Keep spreading those wings

Published by The Selwyn Foundation

Nostalgia – The concept of emotional growth is usually the domain of children. As we age there are still opportunities to let our feelings evolve and grow.

Emotional or Psychological growth means different things to different people. For some people, it means greater freedom to do what they want, live as they want, and pursue their interests. Others seek to understand themselves better, develop their personal capacities, plus experience new things.

There is a connection between mental and emotional growth according to internet-based WebMD.

While the terms mental health and emotional health are sometimes used interchangeably, they are distinctly different. That said, you really cannot have one without the other and an imbalance in one can pull the other out of balance as well.

In simple terms a division agreed by many experts is mental health refers to your ability to process information. Emotional health, on the other hand, refers to your ability to express feelings which are based upon the information you have processed. If your cognitive function (often explained as the processing functions of the brain) is hindered by depression or anxiety, for example, you may struggle with accurately identifying familiar people, places, items, etc. This can then trigger inappropriate responses because those responses are based upon inaccurate thoughts.

Past thinking
Nostalgia plays a role in helping to continue psychological growth by cultivating inner potentialities, and seeking out optimal challenges and new experiences into the self-concept. At a time of great change, as New Zealand has experienced, the mind will ‘reach’ for positive memories that are generally more crystallized.

There is an element of ‘living in the past’ to this process, but nostalgia can also provide a safe and secure platform as well as a stabilizing force.

Psychology Professor Krystine Batcho (Le Moyne College, Syracuse, New York) believes that nostalgic memories tend to focus on our relationships, which can comfort us during stressful or difficult times.

“Although we’ve become independent and mature (perhaps even a bit jaded), we’re still our parents’ child, our brother’s sibling, and our lover’s confidant. In developing a retrospective survey of childhood experiences, I found that remembering that we experienced unconditional love as children can reassure us in the present – especially during trying times.”

“These memories can fuel the courage to confront our fears, take reasonable risks and tackle challenges. Rather than trapping us in the past, nostalgia can liberate us from adversity by promoting personal growth.”

“People with a greater propensity for nostalgia are better able to cope with adversity and are more likely to seek emotional support, advice and practical help from others. They are also more likely to avoid distractions that prevent them from confronting their troubles and solving problems.

“Ultimately, when we focus on our own life experiences – falling back on our store of happy memories – nostalgia is a useful tool. It’s a way to harness the past internally, to endure change – and create hope for the future.”

About Age Concern New Zealand 'on research'

At the heart of everything Age Concern does is a passion to see older people experience well-being, respect, dignity, and to be included and valued. We support, inform and advise older people on issues such as access to health care, transport, housing, financial entitlements, and social opportunities. We also work to combat real problems in our society, like elder abuse and neglect, chronic loneliness and social isolation. We provide specialist services with trained and qualified professionals able to give expert advice and assistance. Age Concern is a charity and relies on the support of volunteers and public donations to do much of the work we do. To help us help older people, please consider making a donation of your time or money. To see how, visit
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