Nostalgia can also induce sadness if you're yearning for the past, and upset that the times you're thinking of no longer exist. “When you long for a time in your past, it can make you miss that time,” Newman says. Woodhouse has seen this as well.
“We can feel sad when we reminisce because we are recalling good or emotionally important times that have passed. There is a sense that we have lost something because we are unable to relive or fully recapture that moment,” says Hannah Martin, psychotherapist, coach and the founder of Talented Ladies Club.
The human brain is continuously using comparisons in everyday situations to understand things, people, feelings, moments better. So when we recall positive memories, we unconsciously compare them to the present moment. What if the now is unpleasant? This possibility makes the reminiscence so painful.
A 2015 article on nostalgia published in ScienceDirect says recalling idealized memories from past happy times is associated with feelings of warmth, yearning, longing, desire, and wistful affection.
Hogan and Laura L. Carstensen show across three experiments that reflecting on good times raises the odds we'll also feel a bit sad. It seems that reminiscence, especially at the end of portentous life stages — college graduation, for example — tends to be bittersweet.
Recalling happy memories elicits positive feelings and enhances one's wellbeing, suggesting a potential adaptive function in using this strategy for coping with stress.
That feeling is due to nostalgia. It's a reaction to the rollercoaster of emotions you are going through. You're experiencing happiness and sadness at the same time, which can understandably be overwhelming and result in crying.
You might be nostalgic for simpler days and miss your childhood. It could mean you're exhausted from the current situation in your life. Often, it's said people miss their childhood because they're bored. It can be a sign of loneliness.
It can be partly our personality that sees us regret things more than others. Some of us seem to be born with brains that simply think more, worry more, or analyse more. But a large part of a tendency to regret everything and always blame yourself comes from the environments and people that formed your childhood.
Simply put, we regret choices we make, because we worry that we should have made other choices. We think we should have done something better, but didn't. We should have chosen a better mate, but didn't. We should have taken that more exciting but risky job, but didn't.
Feeling stuck in the past may suggest you're experiencing what we call traumatic stress symptoms. Most people who go through traumatic events have temporary difficulty adjusting and coping, but with time and support, they usually recover naturally.
Your grief about your childhood is completely legitimate. Sadness, anger, despair, longing, sorrow, rage, resentment… all of these are appropriate responses to the experience you had.
You might have difficulties trusting, low self-esteem, fears of being judged, constant attempts to please, outbursts of frustration, or social anxiety symptoms that won't let up. Can childhood trauma be healed?
The past self feels different from the present self.
This was, in turn, associated with a diminished experience of happiness in response to spontaneous positive memories and more intense feelings of sadness in response to both spontaneous and intentional positive memories.
Scientists believe that crying can make you feel physically and emotionally better. 'Having a good cry' is thought to rid the body of toxins and waste products which build up during times of elevated stress – so it's logical then that a person with PTSD may cry much more often that someone without the condition!
Treatment for trauma
By concentrating on what's happening in your body, you can release pent-up trauma-related energy through shaking, crying, and other forms of physical release.
It is a common feature of depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). People can also hold onto the past for other reasons.
Obsessive reminiscence is focused on negative events from the past and feelings of guilt and bitterness. There is a failure to reframe or restructure the thinking about mistakes or missed opportunities in order to incorporate them into a meaningful view of life, where even the bad has played an important role.
Too much yearning for the past can negatively take your attention away from the present and lead to feelings of depression by stifling interest in forming new relationships and personal growth, explains Batcho. If you're a habitual worrier, Zengel adds, you may be even more susceptible.
Hyperthymesia is the rare ability to recall nearly all past experiences in great detail. The causes of HSAM are currently unknown, but some theories suggest that it may have biological, genetic, or psychological origins. There is currently no way to diagnose hyperthymesia formally.
Another sneaky symptom of depression is nostalgia. Some people with depression will pine for the good old days as a coping mechanism. Reminiscing about fun times in the past can help someone with depression feel better temporarily.