One of the things that we all go through in our lives is bad times. The days, weeks, months, and years in which everything seems to be going wrong. The times in which you feel desperate to get out. You want change, you want something better. Something worth living for. It’s these times that often make us wonder why we are alive. Why we are on this earth? What the purpose is behind all the suffering and bad shit that’s happening. And how we move forward. How we can in some way take control over life, and make it better.
And I feel you. I have been there too. And often get back there for a few days at a time. It’s nothing to be worried about, nothing to be scared off, or to be ashamed of. It’s human, it’s part of the journey. It’s part of our growth and the way life was meant to be. I would have loved to tell you that you can get out instantly. That I have that one trick for you that will make everything better. That would just be a lie, probably putting you in a more horrible situation than you started. I’ve tried a lot of “life hacks” that should have made me achieve my dreams, that should have improved the way I felt. Some of these will work for you or others. Most of them just didn’t work for me.
There is only one reason for that, we are all different. So even though I would have loved to give you a trick, or a hack to feel better instantly for most of you reading this it will not make a difference. I decided to not do it. To instead share a little reminder. That I always think about, and now actually is proven to be a psychological fact. It’s called the fading affect bias. This in itself might be a puzzling name that most of you, just like me, have no clue what it is. So let me explain.
Part One: Everything Negative Will Fade
Now I normally don’t share any psychological research, or fact with you. I am more of a feeling guy than I am a researcher or fact guy. There’s no good or bad here, it’s just the way I write and love to write. But this psychological bias is something I had to share with you. Because it is proof of what we are all going through in our lives.
Do you remember your last holiday? Or the last time you got drunk? You likely do, but the thing is, what do you remember? You probably remember that you had an amazing night, or that you had a lovely holiday. You spend a lot of time sightseeing and enjoying the sun, and had nothing to complain about. Well, this is the fading affect bias. When you think back on these memories you mostly remember the good things. You remember the amazing night you had when getting drunk, but you probably don’t remember the morning after. You probably remember the amazing sun, the lovely scooter trips, and the fun locals you met. Yet you are not likely to first remember the one day it rained cats and dogs, or the day your moped broke down.
That’s because of this psychological bias, the fading affect bias. It’s the way our brains work. The bad memories or the negative events we go through in our lives are more likely to fade away quicker than the positive memories and events. That’s why you remember the amazing night out, but barely remember the morning after. You just filter out the bad, so you can just have good memories stored in your brain. These good memories actually have a purpose, they can make you happy at any moment in time. Whilst the bad ones can’t do that.
But that did make me think. Is there no purpose for bad memories? Why do they fade? Why are we traumatized by bad events from our past? Why don’t these events quickly fade? Why didn’t I quickly forget the stressful years I had after losing two close family members? Or why didn’t I remember the anxiety I had for school? That’s because we haven’t learned a lesson from these, nor have we allowed them to fade. Let me explain. When you are hungover from a night out drinking, you feel bad, but it’s not too bad that you hold on to the memory, or that it has a massive influence on your life. On the other hand, traumas do have a massive impact on your life, and therefore the memories stick until you learn from them. The bad memories, those who do have an impact on your life, are more likely to stay longer when you haven’t learned a lesson from them when you haven’t seen the good in them.
The years of stress that followed after the death of two close family members were filled with holding onto the memories of losing them. It was not until I learned that I could use these memories for the better, that the bad memories started to fade, and the good ones remained. It’s therefore that if you are in a bad situation, or have gone through a bad situation yet don’t seem to be able to get out, that I highly encourage you to start seeing what you can learn from it. What this life event wants to teach you in order to improve you and make you a better person.
I feel that if we can find that beautiful thing we can move past the bad memories and allow them to fade away. We no longer need to hold on, nor will our brain do this unconsciously.
Part Two: In Hindsight
When the bad memories fade, and the good ones stay we are left with more happy memories of our past. Also known as nostalgia. This is such a wonderful experience, but also highly damaging. I don’t want to sound pessimistic, so I will start by sharing why nostalgia is so amazing, and then give you a little side note to be careful with.
Nostalgia is amazing, it can make you happy at any moment. I love to share stories of my past with friends and family. Most of our family dinners are filled with recalling old memories of holidays, silly moments, and childhood. I love to talk about this because nostalgia makes you relive the beauty of your life. That’s only because of this fading affect bias, that lets the negative memories fade quicker than the positive ones. It’s why we feel nostalgic when thinking of the good old days. We hear a song on the radio and get carried away. We think of the beautiful life we lived then, and we think of the wonderful nights with friends gazing at the sky, with a glass of beer in your hand, and the crackling of the fireplace. Those are moments of relived pure happiness. And they might even come close to the purest feeling of joy.
But here is the side note. It’s amazing to experience nostalgia and to relive memories. It’s why we can look back at the past I believe. Not just to learn from it, but also to remind us of life’s beauty. Yet one thing to never do is to compare your current day life to that of the past. For the very same reason that I shared with you in part one. The fading affect bias will allow the negative events to fade quicker, but whilst you are living through these bad times they can’t yet fade away. Because they aren’t yet memories. You are still living through them. So then if you look back at your life, and feel the nostalgia again it will only make your current situation feel worse.
And to that I want to say, it’s alright. It’s not cheesy, it’s not meant to make you feel like you should be looking ahead and knowing that one day everything will be alright. No, I want to remind you that everything is alright. You see, the bad memories will fade if you learn from them and the good ones will stay. You can make use of that. You can start learning from all the bad days, from all the bad moments throughout your life. And in hindsight, everything will be alright.
See that everything you have gone through now feels amazing, whilst at that moment you will have had problems. You just barely remember them or don’t remember them at all. The problems we go through are less important. They will fade, as long as we have learned from them. So this is a reminder for you if you are going through bad times to learn from them. Use them to your advantage. Don’t try to seek the light, or try to make things better. That won’t help because it will make you more discontented with life. Instead, try to see what you can learn from it. You don’t need to be happy right away or have the solution to your problem.
This takes time, but starting this process and allowing yourself to learn from the bad times will make sure they can fade away. So in hindsight, you can remember all the good things you did, all the lessons you learned, and the beautiful things you experienced. Then even these bad times will feel nostalgic.
Part Three: While It Lasts
Live the good old days, whilst they last. That’s my reminder to you. If you know that one day the bad memories will fade if you know that one day the problems you experience right now will soon be fading away. And if you know that the positive memories will do so in a much slower tempo, you can hopefully see that your problems are nothing more than thoughts. That will eventually fade. And in no way shape or form do I want to make you feel like you should have everything figured out by now. That you should feel amazing right now.
No all I am trying to do is encourage you to live your life whilst it lasts. To live the bad days fully, knowing that one day you will look back at them and think of them as the good old days. Listen to the songs now playing on the radio, do fun things, spend time with friends, feel bad sometimes, be sad, be stressed, fully indulge yourself in everything life has to offer. Knowing that all these experiences will combine into one, the lines between good and bad fading away and becoming one big memory. That when you think of it will make you feel nostalgic. You will remember that song on the radio and think of these beautiful times you are going through.
This is a practice of gratitude. To see the things that one day, when the bad moments have passed, will make you smile at the memories. Spot all the things that can make you remember the beauty of what you are going through right now so that in the future the memory of this moment will be filled with nostalgia. Live the good old days, whilst they last. Appreciate all that is, and let all that was bad fade away, so you can say Today I Lived. I made the most of it.
Thank you dear reader. Have a lovely day.