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Written By: DiveThru Team

Reviewed By: Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW


Feeling Sentimental: A Guide to Your Emotions

PUBLISHED Dec 23rd, 2020 & UPDATED ON Jan 26th, 2023

When we look back fondly on the memories that mean a lot to us, we start feeling sentimental. Whether it’s looking through old photographs, listening to certain albums or watching one of your favourite movies, it can bring back a LOT of different emotions. Especially around the holidays when you’re surrounded by loved ones, and your relatives start retelling stories you’ve heard about a million times! But reflecting on those memories sure makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside, doesn’t it? Feeling sentimental can give you a sense of belonging and make you feel a strong connection to people, a place, or an experience. This is something we all feel from time to time!

Our lives are made up of so many moments, and cherishing those moments can be a really positive thing! Life experiences, no matter how big or small, are what makes us the people we are. Maybe that’s why we love to look back on them so fondly! So let’s dive thru what it means to feel sentimental and how it affects our wellbeing.

A Deeper Look at Feeling Sentimental

What does it mean to feel sentimental? Dictionary.com defines sentimental as: “adj. expressive of or appealing to sentiment, especially the tender emotions and feelings, as love, pity, or nostalgia.” Yeppp, when you reflect on a past memory that makes your heart ache but in a good way? That’s feeling sentimental.

There are lots of things that can spark sentimental feelings or nostalgia. You could be driving and listening to the radio when a certain song comes on that brings back the same feeling you had when you heard it for the first time. Or looking through family photo albums and seeing pictures from your childhood that make you smile. Noticing your diploma framed on the wall can make you feel a bit sentimental for your college days whenever you pass it by in the hallway. 

Maybe you save tickets from every concert you’ve ever attended because you treasure those experiences. Spending holidays with loved ones can be a really sentimental time for a lot of people, especially when there are traditions involved like decorating the Christmas tree. All of these things can bring back allll the feels, and it’s pretty great!

This feeling can make us feel connected and less alone. We might want to hold on to certain items to evoke that feeling and provide a sense of comfort or calm when we really need it. Like when your partner is away on a trip, so you wear their hoodie because it smells like them. Or re-reading old birthday cards from your grandparents, because they take the time to remind you how loved you are. Sentimental items are great for counteracting negative emotions, and they bring us a sense of peace.

Feeling sentimental can also be bittersweet. Even when the memories are positive, like watching home videos of family vacations during your childhood, it can also bring a pang of sadness. Maybe you’re feeling sentimental for a time when one of your loved ones was still around and you miss them a lot. FYI: that’s normal. It’s okay to feel a wide range of emotions when you think about the past. No matter what, your feelings are valid!

How Feeling Sentimental Shows Up Mentally

Looking back on the past can bring on a ton of feels. Like, the kinda feels that make you wanna laugh and cry at the same time because they make you sad that you’re not back doing what you’re reminiscing about and *gasps for air* ya… You just end up feeling a lot of things. 

But besides talking in long, run-on sentences, feeling sentimental can actually show up in a lot of different ways. Here’s some ways feeling sentimental can impact our mental wellbeing:

  • Calming feeling
  • Reduces stress and anxiety
  • Combats negative emotions and thoughts
  • Boosts self-esteem
  • Increases optimism
  • Sparks creativity
  • Promotes gratitude and acts of kindness
  • Improves personal connections/bonding

Sharing stories with your friends and loved ones is a great way to reconnect after being apart. Now we’re kind of understanding why our parents would just reminisce about the old days with their friends. It’s so fun! 

How Feeling Sentimental Shows Up Physically

The rush of feelings you get when you look back fondly on old memories can benefit your mental wellbeing. But they can also provide some physical benefits! Yaaaaa, you might wanna cry but THAT’S THE PRICE YOU PAY! Just kidding… but only kind of!

There aren’t really any downsides to feeling sentimental. Wanna know why? Because it helps benefit your body too! Yep, you heard that right. There are benefits to feeling this way! Here’s a few you might experience when you’re in your sentimental feels:

  • Boosts immune system
  • Reduces stress and anxiety
  • Fights pain
  • Promotes longevity
  • Increases motivation

Also, sometimes it just feel really fucking good to have a happy cry! It releases tension from your body that you didn’t know that you had. See? Even more benefits than we thought! 

5 Ways to Acknowledge Your Sentimental Feelings

Feeling sentimental can be great for reflection and appreciating memories. We want to help you keep the good feelings going but giving you some tips on how to cultivate this feeling of sentimentality. Here’s some fun things you can do when you feel sentimental!

1. Engage in compassionate self talk

When you’re feeling sentimental, you might be feeling really nostalgic for a certain time in your life. Maybe there’s loved ones who you really miss, or a past relationship that brings up a lot of different emotions when you reflect on it. Remind yourself that it’s okay to get a lil’ emotional as you reminisce on the past! Don’t forget to be kind to yourself.

2. Reach out for support or connect with a friend

Leaning on our support group? Having our feelings validated? That’s a must! Feeling sentimental can bring back a lot of emotions, so reach out to the people you can trust to be there for you! We’re all about talking through our feelings here.

3. Engage in something soothing or comforting

Spend time with your pet by cuddling them or taking them on a walk. Touch something comforting like your fave cozy blanket. Brew some tea or your drink of choice. Do whatever makes you feel calm and safe!

4. Do something creative

Use your favourite creative outlet to channel those sentimental feelings. Get artsy by drawing, sketching, doing calligraphy or painting. Write poems or try blog writing. Practice an instrument, sing, dance! Feeling sentimental can really inspire you to create something amazing, and the possibilities are endless. Give it a go!

5. Journal

Try writing out exactly how you’re feeling and what made you feel this way. Was it a photograph that sparked a certain memory? Or coming across your favourite stuffed animal from your childhood tucked away in your closet? Take the time to describe the memories that sparked and how those memories have impacted your life. Your hand might start to cramp, but hey! It’s worth it.

That’s all for now, you sentimental saps. We hope you take the time to appreciate old memories and make some new ones! ‘Cause that’s what being human is all about.

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