Recently, while sitting down to eat dinner at our tiny kitchen table, my boyfriend said, “You know, at some point in the future, we’re going to be living somewhere else, and we’ll remember all of the good conversations we had at this little table.”

I was hit with a wave of pre-nostalgia, a word I think I just made up, but pretty much captures the feeling of anticipating that you’ll one day miss something. I welcome that feeling, because it very quickly puts you in a state of mind to appreciate what you have in the moment.

Our little kitchen table. You can see our little jar of memories, another nostalgia-inducer.

Our little kitchen table. You can see our little jar of memories, another nostalgia-inducer.

In The How of Happiness, psychologist and happiness expert Sonja Lyubomirsky, writes, “When we are mindful of the transience of things—an impending return home from an overseas adventure, a graduation, our child boarding the school bus for the first day of kindergarten, a close colleague changing jobs, a move to a new city—we are more likely to appreciate and savor the remaining time that we do have. Although bittersweet experiences also make us sad, it is this sadness that prompts us, instead of taking it for granted, to come to appreciate the positive aspects of our vacation, colleague, or hometown; it’s ‘now or never.’”

Lyubomirsky goes on to say that research shows that framing something in terms of its imminent end (e.g. “only 1200 hours of school left” vs.  “we still have 1/10 of a year left”) produces greater feelings of happiness and “savoring behaviors” such as spending more time with loved ones or documenting memories.

I think that’s a great trick for becoming more mindful of the present moment. Perhaps ironically (is anybody else super paranoid about using that word incorrectly after the massive Alanis-shaming that happened in the 90s?), it requires you to think about the future, but it also grounds you in the now.

Do you ever seek out the bittersweet?

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