A woman wearing a long suede jacket leaning against a wire gate while looking outward to the camera

Nostalgia—a sentimental yearning for the past. It’s a strong force that comes to us in waves, causing us to reflect back on our fondest memories, past versions of ourselves and what used to be. It’s a familiar friend to many, a painful ache at times and in other moments a lovely reminder. 

If you have memories you hold closely to your heart, then this is a gift. It means you live deeply and surround yourself with good people. Moments and memories are what make up our lives. It’s also necessary for us to look back on our past occasionally, as a way to reflect on how far we have come, to show us which areas we can grow in and to inform who we want to be. 

But there is a danger that lies in romanticizing the past, so much so that we get stuck. Romanticizing the past causes us to miss out on what is happening in the present moment.

Have you ever been in a season of hardship, heartache or confusion where you long to run back to a time before it all began? Perhaps back to your childhood, when you felt safe, secure and nothing scared you. Maybe back to a relationship that used to be or to a time when your spirit was full and thriving. Back to the moment before you made a decision that changed everything. 

Often, we tell the stories of what happened in our pasts in an elevated, more idealized version of the truth. We romanticize. When we do, we don’t allow ourselves a chance to thrive in the here and now. Instead, we get stuck—looking back to what was, only fueling the fear that the future will never compare. 

Perhaps, if we could stop the longing for what used to be and even focusing on the incessant need to know what is around the corner, then we could be grateful for all the that is today. Follow this advice on how to stop romanticizing the past and remain present.

Be present.

Romanticizing our pasts blinds us to what is right in front of us. Instead of spending all of our days looking backward, we must train our minds to remain present. This moment is all we have. It’s all we are guaranteed.

Let’s not waste another moment living in the past when there are so many good things happening all around us. Focus on today. Find one thing you can be grateful for in this moment, and hold that close when your mind is tempted to drift backward. 

Turn your heart toward hope. 

If you don’t love the present moment, then I urge you to hold onto your hope. There is more to come in your story. Holding space in your heart for hope is a worthy endeavor. It is not always easy, but it always worth it.

When you find yourself romanticizing the past, try instead to put that energy toward dreaming up what you want your future to look like. Who do you want to be as a person? What impact would you like to be making on the world? What kind of people do you hope to surround yourself with? 

Take it from this Enneagram 4 (the personality type appropriately named “the romantic”), I have a whole lot of experience in the business of romanticizing the past. Moving from that place of fixating on what was, to one of being grounded in the present moment while holding hope for what is to come, brings freedom to your thoughts and peace in your life. 

How do you embrace the present moment? How can we keep our thoughts grounded in the present moment? 

Images via Sarah Kehoe, Darling Issue No. 19

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  1. LOVE this!! Such wisdom in these words. It is so easy to think back on the past and only think of the good times. Thank you for this, Aleah! <3

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