Embracing the Overwhelming Power of Our Childhood Nostalgia

The Power of Nostalgia and My Naani’s Dessert

A funny thing has happened on my way up the proverbial hill. As I’ve grown older, I’ve found myself reminiscing more and more about past experiences from my youth – especially positive and simple ones. You know, the kind that evoke feelings of pure, unadulterated and complete joy, like buying a popsicle for 10 cents at the ‘smoke shop,’ and sitting and eating it in the parking lot with your friends on a sticky hot summer day. Or staying in hotels with my parents (a fancy slumber party with the entire family)! In particular, I have strong memories of my visits to India as a very young child. All of my grandparents lived there, so we visited regularly growing up.

Being in India is an experience that can only be described as a masterful “sensory overload.” I remember the sight of 30 cars fighting for a single spot in a crowded dirt lane. The sound of morning hawkers hollering out the fresh fruits and vegetables they had for sale. The feel of silky soft saris in every shade imaginable. And the smells… oh the smells! Intermixed in the air forming a vibrant, pungent potpourri: sandalwood, charcoal, jasmine, cow dung patties, and of course, sweet masala chai.

Sweets are profoundly appreciated in India. I can remember the very first time I tasted ‘mitha dahi’ (sweet yogurt) - my Naani’s special dessert. She handed my brother and I each a stainless steel dish after lunch one afternoon, each with a generous dollop of pure white homemade dahi sprinkled with sugar cane. That was it. So simple – and yet so unbelievably heavenly. It’s a nostalgic memory indeed that I like to indulge in more than occasionally.

Up until recently, the idea of nostalgia - the sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, usually for a time of happy personal associations – was frowned upon by mental health experts. The longing for what was no longer was thought to be a source of depression in the present. Since the millennium however, things have turned in favour of positive reminiscing. Current research shows that being nostalgic at times helps us to feel good, about our lives and ourselves. Our memories can temporarily alter our perception of our current mental state. This is because savoring fond memories connects our past to our present, pointing us toward the future with hope. It creates the internal ‘story’ of our lives.

Cherishing fond childhood memories is very common, because when you think about it, childhood is a time when we truly feel free – fully free. And so vibrantly full of life! Remembering these memories recaptures and solidifies that most exquisite feeling of being alive – fully alive.

When I want to turn back time and experience that feeling of tasting my Naani’s sweet yogurt for the first time again, I turn to Hans Dairy. They offer a host of dairy products that include all the essentials for recapturing my youthful bliss: Lassi, rice pudding (or kheer), smoothies, and of course, yogurt. Our sense of smell and taste are the strongest triggers for recalling past memories that are locked away, and Hans Dairy products deliver on both. Their products are crafted using traditional methods, producing the kind of taste that even my parents reminisce over.

I have my own children now, and I wonder sometimes if I’ll be able to give them the kind of experiences and exposure to their Indian heritage that I had growing up. I probably will not, if I’m being honest; I was formed on the other side of the pond. But I will be able to share my most treasured childhood memories with them, and bring my experiences of our shared culture to life.

Perhaps even over a bowl of “mitha dahi.”

Natasha Sharma is a therapist, happiness expert, TV/media spokesperson, speaker, and psychology doctoral student. She is also the author of The Kindness Journal  a guided daily journal for cultivating happiness and a more positive outlook in life. Natasha is devoted to inspiring and helping others become happier and feel more fulfilled. She founded the Toronto clinic NKS Therapy in 2012.

Follow Natasha on Twitter @NatashaSharma17