Nostalgia definitely makes us sad

Back to childhood | That is what we long for
so much like before

Oh, how wonderful life was when math homework was the biggest problem! Back when vacations were endless and every trip was an adventure

Almost everyone longs to go back to childhood and youth, thinks of Pippi Longstocking and outdoor fries. Almost half of Germans consider the 80s to be the best decade. But hand on heart: Was everything really better in the past?

"Not necessarily, but in retrospect everything is always half as wild and twice as beautiful," says author Daniel Rettig ("The good old days. Why nostalgia makes us happy"). We gradually fade out negatives over time. The explanation for this is simple: "In the rearview mirror of life we ​​put on rose-colored glasses because we feel better with them," said Rettig. And the experience becomes more incomparable, more wonderful with every year, because it is closed and over. “The value of memory arises from the thought: I will never experience it like that again,” says the author.

However, nostalgia also has a solid function for our psyche.

trip to the past

It is something like an anchor for the soul, especially in times of crisis. The psychologist and nostalgia expert Dr. Martin Bruder explains: “Scientific studies show that nostalgia is triggered, among other things, by loneliness, fear of one's own transience and major upheavals in life. It helps to cope better with current negative feelings and changes. "

In other words: we need the thought of the idyllic past in order to be able to deal better with the complicated now and the unclear future. Daniel Rettig also sees it this way: “The past is over, closed. You escape where you know your way around. And that gives consolation. ”So it's no wonder that our psyche occasionally uses an emotional filter.

In addition, the feeling of nostalgia connects us with other people: those who revive previous school trips, football games and disco nights over a beer together feel closer - and younger! "Psychological studies show that nostalgia strengthens self-confidence and the feeling of being connected to others," says Dr. Brothers.

Adulthood, on the other hand, often feels like a single, eternal class test. We bear responsibility, have to make decisions all the time and have no idea whether it will all really turn out well. “I think that what we miss most about our childhood is the light-heartedness”, explains the psychologist and bestselling author Stefanie Stahl (“The child in you must find a home”). “Worrying about our future or that of our children feels difficult, and we long for the lightness of yesteryear.” However, this does not apply to everyone. "People with a traumatic childhood are often very happy that it is over," the expert says.

Basically, however, the longing for a supposedly lighter, more beautiful back then is deeply human. “We want our life to tell a positive coherent 'story'. Especially when we are not doing well, we fall back on good experiences, for example from childhood, ”says Dr. Martin brother.

Some earlier abilities that we lost as adults could still be good for the soul today. As children, we could completely immerse ourselves in the moment and forget ourselves. “As adults, we can no longer achieve this so easily. We lack the spontaneity and courage that you had as a child, ”explains expert Stahl. She suggests getting closer to the child within us, for example through movement.

But repeating experiences that we used to love - climbing trees, eating pancakes - can create new, little moments of happiness in the present.
The concrete encounter with real childhood memories in adulthood, however, carries a certain risk.

Because our brain linked emotional experiences with sensory impressions and stored them together - for example, the feeling of endless freedom and light-heartedness in the bathing establishment with the taste of french fries.

Without the feeling, it can happen that outdoor pool fries only taste like fat, the funny film is suddenly just silly and the enchanting home village is little more than a dreary nest.

Fortunately, it also works the other way around. Then a bowl of semolina is enough and we feel happy and secure again. Just like before.