Clay Routledge

Clay Routledge, PhD, is a leading expert in existential psychology. His work has been featured by the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, CBS, ABC, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, the Atlantic, The New YorkerWiredForbes, and more. He is the vice president of research and director of the Human Flourishing Lab at the Archbridge Institute, and coeditor of Profectus. For more, visit clayroutledge.com.

Author photo © Jenny Routledge

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Clay Routledge: The Surprising Powers of Nostalgia

Can relishing the past help us create a better future? If we want to move ahead, how does going back support us? Could it be that thinking about the past is inseparable from thinking about the future? These are the questions Dr. Clay Routledge explores in his new book, Past Forward

In this fascinating and very cool podcast, Tami Simon and Clay consider how a walk down memory lane can lead you to a brighter tomorrow, discussing: agency, action, and the power of a “meaning mindset”; building a culture of agency; existential psychology; the subjective experience of time and the concept of “temporal consciousness”; why it’s important to savor the moment; the characteristics of nostalgia; working with difficult or bittersweet memories; how creativity is facilitated by a sense of security; journaling, playlists, scrapbooks, cooking, and other practical approaches to cultivate nostalgia and its benefits; the “reminiscence bump” and how nostalgia helps us feel younger; becoming our true selves; nostalgia around objects and personal possessions; and more.

The Modern Science of Nostalgia

In the first two decades of this new century, the science of nostalgia has exploded. There are now hundreds of published scientific studies exploring a wide range of questions about how humans experience nostalgia and the different roles it plays in daily life. Scholars from all over the world are now conducting diverse studies about the ways nostalgia influences our lives.

Keeping in mind the history of nostalgia, it’s amazing what we are now learning. Nostalgia is certainly not a disease and it’s far more than just a source of entertainment. By using the gold standard of science—experiments in which research participants are randomly assigned to different treatment conditions—we’ve been able to answer a number of key questions. What causes people to experience nostalgia? How does nostalgia impact how people feel about their current lives? Does nostalgia influence our interests, goals, and behavior? If so, in what ways? Do the effects of nostalgia differ from person to person?

In addition to experimental studies, we have now conducted rigorous survey studies observing how nostalgia naturally occurs and what psychological characteristics, life experiences, and behaviors it tends to be associated with. This has helped us answer other intriguing questions. Are some individuals naturally more nostalgic than others? Is there a nostalgic personality type? Are people more or less nostalgic at different ages? Are people more or less nostalgic when experiencing different life changes such as moving away from home, starting a new career, facing personal tragedy and loss, or experiencing major life disruptions such as a global pandemic?

Over the last two decades, we have asked thousands of people to document their nostalgic memories. This has given us a great deal of insight into the more qualitative experience of nostalgia, which has in turn helped us develop a more complete picture of what happens inside a person’s mind when they take a nostalgic trip down memory lane. These personal stories have guided a lot of my research questions on the topic.

Combining these different approaches to researching nostalgia, mycolleagues and I have made a number of discoveries that cast this old emotional experience in a brand-new light. We’ve put nostalgia under the microscope, and what we’ve discovered is that nostalgia doesn’t cause problems as proposed by past scholars, physicians, and psychologists. On the contrary, problems cause nostalgia.

When people are down because they feel sad, lonely, meaningless, uncertain, or even just bored, they often turn to nostalgia. Nostalgia lifts our spirits and offers stability and guidance when life becomes chaotic and the future feels uncertain. Even though nostalgia contains sentiments of loss, it ultimately makes people feel happier, more authentic and self-confident, more loved and supported, and more likely to perceive life as meaningful. In addition, nostalgia inspires action. Nostalgia starts with people self-reflecting on cherished memories, but it also drives people to look outside of themselves, help others, create, and innovate.

Though I’ve been researching nostalgia for a couple of decades now, I’ve remained excited about the topic because there is still so much to learn and so many ways to apply the knowledge we’ve gained to helping people improve their lives and the world we all share.

Journal Prompts:

Get out a pen or pencil and a piece of paper; or use a digital device, such as a phone, tablet, or computer. Briefly jot down your reactions to the following questions: 

  • How would you define nostalgia?
  • Do you consider yourself to be highly nostalgic, moderately nostalgic, or rarely nostalgic? 
  • Do you think the activities in which you engage in the present—from your work to your personal hobbies—are meaningfully influenced by nostalgia? 
  • Do you think nostalgia can help you pursue your current goals and make plans for the future? Finally, what is a nostalgic memory that really stands out as special to you? Describe this memory and how it makes you feel. 

Excerpted from Past Forward: How Nostalgia Can Help You Live a More Meaningful Life by Clay Routledge, PhD.

Clay Routledge, PhD, is a leading expert in existential psychology. His work has been featured inn the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Guardian, the Atlantic, The New Yorker, Wired, Forbes, and more. He is the vice president of research and director of the Human Flourishing Lab at the Archbridge Institute. For more, visit clayroutledge.com.

Past Forward

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The Greatest Wealth Is Found When We Gather Together

When people ask for my personal secret to living a life that is authentically happy and liberating, the first thing that comes to mind are my friends. I’ve known for a long time that I am a wealthy and blessed person. The wealth that I’m referring to has nothing to do with my bank account balance. The wealth that I’m talking about are the meaningful connections that have sustained me over the years. What I lacked in familial bonds, the divine provided in long-term platonic relationships.

One of the clearest indicators of someone who is flourishing is their ability to build and keep meaningful connections and quality relationships. When designing a life that supports your becoming the most fully expressed version of yourself, the people who are closest to you can either support or hinder your progress. This is why I’m adamant about being intentional about my connections.

My “Presidential Cabinet,” which is basically what I call my trusted circle of friends, is filled with some amazing folks. I’m forever grateful for my community of friends that became family, strangers that became mentors, and colleagues that became accountability partners.

In the chapter “What About Your Friends?” from my book, Evolving While Black, I share with you that people who have strong relationships feel the support of family, friends, and others in their community. When you know you have a village of folks you can count on, it improves your ability to recover from stress, anxiety, and depression.

An agreement I made with myself in my early thirties was to commit to choosing connection and community over isolation. This decision is the gift that keeps on giving. The investment you make in choosing your connections is the greatest pathway to wholeness, prosperity, and longevity.

What you should consider as you’re continuing to build out your own Presidential Cabinet

Your connections should include people who:

  • Energize you and help you to create a life of ease
  • Encourage you to make your mental and emotional well-being a priority 
  • Consider you for opportunities when you’re not in the room
  • Show mutual support and respect 

Now that you know what to consider, use these prompts to create a plan

  • Who’s in your Presidential Cabinet, and how do they support you? 
  • Who do you need to add, and how will they support your journey? 
  • If you change nothing, what will your life look like three months from now? How does this make you feel?

My hope for you is that you attract meaningful connections that bring you joy and make your heart smile, laughs that make your cheeks hurt, and love that covers you like a warm blanket. You deserve to feel loved, supported, and cared for.

Until we meet again.

Currently evolving,

Chianti


Evolving While Black
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Evolving While Black
Sounds True

Chianti Lomax is a sought-after international speaker, certified mindset coach, and leadership trainer who thrives at the intersection of mindfulness, technology, and transformative coaching. As a registered yoga instructor, certified personal and executive coach, certified workplace mindfulness facilitator, and positive psychology practitioner, Chianti teaches doable habit changes to help increase our well-being and elevate the overall human experience. For more, visit chiantilomax.com.

Author photo © Ambreia Williams

Erica Djossa: Releasing the Mother Load

What have we done to our mothers? Sociologists call our times “the era of intensive mothering,” a period in which moms must be it all and do it all for their children and families. Psychotherapist and maternal mental health specialist Erica Djossa has made it her mission to teach today’s mothers how to take care of their well-being in a sustainable way. In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with Erica about her much-needed new book, Releasing the Mother Load, and the steps we can take to challenge the norms and change the culture around mothering. 

Enjoy this empowering discussion of: values-centered mothering; mothers as martyrs; the pressures facing a generation of “overinformed, overeducated, and overwhelmed” moms; equally sharing our household duties; the cost of cognitive or invisible labor; boundaries; using the “load map” to redistribute the work; “mom rage,” its roots, and the unique nature of anger in motherhood; identifying the “red light and green light” times for difficult conversations with partners (and sticking to them); overcoming perfectionism; self-compassion; re-parenting yourself while you’re parenting your children; the disempowering belief that I’m failing as a mom; effective self-care for moms (it’s not just bubble baths!); advice for making changes—start small; and more.

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After 50 years of helping thousands of clients in trauma recovery and now in his 80s, Peter A. Levine, PhD, continues the work of healing—both others and himself. In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with the beloved Sounds True author and groundbreaking creator of the Somatic Experiencing® method about his personal journey and ongoing mission. 

Give a listen to this inspiring conversation about the importance of community, the power of compassion, and the profound wisdom of the body, as Tami and Dr. Levine discuss: personal writing as a tool for working with trauma; self-compassion and kindness; conception trauma and procedural memories; the archetype of the wounded healer; the body as healer; how both trauma and wisdom are passed from generation to generation; conversations with Einstein; getting to the root of where you’re stuck; the promises and pitfalls of psychedelics; lessening our fear of dying; on-the-spot techniques for feeling safe in your nervous system; the ongoing nature of healing; the journey from trauma to awakening and flow; and more.

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