Hope is a positive state of mind based on an expectation that one will experience positive outcomes in their life. People who feel hopeful will also have hope-related cognitions or thoughts. Such thoughts lead them to set goals for themselves and help them learn new skills. People who have hope tend to be more resilient when they face challenges. This is because they are always open to challenges and enjoy learning and growing from their experiences.
Psychologist C. R. Snyder proposed the Hope Theory in the early 1990s. He argued that there were two key factors with respect to hope; these factors influenced whether a person would work towards their goals with a sense of optimism.
One of these is Pathways Thinking — the ability to generate multiple “paths” from a person’s present to the desired future. In other words, this is the ability to think of different ways to get to the goal. The other factor is Agency Thinking — the belief in one’s ability to achieve an outcome. In order to build hope, one can focus on increasing both these types of thinking. Hopeful people believe that the future will be better than the present (they have positive goals to work towards), that they have control over what will happen in the future (agency thinking), and that there are many ways they can reach their goals (pathways thinking).
Why do we need hope?
Life is tough and we all face setbacks from time to time. Just having a goal is not enough — we also need to have the right mindset to achieve it. Hope allows us to face obstacles with a strategic mind and increases our chance of accomplishing our goals. It makes us resilient in the face of adversity.
Now more than ever, we are in need of hope. Here’s why.
- Having hope can protect our health and can even boost physical well-being. This is especially important amidst the ongoing crisis, as we need to build our immunity to ward off the virus.
- Hope can help us better manage anxiety, uncertainty, vulnerability and uncontrollability. This can allow us to take care of our mental health in these uncertain times.
- Being hopeful allows us to take action to cope with the crisis and the challenges that we face. Having hope can allow us to carry out our everyday activities and take care of the people around us.
- Hope also allows us to combat our negative thinking and let go of our unhelpful beliefs. This can help us stay positive in the current situation.
- When hope is directed at relationships, it can help us strengthen our bonds with loved ones. It can also reduce feelings of loneliness — something many of us might be experiencing as we practise social distancing.
- Hope also allows us to be more productive and focussed. Studies have found hopeful people to work more effectively and efficiently than others. This makes hope especially relevant for those who might be feeling demotivated while working from home.
So how can we build hope?
It’s clear that hope can help us in a lot of ways — but with all that is happening to the world right now, we might struggle to experience a sense of hopefulness.
Fortunately, hope is something that we can cultivate and incorporate into our lives with a few simple strategies. Let’s take a look at some of them below.
Spend some time trying to better understand yourself. Make a note of the goals you have accomplished so far and the goals you want to achieve in your life. Also list the resources and strengths that you can use to achieve these goals. You can even benefit from identifying skills or resources that you lack — and make a plan to fill these gaps.
Focus on your strengths
Believe in yourself. Tell yourself that you can accomplish whatever you want to. A good way to do this is by focussing on the things about yourself that make you happy and confident, or the things you are good at. If some things are not working for you, shift your focus away from them. Constantly thinking about the mistakes you made will leave you feeling hopeless and defeated.
Set goals for yourself
Identify what makes you happy, and align your goals and actions in that direction. Every small goal you achieve can make you feel happier. Be proactive about setting goals that actually are meaningful to you. Even if you encounter obstacles or failure on the way, remind yourself of why a goal matters to you and try again.
Let go of unhelpful relationships
If you are constantly surrounded by people who are negative and corrosive, it can affect the way you think and feel. Surrounding yourself with hopeful people can help you in turn become more hopeful. Think of people in your life who make you feel inspired and happy and spend time connecting with them. You can also look for a role model who inspires hope in you, and interact with them regularly.
Look for the good
Hope is all around you. People all over the world continue to deal with the challenges of life, hoping that someday, things will be better. Sometimes, just seeing hope in others can make you more hopeful as well. Make a note of three good things that you saw or heard in the day. You can also note small good things that happened to you — including a nice meal or a conversation with a friend. This exercise can make it easier for you to notice the positives in life.
If you cannot find the good when you look for it, you can always do something good. An act of kindness to a stranger, helping your friends and neighbours, donating your time and resources to causes you care or helping someone in need can help you feel hopeful.
Cope with negativity
Amidst the current health crisis, it’s natural to experience anger, stress, fear, panic, worry or sadness. While it’s important to let yourself feel what you are feeling, experiencing a negative emotion for too long can be unhelpful for you. Instead, focus on developing coping skills to deal with distress — you can try physical exercise, meditation, mindfulness, and/or breathing exercises.
Every person may find hope in a different way. Figure out what hope means to you and spend some time thinking about how you’d like to experience hope in your life. Remember that hope can be cultivated — so pick the strategies that you think will work for you and start leading a more hopeful life today.
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