Hope is a feeling that stirs deep inside of us that offers relief and helps us to know that everything is going to be okay. Oftentimes we are able to access hope from within our self, and draw on that natural part of our human spirit that encourages us to carry on in spite of opposition. We can also draw upon hope from external sources as it is reflected to us from others who inspire us through their examples of courage and hope.
This is part of a poem written by Emily Dickinson and she relates hope as a feeling that is light as a feather, that is always with us.
“Hope is the thing with feathers-
That perches in the soul-
And sings the tune without the words-
And never stops – at all-“
Even though hope is always with us, there are times in our lives when hope is lost and we may feel forsaken and forgotten. Hope helps us to feel remembered and that all is not lost. It is used to provide comfort to friends and family in times of grief, or personal suffering. It is what we offer to people in dire situations who need rescuing from physical and emotional distress. It operates from a deep and meaningful place inside of us, in which the mind that is caught up in its deepest despair finally turns to thoughts of relief and liberation.
We all have capacity to feel hope, to think positively in tough times and to be future-minded in setting goals. Research shows that our strength of hope is made up of two important elements-think of these as the will and the way. The will is our motivation and our belief that we can reach a goal and our desired outcome. The way is our ability to come up with options to achieve that goal or desire. (e.g. recovering from a problem, accomplishing a task or life goal or making a challenging decision.)
In study after study, hope is one of two strengths that is most aligned with happiness. The good news is we can build up hope and reap its many benefits-physical, mental and social. And in our own hopelessness we can extend our hand to someone else who may also be suffering. In our reaching out to someone else hope is restored to both the giver and the receiver.
Here are some tips from the science of positive psychology to help you start flexing your hope muscle.
Visualize the best possible outcome. When feelings of doubt enter into your mind or your heart quickly release the negativity by seeing your fears be reduced to sand on the floor. See yourself sweeping it up and throwing it away. Return to your visualization of the best possible outcome.
Visualize yourself as your best self. See yourself happy, confident and strong. See yourself with these same feelings carrying you through the next day, week, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months or into the next year. This might be your best self in a relationship, at work, in your community or just everyday life. Consider how to use your gifts and strengths to reach your best possible self.
#2 Set Goals
Set personal goals you would like to accomplish. Boost your hopeful thinking by writing them down. Goals keep us focused and help us to feel productive. Make the goals realistic and obtainable. Reaching our goals on a regular basis sets us up for living in a cycle of success. This can help us feel encouraged and increases levels of hope and happiness.
Journal about the good events that are happening in your life. Express gratitude for the big things and the little things. Hope grows out of gratitude. Even though we experience discouragement with certain circumstances, hope is what grows in the darkest recesses of the heart when disappointment and loss are experienced. Listing those things that we can still celebrate and have gratitude for lessens the sting of mental and emotional suffering and helps us hold onto hope.
#4 Maintain a spiritual perspective
Our hopelessness comes from a fear of death or fear of separation and loss. And yet, out of the ashes of what seems like complete darkness the light of hope continues to flicker. It is a light that may be dimmed but can never be completely darkened. Even in death when the light of the soul has left the body, the spirit does not die but continues to live. . . illuminated in truth and light. There is no death.
Hope gives us the power to see beyond the illusion of loss, separation and death. This truth helps us understand that we can hold onto a sense of hope that can come only from him the true prince of peace.
“The greatest man in history named Jesus, had no servants, yet they called Him Master. Had no degree, yet they called Him Teacher. Had no medicines, yet they called Him Healer. He had no army, yet kings feared Him. He won no military battles, yet he conquered the world. He committed no crime, yet they crucified Him. He was buried in a tomb, yet He lives today.”
Hope exists in a belief that all things work for our good. It is a sweet acceptance that God has a plan for us and knows what is best for us. God loves us even when he allows us to experience suffering. May we remember that our mortal suffering here in this world has purpose and is for our growth and development. We have hope that we are more than our weaknesses, more than our past conditioning, more than our DNA and the mortality of this body. Let us gather in hope with God and raise our sights. May we see ourselves the way God sees us and have hope in who we might become. May this hope carry us through those dark times and illuminate our path as we continue to walk into the future.