Cultivating Hope in the Era of Covid

Male hand flips a wooden cube and changes the inscription Hopes 2020 to Hopes 2021

As we all enter into a new year, one of the most important emotions to nurture within ourselves and others is hope. Many of us have lost so much. For some it may mean the loss of being able to send children to school, being secure in our jobs, being able to get together with people in person or even losing loved ones.

All of that can also be coupled with those losses that are more intangible such as feeling safe, struggling with anxiety and fear, being unable to concentrate and so on. It is hard to feel anything positive with so many reasons to feel distressed, despairing, sad, and overwhelmed. In this time of pain, loss and confusion, another loss for some of us it that of hope. 

Hope is an interesting emotion. As Wikipedia states, hope is “an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large. As a verb, its definitions include: ‘expect with confidence’ and ‘to cherish a desire with anticipation.’ “

In an article from the American Psychological Association, they note that being hopeful is good for you and…a necessary ingredient for getting through tough times…. Everyone benefits from having hope — and psychologists’ research suggests almost anyone can be taught to be more hopeful.

Hope letter concept design on the white background.

The article shares what psychologist Shane Lopez, PhD, a senior scientist at Gallup and author of the book “Making Hope Happen,” states: “Hope is an equal opportunity resource.”  

Lopez describes three basic steps for building hope. “The first is a process he calls ‘futurecasting’ — envisioning a specific future goal in a way that makes it come alive.”  We can all focus on a more positive future that will allow us to finally feel like the virus is no longer the threat it is now. We can allow ourselves to believe things will get better because we now have vaccines that will help protect us.

The next step, Lopez says, is “ work toward your goal.”  We can keep informed about what is happening in our communities. We can be tested and have those we love also be tested. We can learn what the latest is for getting the vaccine. And we can each do all the things to protect ourselves and others: wearing masks, hand washing, social distancing. We all have the power to do these things.

The final step the article states, is “…planning for contingencies.”  By knowing realistically what might be happening in our world, we can use our abilities to think and plan to ensure we are prepared for what might possibly happen to us and those we love. 

The article states that Lopez discovered “…most hopeful people tend to see multiple solutions to a problem, while the hopeless plan only for the best-case scenario and come up with just one or two pathways to their target….You have to come up with many ways to overcome those obstacles.”

I encourage you to claim the power you have to become more hopeful even in these very challenging times. Remember that we have the power do the three things as this article suggests. We can forecast a positive future, we can claim our ability to do what we can to protect ourselves and those we love and we can plan for contingencies, knowing we are prepared for any challenges that we might face.   

spiritual reminder - faith hope and love handwritten on colorful notes and posted on cork bulletin board

The article ends with the following message: “Ultimately, we all need to be hopeful. ‘Many of the ancient religious texts reference faith, hope and love. Hope is an ancient virtue and a basic human quality,’ Lopez says.”

  Invitation for Reflection:

  1. To what extent are you feeling hopeful these days? 
  2. What do you need to help you become more hopeful?
  3. How can you encourage others to claim their right to be hopeful?

Diane Wagenhals, Program Director, Lakeside Global Institue