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How to Create a More Hopeful Life

How to Create a More Hopeful Life

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?”

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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.

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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?

    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.”

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    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.

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    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)

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    Maria Hill

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

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    Last Updated on July 3, 2020

    How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

    How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

    Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life. To control your thoughts means to influence the way you live your life.

    Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affects your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality)

    I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive, and just a general waste of energy.

    You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

    Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Be someone who can control your thoughts—become the master of your mind.

    When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

    I currently have a few thoughts that are not of my choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

    Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

    Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in control of your thoughts.

    If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

    Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create unhealthy and unproductive thoughts.

    1. The Inner Critic

    This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:

    • Other people’s words—many times your parents
    • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples’ expectations
    • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media
    • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

    The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance, and lack of self-love.

    Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is youwhy else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

    2. The Worrier

    This person lives in the future—in the world of “what ifs.”

    The Worrier is motivated by fear, which is often irrational and has no basis. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

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    3. The Reactor or Troublemaker

    This is the one that triggers anger, frustration, and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

    This person can be set off by words or feelings and can even be set off by sounds and smells.

    The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control. He is run by past programming that no longer serves you—if it ever did.

    4. The Sleep Depriver

    This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

    The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:

    • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
    • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
    • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity, and generalized anxiety
    • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

    How can you control these squatters?

    How to Master Your Mind

    You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You can control your thoughts, but you must pay attention to them so you can identify “who” is running the show—this will determine which technique you will want to use.

    Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

    There are two ways to control your thoughts:

    • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
    • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

    This second option is what is known as peace of mind.

    The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go-to” thoughts in applicable situations.

    Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

    1. For the Inner Critic

    When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

    You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

    For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

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    You can also have a dialogue with yourself to discredit the ‘voice’ that created the thought—if you know whose voice it is:

    “Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

    If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready.

    This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

    • They rile up the Worrier.
    • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
    • They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
    • They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
    • They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!

    Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

    Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

    2. For the Worrier

    Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally, and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

    Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind, and creates anxiety in the body. This may make it more difficult for you to control your thoughts effectively.

    You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

    • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
    • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
    • Muscles tense

    Use the above-stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time, you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

    If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

    Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

    “Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

    Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense. Both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

    If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

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    Now, take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like! Do it until you feel that you’re close to being in control of your thoughts.

    Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

    For example: If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

    “I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place.

    Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

    Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

    “Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

    Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

    3. For the Troublemaker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

    Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers. But until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

    The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain.

    I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

    Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds—just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

    Breathe in through your nose:

    • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
    • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
    • Focus on your belly rising.

    Breathe out through your nose:

    • Feel your lungs emptying.
    • Focus on your belly falling.
    • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

    Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize. Now, you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior, and you’ll be more in control of your thoughts.

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    One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

    Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

    4. For the Sleep Depriver

    (They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher, and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

    I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

    Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

    1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
    2. Then I came up with a replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

    When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and thoughts, and I choose quiet.

    From the first time I tried this method, I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

    For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (closed, of course). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

    If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

    You can also use this technique any time you want to:

    • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon
    • Shut down your thinking
    • Calm your feelings
    • Simply focus on the present moment

    The Bottom Line

    Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or destructive purposes.

    You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable, and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

    Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. You can be in control of your thoughts. The choice is yours!

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    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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