenges, increase life satisfaction, and become more resilient. In addition, connections help to counteract their enemy—loneliness. Loneliness loves solitude, and if you find your new life isn’t as full as your old one, then it’s time to examine this. Create healthy connections.
Where to look for connections…
Depending on your specific set of circumstances, you might be missing your old life because of the connections you are lacking in your present life. You can combat this by embracing video calling, texting, letter writing, and anything else to keep connected with loved ones. However, if you lack connections in general, here are a few tips to help you find and establish them.
- Look for connections in groups with shared interests. (For example, if you love doing yoga, consider checking out a yoga class. Or, if you’re a photography enthusiast, find a group on Facebook to build connections. Look at what your interests are and bring them brightly into your life.)
- Be willing and open to making connections. Every opportunity with a human is an opportunity to create and establish a good connection. Each connection can help you settle into your new life feeling supported, loved, and as though you belong. Be open to meeting a new person, smiling at a neighbor, holding a door open for a stranger, and so on. Be willing to create and maintain connections.
- Open up and talk. Don’t live in your head walking down memory lane, filled with nostalgia for your old life. It’s okay to remember and love your old life, but create connections, open up, be vulnerable and authentic, and find new, wonderful connections on your path.
- Volunteer with/for a cause that is meaningful to you.
7. Keep things in perspective.
When feelings are thick and heavy, it can be very challenging to see past the complexities right in front of you. Quickly, a tough moment might become a tough day, then a tough week, and so on. Negative emotions thicken with time. It’s easy to fall deeply into a routine of negative thinking.
Staying mindful in the moment and letting yourself feel the feelings can help keep things in perspective. For example, tell yourself, “This is a hard moment; I will get through it,” or, “I have made it through each challenging moment up until now, and I will persevere through this one as well.”
Make sure you paint a realistic and authentic picture of your old life when you reminisce. Remember what your old life was really like, and instead of seeing things through rose-colored glasses, allow yourself to hold on to reality.
Don’t get lost in the idea that your old life was better than your life now. Whatever shifted your life and created the separation between old and new deserves acknowledgment (grief, job change, moving communities, etc.). There is a reason why there is an old life and a present one, and it’s important to keep that in perspective.
8. Seek professional help.
Therapy can be really helpful if you’re missing your old life. Therapy can assist you in feeling more connected and improve your mental health by identifying triggers, labeling emotions, and creating coping strategies. In addition, a professional therapist can help you notice what you miss from your old life and find healthy solutions to bring those pieces into your present life.
It is a good idea to seek professional help from one of the therapists at BetterHelp.com as professional therapy can be highly effective in helping you to put your old life to rest and embrace your new one.
9. Focus on the now.
If you’re stuck in the past and the remnants of your old life, you might find yourself sad, isolated, or even depressed. Bring your focus to the now. Once you’ve identified what parts of your old life you miss, you can include them in your present life and bring awareness to the moment.
By focusing on the now, you allow yourself to feel your feelings and be authentic in them. Being mindful and in the moment can bring more joy and authenticity into your life.
10. Remember: you’re the driver.
This is a factor to keep in mind now and always. Life is a ride, and while it can often feel like you’re out of control, it’s quite the opposite. You are the driver of this ride. You’re the one who decides the meaning behind your old life and what that means in the current moment.
If there are things in your old life that you want to bring into the present, then you are in charge of that. So step into the role of being the lead character in your story and allow yourself to flourish.
11. Challenge yourself.
Missing your old life is completely normal and valid, but rather than sitting in it, challenge yourself to move forward. Give yourself small challenges to overcome, and celebrate upon reaching them.
Small challenges to embrace your new life include introducing yourself to neighbors, reaching out to other parents, smiling at a stranger, and so on. Give yourself some small challenges to overcome to focus on the now, be present and in the moment, and allow yourself to embrace your new life.
When You Miss Your Old Life: The Takeaway
The key takeaway here is to allow yourself to feel the feelings, validate them, and recognize what you can do to bring the positives from your old life into your present. By naming feelings and understanding their origins, you can start identifying behaviors, triggers, and patterns that need changing.
In addition, it helps you to know what exactly you’re missing from your old life and recognize whether or not that factor can have a place in your present life. Missing your old life is normal, and it’s important to feel those emotions so you can embrace the life you have now.
If this is a persistent feeling that you just can’t seem to shake, professional therapy will likely help you a lot. So don’t hesitate to find a therapist to work with.
BetterHelp.com is a website where you can connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.
While you may try to work through this yourself, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can address. And if it is affecting your mental well-being, relationships, or life in general, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.
Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome issues that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.
Click here if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.
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