To what extent is hope necessary or relevant for these difficult times? The world is besieged by economic, military, educational, and healthcare problems which seem to be insurmountable. In such a world, of what possible use is hope? It feels as if Pandora opened her box only recently, allowing a wave of evils to descend upon humankind. And yet, in the Greek myth, Pandora closed the box while one thing remained inside – hope. Is hope a powerful psychological asset, an antidote to human shortcomings? Or is hope simply a pipe dream for Pollyanna-ish optimists who can not see the brutal, harsh nature of reality?

Hope Is Helpful In A Variety of Areas

Hope has been studied in psychology labs through the world for dozens of years. Research studies have shown that greater hope is associated with:

O Freedom from anxiety

O Less depression

O More positive mood

O Increased popularity among people

O Higher achievement in a number of areas (academic, athletic, military, political and professional)

O Greater quality of social relationships

O Improved physical health

O Increased accomplishment of goals

O Increased tolerance of pain

O Reduced cardiovascular risk

If hope is a pipe dream for those who do not see reality accurately, then the rose-colored pipe dream comes with a slew of physical, emotional, social and voluntary benefits. Given the broad range of positive advantages that hope confers upon its users, it might be more simply stated that hope helps. Hope is, in fact, a powerful psychological asset.

Hope Defined

Hope is a belief or wish that in the future good events and positive feelings will come more frequently than bad events and negative feelings. Rick Snyder, a researcher at Kansas University, sees hope as having three distinct parts:

1. Goals – Goals can be large or small, short- or long-term, formal or informal. Goals can be set in any area of ‚Äč‚Äčlife. However, without goals, there is no future-oriented thinking, and then no hope.

2. Pathways – A workable plan to get around potential challenges to enable one to get to the goal.

3. Agency – The energy, motivation, or will to act. Agency is the degree of determination one has to achieve a goal.

Hope Is More About The Future Than The Present

To the extent that one has these three elements, one has hope. Hope comes from the excitation one feet about the future possibility of accomplishing goals. Hope is not as much about the present moment as it is about realizing future potential. Hope is a perception wheree one sees the future as filled with possibilities. Hope helps to create the future as it motivates people to strive towards creating new constructive realities.

Hopeful People Do not Play The Blame Game

One of the appealing aspects of hope is that hopeful people do not get into blaming themselves or the world for falling short of a goal. Instead, when they fail, hopeful people ask 'What now?' They come up with alternative ways to achieve their goal. They excel at discovering multiple pathways to attain goals. Hope has been shown to enhance problem-solving abilities and thus makes people better at brainstorming potential solutions to challenges.

Learning To Be More Hopeful

Instead of creating New Year's resolutions that will be broken by nightfall, you may want to resolve to become more hopeful. If that's the case, here are some suggestions to help strengthen your hope.

Dare to Hope – Most are growing growing up 'Do not get your hopes up!' Hope is a human strength which makes the accomplishment of goals more likely. Be brave enough to have hope.

Set Goals That Are Personally Meaningful – There is little point to trying to fulfill goals that someone else has for you. Goals are effective when they have meaning to you.

State Your Goals in the Positive – Rather than 'I'm going to lose 10 pounds' tell yourself 'I will get healthy'. The human mind does not respond well to negative statements and goals are no exception. State your goals using positive language.

Be Mindful of Where Hope Falls Apart – Does your hope break down at the pathways stage? Perhaps you need better planning, or help in creating your plan. If your hope falters at the motivation or determination stage, share your goal with loved ones to give you extra accountability.

Check In With Your Self – Whenever you are distracted from the task you are working on, ask yourself 'What am I doing?' And 'What are my goals for this task?' These simple questions will help you to stay focused on the task at hand, remind you of your goals and perform well in the moment.

Listen to Uplifting Music – Recent research has shown that listening to music (as well as playing and composing) involves almost every neural network in the human brain. Music lights up the brain. The power of music is the power to evoke emotions. If you want to feel hope, listen to hopeful music. Some of my favorite songs that evoke hope are …

O Lovely, Love My Family by The Roots (on the Yo Gabba, Gabba album)

O Imagine by John Lennon

O Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield

O You'll Be Blessed by Elton John

O Three Little Birds by Bob Marley

O I Do not Ever Give Up by Patty Griffin

O Joy by Mick Jagger

O The Middle by Jimmy Eats World

O Fall Back Down by Rancid

Watch an Elevating Clip On YouTube

Studies have shown that the brain is a very literal organ and does not differiate much between what is real, what is imagined and what we watch on a screen. In some meaningful way, hope can be aimed into the mind by watching clips or movies that inspire you.

One uplifting clip on YouTube is actually an ad from MBF, a health care company in Australia, featuring the song 'Accentuate the Positive'.

Or check out the short film 'Validated' with Hugh Newman in which parking garage attendant 'validates' the existence of others by offering words of kindness and encouragement (youtube.com/watch?v=Cbk980jV7Ao).

One of my favorites on YouTube is 'Free Hugs' with music by the Sick Puppies ('All the same') at youtube.com/watch?v=vr3x_RRJdd4. This clip has been viewed over 40 million times and won YouTube's video of the year for 2007. This social experiment, giving away free hugs, has been replicated in dozens of countries with similar hopeful results.

O There is a great video by the Dave Matthews Band called 'Everyday'. It was done back in 2001 and may be the predecessor to the 'Free Hugs' idea. It's on YouTube at youtube.com/watch?v=aMBgSfQI49E. It appears as if the main character in the video is asking people for spare change. See what the guy really wants by checking out the video.

When Pandora did close her infamous box, it's fortunately for us that hope was left inside. Hope is a powerful internal asset which can be used to offset many of the hardships life brings. One of the guarantees in life is that there will be ups and downs, good times and trying times. Increase your chances of success by fosting your own feelings of hope and thoughts based on realistic optimism.

Source by John Schinnerer, Ph.d.

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