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How to create a more hopeful life

Maria Hill is the owner of Sensitive Evolution, an online platform dedicated to improving the lives of highly sensitive people. Read full profile

How to create a more hopeful life

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When we hear about crimes, failures of governments and other institutions, public or private, it is our hope that takes a hit. Hope is a necessity. It is our emotional engine, the basis for engaging with life.

How do we get and navigate this important human need?

What Is Hope?

Hope is directly related to our sense of possibility. The greater our perception of possibilities, the greater our hope. The most constricted view of possibility, of course, is hopelessness or despair.

Hope is not the same as happiness or optimism. It is what we feel when we think that life is worth living, that our work is worth doing. Hope is what we have when we have a positive relationship with our existence. It is the deepest of the three emotions. Happiness and optimism cannot exist without hope, but hope can exist without happiness or optimism.

Hope answers the question, “Why bother?”

Hope Affects Our Minds And Bodies

Doctors know that hope affects our ability to heal. Hopeful patients have higher levels of dopamine, endorphins and other neurochemicals which promote wellbeing and the energy for living.

Hope is our energy, our fuel for living, so people will go to great lengths to create it and protect it. Without it you lack energy to engage with life. Hope is so essential that a negative childhood can reduce the brain’s ability to create dopamine which may lead to addiction because drugs increase dopamine levels in people who do not have the ability to create it naturally.

Why Does Hope Make Such A Difference?

Hope has to be real. It has to be based on something tangible. We can fake optimism and pretend to be happy but deep down inside, we know whether or not we have hope. We cannot really be fooled.

When we are sizing up our hopes we are essentially taking an existential account of where we are. It is an assessment of our ability to survive now and into the future. Our assessment tells us where to put our energies and our time. Hope is the serious emotion.

Hope recognizes our interdependency with our families, culture, society and our environment. So a genius in a war torn country probably is less hopeful that an average person in a peaceful place.

When hope is damaged it affects more than one person. When real hope is denied it is hard to replace. When a person has lost hope it can be hard to find motivation again. The most important impact we have on each other is through how we affect each other’s hopes. One of the silliest things we can do is destroy another’s hopes because then there is less room for our own. Hope breeds hope.

What Does Hope Look Like?

How to create a more hopeful life

When hope exists we engage with our environment more. We give more of ourselves to what we do – as does everyone else around us. Hope engages our creativity and our problem solving skills. It is a factor in our ability to appreciate ourselves and others and our ability to be grateful for our lives.

What is wonderful about hope is that it is not pollyannish. Hope has a roll up your sleeves and get to work quality. It gets its hands dirty in the business of creating our lives. It values all of the details, skills and challenges that go into creating our world.

Hope requires a willingness to experiment to see what works and what doesn’t so it cannot see failure, only steps on a learning path. It does not fall for false optimism or empty promises. Living hopefully simply means taking care of your contribution and supporting the positive evolution of human life. It’s motto is “Progress, not perfection.”

Hope is grounded in present reality. It does not sugarcoat. It thinks enough of our creativity to present us with real problems to solve not phony problems of overindulgence, status and social climbing – real problems like quality of life, the development of human potential, the well being of our environment and all human living systems.

Hope is serious about life. It is our link to each other, the past and the future. It enables us to respect the efforts of our ancestors even as we decide not to repeat their mistakes. It respects the needs of other living creatures and future needs as well. It is the “something larger than ourselves” that we are all a part of.

Hopeful Living

Living a hopeful life is to recognize that everything and everyone matters. That includes you since you are part of the hopefulness in the world. Taking care of yourself matters. The quality of the work you do matters. It matters how you are treated and how you treat others.

In order to be an effective part of a hopeful world there are certain things that you need to do regularly:

  • conduct a hope audit of your life. How are you doing? in health, work, relationships?
  • take good care of your health.
  • have a stress reduction strategy. Meditation, breathing exercises, physical exercise and favorite forms of recreation all reduce stress. Being in nature does as well.
  • create hopeful relationships. Learn to forgive. Develop a daily journal writing habit if it helps you to let go of negative experiences and emotions.
  • help others see the best in themselves, notice their desire to make meaningful contributions and help them find their path to becoming hopemakers for themselves and others.

Being In Hope With Others

The easiest way to control others is to destroy people’s hope. Hope is so important that totalitarian regimes will go to great lengths to control or destroy it. Divide and conquer is an old social control mechanism. It creates fear instead of hope. So when we level the playing field, or bring down barriers, we are inevitably increasing hopefulness by reducing obstacles to it.

The human race is like one giant disco ball. Each one of us is a small mirror of talents, love and joy that we have to offer each other to create our world. So hope is energy – your positive energy, your talents, value and your soul. It is the lifeblood of the human race.

The easiest way to support a hopeful world is to support hope in others and ask that others do the same for you. If you surround yourself with people invested in creating a hopeful world with you, then you are fortunate. However, not everyone will necessarily have a hopeful outlook. You can still support hope in someone else’s life whether they are able to value it or not. Helping to restore hope when it has been lost is a noble thing to do.

Look for ways to make hopefulness tangible. Don’t let it be just something for the future. Hope is all of the little things we do each day to make our lives. Everything you do contributes to hopeful living or takes away from it.

That may seem heavy. But hope is that important. It needs to be treasured.

Photo credits: Freedom via Shutterstock)

Eight techniques for bringing hope and happiness into your life.

8 Ways to Increase Hope

8 Ways to Increase Hope

“I’ve been so overwhelmed by what’s going on these days,” a mother recently said regarding world events. “I feel like there’s nothing I can do and the world’s spinning out of control.” Her words echo the sentiments so many of us feel each time we pick up a paper or turn on the news. War on the horizon, nuclear weapons in North Korea, a family of six killed by a fire bomb in Baltimore, the massacre in Bali — the list goes on. Right now, it’s easy to lose hope. However, loss of hope doesn’t have to be the path we walk down.

You see, hope is actually something we create. It’s not something that magically appears from an outside source. We each have within us the capacity to generate hope. It’s critical that we be absolutely intentional about nurturing hope in our lives and the lives of our children.

Now more than ever, overcoming fear and holding onto hope are essential. The eight steps below will enable you do this. Try these steps yourself and teach them to your kids. Do some of these as a family. Know that it is within your control to become more hopeful. Don’t let the news be your undoing. You can take charge.

Be Kind to Yourself

Be Kind to Yourself

Think about what you need most, and then do it. Is it a cup of tea, a brisk walk, some downtime, quiet music, a little rest, or reading inspirational literature? Whatever it is, grant yourself permission to do it, even for just a few minutes. If you’re at work, take a “care-break” where you take care of you for a brief moment. These small moments accumulate and transform the texture of our days.

Create a Daily 5-Minute Silence Ritual

Create a Daily 5-Minute Silence Ritual

Light a candle and pray, meditate or reflect. You don’t have to believe in any particular deity to make this work. Just silently reflecting in front of a lit candle is extremely nurturing and healing. This may be the one time of day when you feel connected to your own soul, and perhaps even something larger. Don’t skip this step — it’s very powerful.

Curtail Your Intake of News

Curtail Your Intake of News

Oversaturation with news right now is detrimental to emotional health. If you read the newspaper in the morning, let that be enough. You don’t need to turn on the TV or radio too, especially before bed. Consider putting a complete moratorium on news at least once a week. Anything you missed will be there tomorrow. Drastically curtail any news you let your children watch.

During troubled times, hope for a brighter future burns eternal.

Posted Jan 31, 2017

How to create a more hopeful life

If you are happy with the direction our nation is heading, you might want to skip this article because what you hoped would happen during our recent election is happening faster than you could have imagined. Donald Trump is the president of the United States (via electoral college vote, not the American people’s popular vote) and, after a week and a half in office, he is unabashedly following through on some of his most contentious campaign promises. They begin with building “The Wall” between Mexico and the USA, and also implementing a Muslim Ban as well as all immigrants coming into America now on hold.

However, if you are one in the majority of Americans who are unhappy with the election and the direction our leader is taking our country, you may feel depressed and anxious about your future as well as the future of our nation and its place in the world. In other words, you may have lost Hope.

In the last couple of months we (Phil and Rose) have traveled separately in the U.S. (including Washington, DC during the Inauguration and Women’s March), Southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe. Everywhere we went, few were joyful while the overwhelming majority expressed their anxiety about the socio-political future of our nation. One case in point: Last month Rose presented Time Perspective Therapy at a psychological conference in Warsaw, Poland to a thousand mental health therapists. Of the 15 presenters, she was the only foreigner asked to speak in person; Phil presented from San Francisco via Skype. During lunch, Rose was seated with Poland’s most eminent psychologists. They shared their concern about our new president, his ties to their political enemy (Putin and Russia), his belligerent foreign and domestic policies, as well as their potential social and economic consequences. Throughout the day, during every break, attendees and people working the event sought out Rose to share their dire concerns. Many had lost hope for congenial relations between our nations despite a long history of camaraderie. In fact, some were mentally preparing for a potential war to erupt.

Back home, we’ve listened to people’s fears for their individual as well as our nation’s future. And each time, we asked them not to give up hope. Our mantra:

This too shall pass

Time is continuous and whatever is happening in the present moment will soon become the past. It might help to remember that each of us has suffered and made it through trying times. We survived, and we thrived, and we will again, and again. Right now, in this moment, there is a world of possibility which can be harnessed to create our brighter future. The following are some ways to stay hopeful right here, right now:

Three ways to stay hopeful

1. Be kind—to yourself and others. This can take many forms. Here are a few:

Curtail your intake on media—we are constantly bombarded by media with “breaking news” and may feel it’s necessary to be up on everything all the time. Although it might be a feather in our cap to be the first person to hear about and then share some exciting new tidbit, the time it takes to be so informed can take away from living life now. Go easy on yourself. Consider watching/reading a couple of news shows/articles a couple of times a day (once a day is better). Although news reported later in the day is more current, it’s not particularly healthy to go to sleep with disturbing thoughts fresh in your mind. So make sure you read, watch or do something that will replace unwanted thoughts before entering a sleep cycle.

Take mini-breaks—these can be anywhere from 30 seconds to a couple of minutes, two or three times a day. Shift your focus from whatever you are doing to something that brings you the feeling of happiness. For instance, visually look at the flowers in the office or the clouds floating by or photos of loved ones, or close your eyes and go to your happy place; you’ll feel refreshed.

Practice random acts of kindness—every day! Go ahead and help the elder across the street, or get the item off the top shelf at the grocery store for the person in the wheelchair, or give a sincere compliment to your coworker, or hold the elevator door open for all to enter or exit freely. These random acts will bring a smile to your face as well as the person on the receiving end. Remember: Kindness begets hopeful feelings.

2. Treat each day like a precious gift:

Express love tangibly—be generous with hugs for loved ones, encouraging words for coworkers, and those acts of kindness mentioned above. The more we express our love, the more deeply we feel it and the more hopeful we’ll be. Practice giving compliments to friends, coworkers, teachers, and service people who deserve the praise.

Revel in the beauty around you—there is beauty everywhere; sometimes we just have to shift our focus. Notice the color of the sky, the grain in the wood, the water dripping off an icicle, the sound of children laughing, or bird song. Beauty is plentiful, and always there. Realizing there is beauty brings with it a feeling of hope.

Be grateful—for everything! The roof over our head, food in the refrigerator, the warmth of a sweater, and for the people in our lives, especially our family and friends. Even in the bleakest of times, we have much to be grateful for.

3. Make a difference—perhaps the most important way we can stay hopeful is by making a difference in the lives of others. Here are a few suggestions:

Volunteer—if you have a special skill, consider sharing it; be a reader at your local school or a helper at a soup kitchen. And if you have a special interest, consider getting involved in an organization that improves the life of others less fortunate. Volunteering puts not only our lives, but the lives of others into perspective. (See link below for info about Phil’s Heroic Imagination Project.)

Make calls, write post cards—if being social isn’t your strong suit, consider making phone calls or sending post cards to government officials to express your concerns. Millions of people feel the same way you do but most won’t take action. And consider breaking the mold by being pro-social – go on a mass march to openly protest injustices to women and minorities and/or to support science, climate change initiatives, etc. Being pro-active is being hopeful.

Be kind—it’s worth repeating! By being kind to yourself and others, you automatically make the world a better, more hopeful place and pave the way for a brighter future. The Dalai Lama reminds us often that shared Compassion makes our world more loveable and liveable, but should begin with self-compassion. YOU are the key!

For in depth information about how your life is affected by the mental time zones that you live in, check out our website: timeperspectivetherapy.org, and our books: The Time Cure at timecure.com and The Time Paradox at thetimeparadox.com.

Learn more about yourself and helpful ways to cope with life’s stress – visit www.discoveraetas.com.

Take Charge! Get in touch with the Hero in You! Check out Phil Zimbardo’s Heroic Imagination Project at heroicimagination.org.

Hope: How to find it, Craig Ing, The Huffington Post, 2/8/2013

How to create a more hopeful life

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Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. Helen Keller

How can you hold tight to that feeling of hope when you are overwhelmed?

Are hope and faith for the future the basis for your personal happiness?

Feeling like there is no hope is one of the most challenging emotions to manage.

After all, why would you even try when you feel there is no hope?

Finding hope when it seems like there’s none to be found can be tricky, but it is possible.

The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof. Barbara Kingsolver

All of us have challenges at times, and we all have moments when there doesn’t appear to be a way out. It is there though, we just need the courage and faith to walk through our wilderness and find our meadow.

When you are feeling in a low funk, try these strategies to raise your vibes:

  1. Consider all the amazing things you’ve done in your life. Regardless of what you’re facing, remember your earlier miracles and know you’re entirely capable of working through it. For humans, the seemingly impossible is, in fact, possible. Learn to change your mindset and that will allow you to see all those amazing things.
  2. Surround yourself with optimism. You’ve come across people who persistently see the bright side of things. They will always see the sunny side of every situation. They will always have a smile and a positive attitude. Find a group of those people and soak up the positive emotions from them.
  3. Allow inspiration in. Your faith could be a great source of inspiration. Reading books and listening to music that is up-lifting can create positive vibes. 10 Inspiration success resources worth checking out.
  4. Spend time in nature. For many, nature’s bounty is awe-inspiring, from flowers and waterfalls to butterflies and spider webs. When you see what’s possible, you realize that you’re capable of remarkable things too.
  5. Be courageous. Cultivating hope requires courage to take that first step forward. Give yourself the chance to find your way through your challenges. Take that first step and then the next. You will soon be on the other side and ready to tackle your next challenge.

If you really want to find hope in your life, you can, it’s always there! You just have to want to find it. You have to look to find the sweeter side of life.

Although your search for hope might take some work, never give up. Just keep working through it and you’ll discover that you have plenty of reasons to be hopeful.

Featured photo credit: silhouette in a communication tunnel via Shutterstock

How to create a more hopeful life

How to create a more hopeful life

And we’ve seen days (if not more) of feeling low and miserable, seeing no light at the end of the tunnel, forlorn and lost, we despair; desperate, our fractured souls look for any ray of hope!We’ve all been there. Swinging the seesaw of hope. We’ve experienced the high of feeling full of anticipation, brimming with confidence, optimistic about the path ahead, encouraged to achieve in spite of adversities. After all; there’s hope!

Hope then is like the weave to the fabric of our existence. The quintessential thread that holds us together. Having hope is like taking your next breath; breathing. Without hope; would it be fair to say that we essentially lose motivation, direction or even the will to survive?

How to create a more hopeful life

Wouldn’t it be ideal if we never had to struggle with the hope-less days and forever remain positively charged? Always be hope-full.

Spirituality, Faith in a Higher Power, Trust in yourself, Belief that everything happens for the best… these are a few of the likely answers and (to each heir own) rightly so. Hope then is intangible, it needs to be felt. It’s a feeling. And luckily a feeling can be evoked.

Like a song that makes you sentimental, an old perfume that makes you nostalgic or a photograph that brings forth happy memories.

So how do you evoke hope? Here are 8 ways to do just that.

1. Ask yourself, “Are hope and possibilities through faith related things?”

If you answered “Yes,” then focus on how to improve your possibilities and the faith to believe. What do you believe in and why? How can working on that make you stronger?

If your answer was “No,” figure out the difference between the two – hope and possibilities. That may help you understand how to best use your faith to have hope and see possibilities.

2. Look at the people around you. You can learn plenty from them.

Observe those that are making progress toward their goals, are centered, happy and optimistic — do they do possibility thinking?

3. Imagine waking up fresh every morning, truly feel hopeful. That is possibility thinking. Make time every day to imagine the day going well as you work to continue making progress toward possibilities.

4. Get training or coaching/counseling from an expert. Sometimes this needs a sincere commitment towards change and can be time consuming. Stay determined to improve.

5. Decide to take it as it comes… accept life events and work with them. Living in denial blocks hope.

6. Take risks, make shifts in your lifestyle if that seems like the way to make progress.

7. Redesign, rebuild — a little at a time or start afresh, but don’t you quit.

8. Relax and be refreshed; meditate/pray and find time for recreation to be able to keep going forward.

Most importantly; pause long enough to realize you probably already possess a seed of hope — even if you don’t realize it. You either feel hope – less or hope- full. Regardless of both eventualities; hope exists.

Look within – hope only needs to be evoked.

Notes from my desk: Hope has been recognized as an important and central element of healing, and has been known by many other names, including optimism, the placebo effect, self-efficacy, and positive expectancies. A life coach inspires hope during treatment and change. Often equated with the particular promise of a cure, hope is better understood in its broader meanings that involve will, way, wish, action, and horizon. This richer and deeper context of hope is a vital perspective for a coach or therapist. Helping clients to find and realize their sources of hope can be a process of waiting together for a clearer vision to emerge. It is important to remember that the task is not one of installing hope as much as inducing it, calling it forth from the client’s own resources. In this sense, hope is not given as much as it is found. What coaches and therapists can give their clients is, at most, a lens or mirror through which their own vision is clarified.

As we enter the year 2021, we are hopeful for a new beginning as we try to put the COVID-19 pandemic behind us and return to a more familiar state of normalcy. We all need to do our part to make the world a better place again as we head into the new year, and one of the best ways to do that is to think about living a more sustainable lifestyle.

When many of us think about reducing our carbon footprint and doing our part to improve the earth, it can seem like a hill too steep to climb. However, while one person may not be able to change the world, together, we can make it a safer place by making smart ecological life changes, and you can start today. Let’s look at some big changes you can make in the new year.

Modify Your Routines

The best way to start living a more sustainable lifestyle is to think about your daily routines and how you can modify them to make a smaller negative impact on our world and resources. For instance, you can save money by cutting down your shower time by a few minutes each day or turning off the sink while you lather your hands when washing up.

Think about what you are using while you’re in the bathroom. You likely have a plastic toothbrush, but those are quickly discarded and fill up our landfills. Instead, consider using an eco-friendly toothbrush made of bamboo that degrades naturally over time.

Speaking of items you use every day: when you are making the big life choice to live more sustainably, think about what you can swap out. If you are like many people, then you probably go through many bottles of water in a week.

So, instead, opt for a reusable bottle that you can fill up time after time and avoid unnecessary waste. Also, instead of storing your food in plastic bags, purchase a reusable container, or reuse the to-go containers you get from restaurants.

A big change that you can make to your routine is to ditch your car or truck and instead ride a bike to work and to run your errands. Unlike a motor vehicle that creates pollution and uses valuable fossil fuels, a bike operates cleanly.

Plus, bikes use up less space on the roads. So, if everyone rode a bike, there would be less of a need to cut down plant life and lay down the concrete necessary to make more roadways. On top of all that, actively riding your bike and getting the exercise you need can lead to improving certain chronic conditions.

Change Your Home

Now that you understand how to start making better ecological life changes, continue that momentum by making little modifications around your home that can make a big difference.

In general, most of these tips come down to using as little electricity as possible because to power our homes and devices, fuel must be burned, which leads to harmful air pollutants that hamper our natural environment.

Start with your lighting. Replace your incandescent light bulbs with LEDs that not only produce higher-quality lighting but also last longer and are 90% more efficient, so you are throwing out and buying new bulbs less likely. On top of that, make sure to turn the lights off in every room that you are not in and turn off all electronic devices when not in use.

While you are doing laundry, you should use cold water. Doing so reduces the energy your water heater needs to create to make hot water, and cold water is actually better for your clothes. When the clothes are done, opt to skip the dryer and air dry them outside instead.

In the kitchen, use smaller appliances like toasters instead of the stove when possible to avoid extra energy usage. Make sure that the oven and refrigerator doors are always closed to avoid wasted electricity.

Finally, think about your thermostat and the energy you are wasting by overheating or cooling your home. One way to keep these temperatures regulated is with a programmable thermostat that is set at 78 degrees during the winter and set it to raise the temperature when you are at work or school, so it doesn’t turn on as much when you’re gone.

Think About How You Shop

While many people have come to terms with the fact that they need to save energy when at home, you may not realize that you can also make smarter choices while you are out shopping as well.

At a minimum, you should always avoid disposable plastic bags and instead buy several reusable cloth bags that you can bring with you every time you shop. You may not realize it, but a plastic bag can take hundreds of years to decompose, so you are doing the earth a big service by switching to reusable. Plus, your cloth bags are less likely to break from repeated use.

Now that you have your bags, think about where you shop and how your choices can make a difference. Instead of going to the big superstore to buy your food, consider going to the local farmer’s market. The food there is often better for you because it is made with fewer chemicals, and since it was grown locally, large trucks aren’t required to drive across the country while polluting the air to deliver it.

While you are out doing your shopping, give serious consideration to buying products made out of hemp. In 2018, Congress passed the Farm Bill that allows farmers to grow hemp, and it’s a good thing because it can be used in everything from shoes and clothes to backpacks, sunglasses, food, and more.

When you buy these products, you encourage farmers to grow more, and hemp is very good for the environment as it turns CO2 into cleaner air, and it doesn’t require pesticides to thrive, so you are doing a good thing for the world when you buy these alternative products.

As you can see, making more sustainable choices in 2021 is not as daunting as it initially seems. However, you need to be dedicated to making the change. Start with these simple tips, and you’ll be amazed at how you can help Mother Earth.

How to create a more hopeful life

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How To Be Hopeful After 2020

When I was a child, I approached life with expectation. I was lucky to have people believe in me from a young age, and this meant I could more easily believe in others and the world around me. The world was good. And even when it wasn’t, it had the potential to be.

The past year has challenged that perspective, and not because of a singular event—I think if it had been just one, then maybe we could have trudged through with optimism. But it wasn’t just one thing; 2020 was relentless, like that tired saying about kicking someone when they’re already down. You can only wake up to bad news so many times before questioning whether the world is a bright place anymore.

“ You can only wake up to bad news so many times before questioning whether the world is a bright place anymore. ”

I especially remember feeling this way when the wildfires broke out in California last September. No matter which direction you turned in the state, there were flames. Evacuation orders were widespread, but no one wanted to leave their homes because of COVID-19. When one morning a new fire had ignited in the hills behind my apartment, my first thought was, of course. Of course the world is on fire right now as a pandemic surges and racial injustices continue and the entire US political system is in shambles. And these are just the collective experiences. The news only adds to the hardships happening in our homes and personal lives.

I imagine us all as Stretch Armstrong toys with our metaphorical limbs being pulled in every direction. How far can we stretch? Which disaster deserves the most immediate attention? How resilient can we be before it’s all too much? And how do we have hope in the aftermath of a year that has felt so hopeless?

First, We Care For Each Other

When we talk about hope, we’re not talking about a future void of conflict and crisis, but a future that includes love, community, and resilience. In accepting that the future is uncertain, we can ultimately create our own goodness and find it in the people and moments around us.

Hope is not only singular; it’s a collective posture. We need each other. Especially during this time when we can’t touch or see our loved ones. It’s so easy to get lost in our fears when left alone for too long.

We all desperately want to hope that things will get better, but I fear many of us also feel hesitant to lean into what comes next. Because this is the question we have to ask ourselves, right—what comes next? After we’ve rounded the corner, how do we move forward, and how do we heal? I wonder what happens when we regain some semblance of certainty. How do we move from grief to healing?

We can’t know these answers, but we can be a source of hope and healing for each other. We can remember the world that exists around us, even during uncertain times. And we can practice hope through acts of kindness and by caring for our neighbors. Simple acts can offer us community—like sending letters, waving at others when we walk outside, or leaving a note on a friend’s doorstep to remind them they are not alone.

“ Simple acts can offer us community—like sending letters and waving at others when we walk outside, to remind them they are not alone. ”


We Then Look To Our Grief To Teach Us How To Hope

At the start of 2020, one of my good friends was coming through the other side of a cancer journey with her then seven-year-old son. Before cancer, her family of six had survived a house fire. Before that, there were many other catastrophes, both big and small.

I’ve thought about this friend often throughout the past year, but not because she’s well-versed in how to navigate grief. Rather, I’ve been thinking about how she holds her grief in one hand while balancing hope in the other. It’s a talent she’s acquired out of necessity and hard experiences; life has taught her to brace for storms. But she is still expectant and hopeful, still believing that the world is good. Her grief has shown her how to be attuned to light.

Which has me believing that perhaps it’s possible despair can actually strengthen our hope, giving us a reason to fight for a better tomorrow. We all know that life is a balancing act; light is meaningless without the darkness, and vice versa.

“ Perhaps it’s possible despair can actually strengthen our hope. Light is meaningless without the darkness, and vice versa. ”

In the same way, the days that feel hopeless may be why we have hope at all. When everything is stripped down, and it feels like we can’t catch our breath, there is only hope left to cling to. Perhaps the moments we feel most bewildered are the moments when hope is necessary. Having hope doesn’t mean tossing realism to the wayside. A hopeful spirit is not led by naiveté; it’s rooted in the belief that uncertainty and hope can coexist and even offer us peace.

Like my good friend tells me, “Hope is what you do when you can’t make it happen. You have to rely on bigger things than you.”

We Also Lean Into Rituals, Allowing Them To Guide Us

We can also practice hope through rituals and by allowing the present moment to be more powerful than our past or future. We can ground ourselves in this truth: right now is what we have, and it’s what matters most. Rituals are powerful because they are specific to the present moment. They can also offer a semblance of stability in uncertain seasons.

After the house fire, my friend would go to a coffee shop every day to order the same drink and breakfast sandwich. She explains how it was a ritual she could count on as the rest of her world had been upended. “For survivors, it’s so important to feel that you have choice and agency,” she says. “Rituals are the best medicine because they are reliable.”

“ Rituals are powerful because they can offer a semblance of stability in uncertain seasons. ”

We’ve all adopted rituals during this time, whether consciously or unconsciously. Our daily routines and weekly habits offer us stability. For my partner and me, it’s ordering takeout from our favorite local restaurant on Friday nights. It’s something we can look forward to throughout the week, and, as simple as it sounds, it’s a ritual that marks much of this year for us. Even on the weeks that felt incredibly scary and uncertain, we knew we had Friday night takeout waiting for us.

Another ritual that has been helpful for me this year is to create a hope list. I sometimes look back on it when I’m feeling alone or like I can’t see the way forward. Mine includes my most hopeful moments from 2020, but we can look to human history for hope as well. Consider creating your own list and sharing it in the comments below. Here’s mine:

The birth of my nephew this past October

Helping my parents pack up and say goodbye to our childhood home

Celebrating my 30th birthday and receiving love videos from family and friends

How to Help Students Develop Hope

According to research, hope is key to academic achievement–and it’s a skill students can develop over time. Here’s how.

“I hope I get an ‘A’ on this test!” How many times have teachers heard these exact words from their students? Goodness knows, most teachers would certainly love for their students to get an A, too!

Well, for teachers eager to help their students get more A’s, research suggests they should help their students get more hope.

Though it may seem like a simple, wishy-washy emotion, research suggests cultivating hope is actually a complicated process—but there are significant rewards for those who make the effort.

How to create a more hopeful life

How to create a more hopeful life

Researchers have found that students who are high in hope have greater academic success, stronger friendships, and demonstrate more creativity and better problem-solving. They also have lower levels of depression and anxiety and are less likely to drop out from school.

But does this mean hope causes these benefits—or couldn’t success in school and in making friends just give students more hope? In fact, studies suggest that having hope may actually predict a student’s future academic achievement more than having feelings of self-worth or a positive attitude towards life actually do.

So how do teachers know which students are high in hope? Easy: They are the students who don’t take failure personally. Instead, they use it to improve their performance next time. They’re also more optimistic, and, in the face of obstacles, they tell themselves, “I can do this. I won’t give up.”

Thankfully, scientists have found that the majority of students in the United States are very hopeful. But what about those who aren’t? Oftentimes, students lose hope as a result of their family circumstances. For example, one study found that students who had witnessed violence against a family member or friend were less hopeful.

The good news is that hope can be cultivated, even among students who are at risk for losing it. But first we have to understand what scientists mean when they talk about hope.

Hope doesn’t mean wishful thinking—as in “I hope I win the lottery.” Instead, a person who is high in hope knows how to do the following things.

  • Set clear and attainable goals.
  • Develop multiple strategies to reach those goals.
  • Stay motivated to use the strategies to attain the goals, even when the going gets tough.

For educators who want to help their students build these skills of hope, here are five research-based guidelines.

1) Identify and prioritize their top goals, from macro to micro. Start by having students create a “big picture” list of what’s important to them—such as their academics, friends, family, sports, or career—and then have them reflect on which areas are most important to them and how satisfied they are with each. Keep in mind that the goals must be what the students want, not what their parents or schools want. Otherwise, as studies suggest, they will quickly lose their interest and/or motivation, especially as they come up against obstacles.

Next, using this list, teach students how to create goals that are both specific and take a positive, solutions-oriented approach. Their goals need to focus on accomplishing something in the future rather than avoiding something now—for instance, “I want to play on the basketball team” is a more effective, motivating goal than “I will stop drinking soda.”

Finally, students should rank their goals in order of importance. Researchers have found that this is particularly vital for students with little hope, as they often attempt any goal that comes to mind, which distracts their focus and energy from the goals that can have the greatest impact on their overall well-being.

2) Breakdown the goals—especially long-term ones—into steps. Research has suggested that students with low hope frequently think goals have to be accomplished all-at-once, possibly because they haven’t had the parental guidance on how to achieve goals in steps. Teaching them how to see their goals as a series of steps will also give students reasons to celebrate their successes along the way—a great way to keep motivation high!

3) Teach students that there’s more than one way to reach a goal. Studies show that one of the greatest challenges for students with low hope is their inability to move past obstacles. They often lack key problem-solving skills, causing them to abandon the quest for their goals.

So teaching them to visualize different paths to their goals will help them get beyond insurmountable barriers. Perhaps most importantly, teachers need to make sure that students don’t equate those barriers with a lack of talent; instead, they need to be reminded that everyone faces obstacles. Success usually requires creative ways to overcome these obstacles, not avoiding them altogether.

4) Tell stories of success. Scientists have found that hopeful students draw on memories of other successes when they face an obstacle; however, students with low hope often don’t have these kinds of memories. That’s why it’s vital for teachers to read books or share stories of other people—especially kids—who have overcome adversity to reach their goals.

5) Keep it light and positive. It’s important to teach students to enjoy the process of attaining their goals, even to laugh at themselves when they face obstacles and make mistakes. Above all, no self-pity! Research has found that students who use positive self-talk, rather than beating themselves up for mistakes, are more likely to reach their goals.

Helping our students cultivate hope might be one of the most important things we do for them. Not only will it help them get more A’s in the short-run; it’ll give them the confidence and creativity to reach their long-term goals in school and in life.

It can often feel like only bad things happen, and that they always happen all at once. Of course this isn’t true, but have one too many bad or sad experiences, and you’re likely to have quite the negative outlook. When that’s the case, it’s 100 percent necessary to figure out ways to bring more positivity into your life.

Because it’s totally normal to kind of give up, and start believing life is something that happens to you. So it can be quite the eye-opening moment when you realize you have more control than you think. And good thing, too, since positivity is so incredibly important. “Being positive impacts your life in many ways,” says psychologist Nicole Martinez, Psy.D, LCPC, in an email to Bustle. “It helps you have better relationships, as people are drawn to be around happy people. [And] it improves your working relationships, as people are more open to collaborating with you, and considering your ideas.”

A positive outlook is also good for your health. “Stress is responsible for at least 77 percent of sickness and disease. If you have a positive attitude, you have reduced stress levels, and therefore are typically physically healthier as well,” Martinez says. So no matter how snarky, negative, or gloomy you feel, it’s a really good idea to get on board for some positivity, and try to have a better outlook. Here are some ways to do just that.

1. Try To Find The Good In Bad Situations

As they say, sh*t happens — you miss the bus, get dumped, don’t get the promotion (or all of the above). Of course these situations are all bad, to varying degrees. But it’s up to you to put a positive spin, or at least try to find some good in the situation. As Martinez says, “No matter how bad something seems, there is a lesson to be learned, a skill to be improved on.” See if you can find what that is, no matter what happens to you.

2. Post Inspirational Notes On Your Mirror

Where’s the first place you go each morning? The fridge? The bathroom? Wherever it is, cover that spot in inspirational notes. “It is the first thing you see when you wake up and your mind is clear,” said Tahyira Savanna on EliteDaily.com. “Whatever you take in at this point in the day will stick with you for the remainder of the day, so begin with something that will make you want to conquer the world.”

3. Show More Appreciation

If you’ve been feeling all negative and cold and alone, it can help to show some more appreciation for the things people do for you. Did your coworker buy you coffee? Did your SO make you dinner? “Appreciate the little things that people do for you, and let them know you appreciate them,” Martinez says. It’s sort of like a verbal gratitude journal. Plus (helpful hint), expressing your appreciation might mean more coffee and dinners in the future.

4. Be All About Self-Improvement

Being positive often means taking control of your life, and accepting some responsibility. One easy way to do so is by focusing on some form of self improvement. “This can be taking a class . reading books, or even joining a self-help group,” said Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., on Psychology Today. You might also want to think about being more social, snagging a new hobby, or learning something new at work. Whatever it is, taking care of yourself will feel good, and that’s definitely going to make you more positive.

5. Focus On Solutions (Not Problems)

I know, it sounds a bit like something a stuffy manager would say in a board meaning, but focusing on solutions can help you remain positive. When something goes wrong, it’s the negative people who complain and don’t fix things. Positive people do the opposite. As Martinez says, “Be solution-focused, not problem-focused . This way, you feel control, and you feel hope for the future.” And there’s nothing more positive than that.

6. Make Some Simple Changes

Ever notice how making a small change, like getting a haircut, can seem to alter your entire worldview — not to mention the way people view you? “Large or small revisions help to welcome in new energy. So go ahead, get a haircut, change your route to work, make a conscious effort to recycle, or take ballroom dancing lessons and enjoy,” said Debra Duneier on YourTango.com. It doesn’t matter what it is; trying something new will definitely feel good.

7. Consider Volunteering

I’m all about volunteering, so trust me when I say that a little altruism is where it’s at if you want to attract more positivity to your life. “I know it seems counterintuitive, but by doing something for somebody else, your mind will relax, open up, and allow you to gain clarity about your own issues,” Goldsmith said. “It will also make you feel better about yourself.” And, most importantly, it helps a person or issue in need. So basically, volunteering is win-win-win for everyone.

8. Avoid Negativity Online

If you’re in the habit of flicking on the news the moment you wake up, or scrolling through nasty Youtube comments on your lunch break, then I suggest you stop it now. We all get a bit addicted to drama, but filling your head with constant negativity is only going to lead to more negativity. Instead, intentionally do something more positive with your free time. Read books that inspire, encourage, and motivate you,” suggested Henri Junttila on BecomingMinimalist.com.” It doesn’t really matter if you already know what the book is all about. What matters is that you continually feed your mind with positive and inspirational material.”

9. Smile More Often

This one may sound cheesy, especially if you’re a life-long cynic. But believe me — smiling more often does all sorts of good things. You can start by smiling at your neighbors, or you barista, according to Dr. Danielle Dowling on MindBodyGreen.com, instead of trudging miserably past them. When they smile back, you’ll see that moving a few facial muscles was totally worth it. Plus, smiling has been shown to improve the mood. So go ahead and get in the habit.

10. Dish Out Some Compliments

You can attract more positivity into your life by being a lovely person who is simply nice to be around. Think about doing favors for your SO, being the awesome coworker who always has snacks, or smiling more often (see above tip). Or, you can simply dish out the compliments. As Dowling said, “This is one of my absolute favorite things to do. I tell [people] I love their hair, or shoes, or the way they pulled themselves together. They usually light up with a smile and I’m so happy I helped to make their day a good one.”

11. Take Better Care Of Yourself

It’s very noble to try to be all things to all people. Occasionally, however, you have to focus more on yourself. As Daffnee Cohen said on HuffingtonPost.com, “It’s crucial to take care of not only your physical health, but your mental health as well . Take care of your actions and how you live each day, and this will be reflected in your thoughts and emotional state of mind.”

It really can be that easy to bring more positivity into your life. Take care of yourself, change your thoughts, and show some appreciation. And soon you’ll be rolling in good vibes.

How to create a more hopeful life

“I have seen what a laugh can do. It can transform almost unbearable tears into something bearable, even hopeful.” – Bob Hope

With the holiday season here, there are many reasons to feel hopeful. However, sometimes it’s hard to see the forest through the trees. Things in your life that seem mundane or even challenging are actually blessings in disguise.

As you think back to the reason for the season, you can see there are plenty of reasons you should be thankful as well as hopeful for a bright, eternal future. When you find yourself dwelling on the negative things in life and forgetting to appreciate the little things, turn to these 10 reasons to feel hopeful every day.

1. You are not quite as negative as you think. You are reading this—there is a drop of hope. A seed ready to sprout with a little TLC. Think back to the times when you saw the world with sweet appreciation and then challenge yourself to adopt this point of view once again so you can see more of what’s good.

2. Appreciate your faith in God and you will feel hopeful. He gives us strength and hope. Say a prayer, appreciate nature or spend some time reading the Bible. Seek out faithful people and spend time with them or if you’ve stopped attending church, allow the Christmas season to bring you back.

3. You are a free person to make your own decisions. That is reason enough to be hopeful. If you feel trapped, there is always hope you will find a way out. You are a person of choice who is free to love, work, worship and simply be who you were made to be. Stand up for what you believe and then live it!

4. You wake up each morning with decisions to make and you do it. Decisions are made based on hope for a good outcome. Empower yourself to make decisions that are aligned with how you think, what you believe and how you want to live.

5. Every obstacle in front of you is a sign of hope. You wouldn’t see the obstacle for what it was if you weren’t feeling hopeful about your future goal. Begin to see obstacles as a way to sharpen your faith or improve your willpower. Obstacles can be opportunities waiting to be conquered!

6. You can help other people and give them hope by doing little things like offering a friendly smile, holding a door open or visiting a sick neighbor. Your actions and words can be the perfect gifts to give others this holiday season – especially if they are wrapped in hope.

7. You can be hopeful for a better tomorrow, whether that means you get up a little earlier so you don’t feel rushed or you are hopeful for a better commute—it is a reason for hope. Challenge yourself to begin seeing your life as the glass half-filled. Before you see the problems, look for what’s right first. When you do this, tomorrow will begin looking better, brighter and more hopeful.

8. Strive to be healthier. Knowing that you can exercise a little more or you can choose better foods is a reason to be hopeful. Listen to what your body is telling you and give it more of the nourishment it needs with food, faith and hope.

9. You have the choice to forgive. Forgiveness and acceptance is a reason to be hopeful. You don’t have to hold on to that anger, you can let it go and have hope for a brighter future. Remember: Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself so you can let go of the past and live fully in the present.

10. God loves you no matter what! With that knowledge, there is always hope!

Image Source: Google images

About Alex Blackwell
Alex Blackwell is a father, husband and writer.