How to Appreciate the Power of Hope

From the tenuous bonds that connect us with one another to the ever-present vulnerability we share as humans in a chaotic world, our lives are forever saturated in the possibility of catastrophe. Bad things — often really tragic things like accidents, illness, and untimely death — happen to people every single day.” 

Wow, what a way to start an article! But the truths in this statement are the reason we benefit from appreciating the power of hope. The article comes from Harvard Health Publishing, written by psychiatrist Adam Stern entitled Hope: Why It Matters. Dr. Stern shares the following: “ Among young adults with chronic illnesses, greater degrees of hope are associated with improved coping, well-being, and engagement in healthy behaviors. It also protects against depression and suicide. Among teens, hope is linked with health, quality of life, self-esteem, and a sense of purpose. It is an essential factor for developing both maturity and resilience.”

Journalist Everett Worthington Jr. in an article from The Greater Good Magazine: Science-based Insights for a Meaningful Life defines hope: “Hope is a motivation to persevere toward a goal or end state, even if we’re skeptical that a positive outcome is likely. Psychologists tell us hope involves activity, a can-do attitude and a belief that we have a pathway to our desired outcome. Hope is the willpower to change and the way-power to bring about that change.”

So how can we become more hopeful, especially considering all the stresses we face, the losses, the disappointments, the many reasons for being sad? From the Grace Foundation: “being hopeful is about developing a state of mind that believes we can have a brighter future tomorrow even when things are not looking great today.” They include a description of what hope is from spiritual leader Desmond Tutu: “Hope is being able to see that there is a light despite the darkness.” They go on to offer us five ways to cultivate hope:

  1. Pause and Reflect, especially when you feel like your life is spinning out of control. It gives you a chance to regroup and refocus on ways you can be hopeful even when things seem to be falling apart.
  2. Remember What You Are Thankful For. Part of that pausing can be taking time to be grateful for the many good things you have in your life.
  3. Limit your Bad News Intake. Every time you watch the news or read newspapers or listen to podcasts, notice how much the bad news is emphasized, making you feel unsafe and powerless. Limiting the intake of this kind of information can give you more space for finding reasons to be hopeful.
  4. Focus on What You Can Look Forward To. Spend some time imagining things you might want to do and one day will find the resources to make things happen. Maybe you want a new career, to write a book, to make changes in your home. Enjoy the many images and sensations that pop up when you spend time imagining things you one day hope to do.
  5. Talk to Hopeful People. Notice the people you interact with in terms of how hopeful, positive, optimistic they are. Spending time with others who have a hopeful spirit can encourage that spirit to grow within you.

There are many famous quotes about hope. A well-known quote from An Essay on Man by Alexander Pope, who lived from 1688-1744:  

“Hope springs eternal in the human breast:
Man never is, but always to be blest.
The soul, uneasy and confined from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.”

Jonas Salk said, “Hope lies in dreams, in imagination, and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality.”  

The Bible contains many messages about hope. Here are three of them:

  • “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” – Isaiah 40:31
  • “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” – Jeremiah 29:11
  • Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” – Romans 12:12

Each passage tells us There is great power in cultivating our abilities to be hopeful despite the many challenges we all face. I am convinced that we all deserve the gift of hope that can greatly enhance the quality of our lives and our abilities to instill hope in others, enhancing their quality of life as well.

Invitation for Reflection

  1. To what extent do you consider yourself a hopeful person? What has helped you promote hope in your life?
  2. How might you increase your sense of hopefulness?
  3. How can you inspire those you love to experience greater hope in their lives?