Over the COVID-19 quarantine, maybe you found yourself listening to old Panic! at the Disco albums or playing the Sims. Perhaps you cut bangs for yourself (never a good move) or started buying low-rise jeans and baby tanks from Hot Topic. One thing’s for sure, though: you’re no longer cringing at the past because it brings a kind of comfort that you thought you had long forgotten. Regression sounds nice.
Getting back into the weird things you loved as a teenager can bring a hefty dose of joy to your adult life.
Read on to find out why keeping old hobbies alive is essential for your mental health – no matter how “cheugy” they might be.
Bringing Your Teenage Self To Life Again
How It Began
It all started in the early weeks of COVID-19, when people in their 20s and 30s returned to their childhood homes to stay safe during the quarantine.
According to a report from Time Magazine, it was during this era that many young adults found solace in the bedrooms they grew up in, surrounded by the things they used to love. Games like Animal Crossing had an enormous resurgence during this period, as early 2000s pop-punk trended on TikTok, fanfiction websites drew record hits, face gems and glitter began to dominate fashion, and messy DIY projects were everywhere.
Oddly, now that the world seems to have opened up again, you’re back in your apartment and in the office. And now, you can’t seem to put down the Gameboy or leave your dELiA*s crop top in the closet. The question remains: how exactly did this seemingly communal regression occur? And why is it still around?
Why It Happens
As a psychology writer and researcher myself, I know that stressful situations cause people to regress to a time when they feel the safest. Though teenage years were difficult for everyone, the prevailing sentiment is that no one understands you, and though the world may be harsh and cruel, you only have yourself to rely on. This creates a self-soothing space, one that you unconsciously feel you have complete control over. And in a world where everything feels so out of control, having something you feel like you can hold onto is sometimes the only thing that can keep you sane.
Some experts also say that this urge to regress is due to a desire for immediate gratification, more colloquially known as a “serotonin rush.” Behaviors that adults usually attribute to the youths, such as junk foods, video games, dying hair, and buying clothes, are generally due to an undeveloped frontal lobe that hasn’t yet thoroughly fine-tuned its executive functioning.
However, adults with fully-formed frontal lobes can experience heightened impulsivity and cravings for instant gratification due to other neurochemical factors, like stress. Drugs and alcohol use can also inhibit frontal lobe functioning. And combined with stress, it makes a brain desperate for as much satisfaction as it can handle.
How To Embrace It
“Regression” sounds like a scary word, but it can be a healthy coping mechanism to tolerate the world’s instability. Just because you’re enjoying something you once loved doesn’t make you uncool, old, anxiety-ridden, or mentally ill. It simply makes you someone who’s tolerating stress in a way that isn’t self-destructive. And if it starts to feel self-destructive, that’s when you know it’s time to get professional help.
Ultimately, a regression session can be just the thing you need to feel stable, secure in your identity, content, and relaxed. Being an adult doesn’t mean resigning yourself to a stiff and boring life, putting on a suit to mow the lawn on Saturday mornings – even if that’s the way adults seemed when you were growing up.
Being an adult means indulging in things you enjoy without any bullies there to make fun of you for it. So throw on My Chemical Romance’s “I’m Not Okay (I Promise),” put on a few snap bracelets, and fire up Runescape – it’s time to get cringy.