Hope Matters

By Tiffany Todd, LSW

In times of stress, we may struggle to find hope. “Hope matters. Hope is a choice. Hope can be learned. Hope can be shared with others,” says author and psychologist Shane Lopez in his book Making Hope Happen.

A 2016 study showed hope can increase resiliency and mental and physical health outcomes. Another study showed multiple ways hope positively impacted the mental health of young adults with depression and anxiety. These include improved coping and well-being, moderation between depression and negative life events, a protective factor in suicide, and a factor in healthy behavior engagement.

Research on hope has shown people who are hopeful are more likely to:

·        Achieve their goals.

·        Do well academically.

·        Have a healthier lifestyle.

·        Recover from and cope with illness.

·        Experience a stronger sense of purpose and meaning.

·        Have a higher level of life satisfaction.

There are many ways to strengthen your sense of hope.

Practice self-care.

Taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally can help you feel better about yourself and increase your hope. Self-care could include exercise, sleep, healthy eating, mindfulness practices, and seeking support from a therapist.

Focus on the positive. Be your own biggest cheerleader!

Stanford researcher BJ Fogg found habits are formed due to deep emotion rather than repetition. Fogg recommends celebrating even your smallest achievements.

Instead of dwelling on negative thoughts and events, focus on the good things in your life. Take time to appreciate the positive and keep a running list of things you are grateful for.

Notice the glimmers of joy or other positive emotions you experience. When you find yourself feeling a positive emotion, take a moment to enjoy the feeling.

Practice mindfulness, positive affirmations, or prayers.

Research has shown that prayer can increase optimism, hope, relationships, health problems, self-esteem, and adaptability during challenges, while decreasing feelings of depression and suicide. Mindfulness practice and positive affirmations are another way to focus your mind on positive and good things in your life.

Be aware of the things you are taking in.

Limit exposure to media. Both social media and news coverage can have effects on mental health and hope. News tends to focus on the most sensational and frightening aspects of our world, and it can make us more vulnerable to vicarious trauma and emotional upset. Social media can help young people feel more connected, but it can also increase feelings of anxiety, depression, and distress.

Look back and reflect on past successes or enjoyable moments.

When people were asked to write about a past experience where hopes were fulfilled, they had increased happiness and hope for the future, as reported by a study in The Journal of Positive Psychology. Another study showed that those who intentionally recalled and actively engaged in reliving happy experiences reported greater happiness and higher levels of satisfaction than those who did not have an intentional practice.

Brainstorm possibilities.

Do you feel like you keep running up against the same roadblocks? Brainstorm and create a list of strategies you haven’t tried yet. Look for alternate paths to what you want.

Set realistic goals.

Realistic goals and hope work together to create a sense of purpose and direction in life. Setting realistic goals based on a careful assessment of one’s resources and capabilities provides a roadmap for achieving success, while hope provides the motivation and resilience needed to stay the course when things get tough. By combining realistic goals with hope, individuals can achieve great things while maintaining a positive outlook on life.

Take action.

Take action to make positive changes in your life. Even small steps can help you feel more hopeful and in control.

Failure = Learning.

Failure can be a source of hope and motivation. When we experience failure, we have the opportunity to learn from our mistakes and make adjustments to our approach. This can lead to a renewed sense of hope, as we realize that success is still possible if we’re willing to adapt and persist.

Of course, hope does not necessarily mean that success is guaranteed. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we may not achieve our desired outcome. However, maintaining hope can help us navigate the ups and downs of life with resilience and optimism, and can help us find new paths to success even when our original plans don’t work out.

Try again!

When we encounter obstacles or failures, it can be tempting to give up and abandon our goals. However, maintaining hope can give us the strength and motivation to try again, even in the face of adversity. Hope allows us to see that success is still possible, and that with persistence and determination, we can achieve our desired outcome.

Trying again after experiencing failure or setbacks can also build our resilience and self-confidence. Each time we try again, we learn from our mistakes and gain valuable experience that can help us succeed in the future. As we persevere through challenges and continue to work towards our goals, we build our sense of self-efficacy and belief in our own ability to succeed.

Provide support to others.

When we help others, we are often motivated by a desire to make a positive difference in someone else’s life. This act of kindness can create a sense of connection and purpose, and can provide hope to both the giver and receiver of help. For the person receiving help, it can provide a sense of support and encouragement, and can help them see that there are people who care about them and want to see them succeed. For the person providing help, it can create a sense of meaning and fulfillment, and can help them see that their actions can make a real difference in the world.

Any new skill or skill you desire to increase requires daily practice. We recommend setting aside 5 minutes to practice cultivating hope in your life.