I work for two organizations that exist to offer hope to others, the Alameda Church of Christ and the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. It is such a privilege to go to work each day and focus on ways to improve the lives of others. It is also exciting to be part of teams who are passionate “dealers of hope.”
I recently read a wonderful book entitled Hope Rising: How the Science of Hope Can Change Your Life. In the book, the authors discuss the mounting body of research that has been and is being done on the subject of hope. As the authors write…
“Hope is not just an idea. Hope is not simply an emotion. It is more than a feeling. It is not a wish or even an expectation. Hope is about goals, willpower, and pathways. A person with high hope has goals, the motivation to pursue them, and the determination to overcome obstacles and find pathways to achieve them.
Hope is a science with identifiable, measurable elements. It is measurable and it is malleable. You can give your level of hope (goals, willpower, and pathways) in life a ‘score’ and measure it in others as well. Then, you can increase your Hope score by intentional strategies. Rising hope is predictive of short-term and long-term positive outcomes in people’s lives. If you apply the science of hope to your life, it will change you. If you embrace the language of hope, you will talk differently, act more intentionally, and live your life with greater purpose than you ever have before.”
In one chapter of the book, the authors examine how survivors of violence and abuse found hope that helped them overcome their trauma. What they found in their research can help all of us find rising hope, so here’s 12 ways you can increase hope in your life in 2021:
- Be nice to yourself. Give yourself permission to take a few minutes for a walk, some downtime, and a little self-care.
- Shut out the bad stuff. Turn off the news, limit your time on social media, and moderate your intake of entertainment that expresses dark and negative themes.
- Reject the negative self-talk. Negative messages, either from others or inside your own head, damages our motivation to pursue a goal. So, focusing on ways to increase our motivation is the antidote; and practicing positive self-talk is a great start.
- Speak positive affirmations to yourself and others. From the book: “So many times, angry people think peace will come from how a social service agency helps them or some institution responds to the wrong they have experienced. In all our research, the opposite is true. Peace starts with an individual and it comes into the world only through peaceful individuals. We must learn to live it in our words and actions instead of giving in to fear, hatred, or resignation (apathy).”
- Get close to people with high hope. Again, from the book: “People with goals, motivation, and strategic thinking about their pathways are contagious. Oprah Winfrey puts it this way: ‘Surround yourself only with people who are going to lift you higher.’ We will always do better in life if we hang out with people with higher hope. People with lower hope pull us down and even if we work with them, are married to them, or live next door to them – we cannot spend all our time there. We need people with high hope around us.”
- Create a meditation/prayer time (3-5 minutes each day). In this hectic world, you need time to simply sit and be still so that you can quiet your mind, center your thoughts, and connect to a greater reality.
- Celebrate each day with gratitude. Thankful people are more hopeful than entitled people who never appreciate the precious gift of life or the kindness of others. A high Hope score connects directly to higher gratitude in someone’s life, so be on the look out every day for things and people that you can appreciate and look for ways to express it.
- Look at the sky or feel the sun on your face. Research has shown that being outside and appreciating nature helps improve our mental health. So, go for a walk in the park or around your block on a regular basis!
- Pour out healthy affection like water. Expressing kindness and healthy affection is physically and emotionally comforting to the giver and the receiver of each loving act.
- Learn to re-goal. The process of adjusting life goals is constant in those with higher hope. They regularly ask if a goal is still important to them of if the obstacles can be overcome. If they cannot be overcome, they choose to adjust their goals or pick new goals.
- Go make a difference in another’s life. Serving others is a powerful way to spread hope, but each time you make a difference in someone else’s life, you create hope in your own life as well. Spend a little time every week doing something for others, and hope will rise within you and the people you serve.
- Practice movement daily. There is a strong brain-body connection, so the more you strengthen your body the more you strengthen your brain. People with a positive mindset and high hope are people who understand this and create a regular exercise routine accordingly. It doesn’t have to be anything major and it doesn’t require that you join a gym – just get moving!