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?
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.
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)