This past week I’ve been enjoying the newly released album from famed Swedish pop band, ABBA. Uh, Lisa, weren’t they a thing back in the 70s? Why, yes. Yes they were! And now the four singers, well into their 70s, have come back together to produce a new 10-track album, “Voyage.” There voices have aged and their range is a little lower, but they still have the sound and presence that takes me back to my childhood bedroom on Talkeetna Avenue in Fairbanks, Alaska, where I listened to their albums on cassette tape in my clock-radio tape deck while lying on my waterbed (remember those?!). I remember the first time I heard “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!,” “Dancing Queen,” and “Knowing Me Knowing You.” Energy flowed through me and I had goose bumps! I learned how to harmonize with ABBA. I must’ve rewound each tape at least 100 times until I knew all the words and could sing along with every song.
Often nostalgia comes over us when we’re thinking wistfully of the past. It has been said that nostalgia is taking a mental vacation without leaving your home. It used to be thought of as a malady, an illness, even a neurological illness. Author Gabriel Marquez said, “we become easy victims to the charitable deceptions of nostalgia.” It can lead us to think the past was better than it is now. I know with COVID, I’ve had some of those thoughts. “Life was so much better pre-COVID.” The truth is, we have distortions in our nostalgia. We remember the good and delete or forget the bad or boring parts. Yet science now shows us that nostalgia can improve our well-being because we get a happiness boost from it. According to psychologist Constantine Sedikides, Ph.D. (University of Southampton), reminiscing about past moments of happiness can provide a buffer against despair and offer hope and inspiration. It increases our desire to pursue important goals, and our confidence that we can achieve them. So how do we get the benefits of remembering the past without the biased memories hurting our current selves or affecting our decisions?
Get a journal or notebook and a writing instrument. Take a minute before you start the exercise to get comfortable. Begin with a few deep, cleansing breaths. When you’re ready to write, describe a really happy day in your life. It can be a real day that actually happened or an imagined day that you wish would happen. Write down as many details as you can. It might be easier to think about the person or peoplewho have most helped you become who you are or helped you get to where you are. Reflect and write down what comes into your mind. Replay that day or those moments in your mind. What happened? How did you feel? A bonus to this writing exercise is to send a letter of gratitude to the person or people who came into your mind. Thank them for what they mean to you.
Let’s go back to my ABBA nostalgia. One of the lyrics from the song “I Still Have Faith In You” asks, “Do I have it in me? I believe it is in there.” I know I’m not the only one that has been asking myself that question lately. We’re coming upon another holiday season that brings both joy and sorrow, happiness and sadness. Big breath. Do I have it in me? I hope you will take 5 minutes and do this with me right now. Go into your closet and find your widest legged or bell-bottomed pants. Grab your tightest button down shirt, the shinier the better, and ladies, find the highest platform shoes you’ve got! Put these things on. Now, click on Don’t Shut Me Down, track 4 from ABBA’s “Voyage.” Wait for the piano glissando…
We’re dancing now!