A year into the pandemic, it’s easy to find yourself reminiscing about the past: bustling restaurants, sweaty spin classes, grocery shopping unburdened by face masks and cascades of adrenaline. You may even miss things you never thought you would, like your annoying co-workers or your long commute.
Yes, this is the definition of “taking things for granted” — so perhaps it’s not surprising that we’re all suddenly appreciating what’s no longer available. But it’s also evidence of a cognitive tendency we share to selectively remember the past as better than it was, especially when the present doesn’t feel so good.
As we look back on “the good old days,” we need to ask ourselves: Was the past actually as great as we remember it? And what can we learn from all these walks down memory lane?
There is no glaring problem with romanticizing the past. As long as we’re aware how memory works, we can keep ourselves accountable, try to learn from the past and live more fully in the present.
But particularly during challenging moments of life, there are real benefits to taking a step back from whatever is going on in the present.
“We have the ability to get some space from our own experiences, which can be really useful for helping us think about them more objectively,” said Ethan Kross, a psychologist and the director of the University of Michigan Emotion and Self-Control Laboratory.
Dr. Kross has dedicated much of his research to studying what he’s called “self-distancing” — “the ability to step outside yourself and view yourself from a more distanced perspective, similar to how we might think of another person.”
He added: “There are lots of ways you can gain distance from your experiences. The act of thinking about the past is one way.”
Read the full article at the New York Times.