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by Kama J. Frankling

When you have moved to a new country it is not unusual to experience waves of nostalgia. Nostalgia is described as many things: A yearning to return to the past, a desire to return to a country of origin, or a sentimental memory from a previous relationship.

Nostalgia can be triggered by a number of things: A word, smell, sight, picture, music, films, a photo, and much more.

I am sure we have all experienced a wave of nostalgia at some time in our lives. It usually hits quickly and without prior warning and tends to be accompanied by old emotions and feelings.

Nostalgia itself is not a negative feeling to have; the feelings can be of happy memories from the past and can feel quite exhilarating. Attachment to nostalgia can however lead to negative feelings.

By attachment I mean becoming so infused with the feeling of nostalgia that you are no longer in the present moment. You may have noticed that when a wave of nostalgia goes through you that your whole body and mind feels different, often giving a sense of emotional vulnerability. Your thoughts can become entangled with only the past memories and there can be a feeling of no longer being grounded.

If your feelings of nostalgia are of pleasant memories then dwelling on them and becoming entangled in those thoughts can cause a feeling of unease and a want to be back in the past rather than where you are in the present moment.

Dwelling on unpleasant nostalgic memories can also cause a feeling of unease and a want to be somewhere familiar rather than where you are in the present moment.

These nostalgic moments after a recent move to a new and unfamiliar country or state can enhance the feeling of wanting to return home or of feeling vulnerable and can quickly lead to feelings of sadness and unease.

The secret is to catch the moment of nostalgia before you become attached to the feelings, before you have time to get entangled in the thoughts or to dwell on the past and to allow yourself some time to feel this way before returning to the present moment. Resisting the nostalgic feelings will only serve to enhance them.

When you notice the wave of nostalgia sweep across you, recognise it for what it is, a memory from the past, and make the decision to allocate it a certain amount of time. Use this time to allow yourself this moment of nostalgia without resistance. Set aside an hour or two and set an alarm so you don't dwell for too long. During your set time try one or two of the following exercises:

  • Write down all your feelings and memories without thinking about it, just let the writing flow, cry if you want to cry, laugh if you want to laugh.
  • Sit somewhere relaxing and just follow the feelings of nostalgia, let the feelings flow and don't be afraid to laugh or cry.
  • Watch a movie or listen to music that reflects the mood you are feeling, allow yourself to laugh or cry.

When the alarm rings bring your self back to the present moment and go for a walk while trying to observe as many things in your street as you can. Observing various objects, colours, plants and so on will keep you in the present so your thoughts don't carry you away. Practice the above each time you feel that you are drifting in to nostalgia and you may find that eventually the waves become weaker and weaker.

Kama J. Frankling has been a happy migrant and expat for over 28 years. She runs a coaching company called The Happy Migrant.

Posted in migration |
Posted by Kama J. Frankling
20 Jul 2010

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Lovely, yes I did indeed agree with your article, you just don't realize in the immediate time that over time it is good to appreciate nostalgia and not get overwhelmed by it. I have many moments, but they are good ones!!
Rating: 5 / 5
by Mandy Long on 31 Jul 2010

What a nice way of thinking things thru and not becoming so overwhelmed by all the memories that you cant be effective where you are, I think its easy to get swept away as you say. Thank for your perspective on this.
Rating: 4 / 5
by BJ on 26 Jul 2010

Been in NZ now almost 3 years and I think I suffer from nostalgia
Rating: 3 / 5
by Lydia on 20 Jul 2010

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