Hope, like love, is a verb. It is an action and does not appear without our effort. Sure, some people seem innately blessed with a sunny disposition, but for the rest of us – we’ve got to work for those rose-colored glasses. The following are three practices for cultivating hope in the year ahead.
Take a moment to review the past year or two. Some of us will move chronologically while others will be drawn to specific events in no particular order. The human brain is hard-wired to remember the tough times more vividly. It’s a throwback to when our hunter-gatherer ancestors needed to remember not to eat that poisonous berry or pet a bear. That neurological habit is less beneficial to us in modern times, so if what’s coming up for you are all the “bad times,” don’t fret. For every bad event, think of one good thing that came from each trial and tribulation. Write each one down.
As you scan your year, also bring to mind all the moments when you exhibited resilience. Write down all you’ve overcome. Then, make a note of every “good” thing that happened through no effort of your own. I title these moments “miracles.” For example, maybe you lost your job, but just a week later there was a check in the mail with your name on it. Through some banking error, your financial institution owed you money for once. Miracle!
As a journaling practice, it would look like this:
- Folding a paper in half, write down any “bad” memories on the left side and on the right, jot down one good thing that either resulted from that event or any separate positive event.
- On a second sheet of paper, scribble all the moments when you exhibited resilience. These are moments that felt insurmountable at first, but you dug deep and overcame them.
- On the next sheet, make a list of miracles – happy accidents that flowed into your life through no effort of your own.
After writing down all of the positive events, acts of resilience, and out-of-the-blue miracles, mentally give thanks for each one. Gratitude may also be shared in a letter to yourself, spoken to your higher consciousness, or prayed to the God of your own unique understanding.
Then, take it a step further. Give thanks for all the events that are on their way to you, but haven’t happened yet. For instance, you may be experiencing a health challenge. In the present tense, you would write or speak out, “Thank you for my improved health. I’m so grateful to be enjoying my body working optimally.” This may be a practice you continue into the new year by keeping a daily gratitude journal. Now, that’s hope-in-action!
- Improved physical health
- Improved psychological health
- Attracting and maintaining new relationships
- Enhanced empathy and reduced aggression
- Better sleep
- Improved self-esteem
- Increased mental strength
Become A Hope Dealer
One of the best ways to renew hope in yourself is to gift hope to others. Hopelessness lies to us and says “there’s nothing you can do.” Play chicken with your brain chemistry and prove it wrong through your actions. There are millions of people in need all over the world, and you can be their hope dealer.
Now, I know that the very fact that there are so many in need makes many of us freeze in our tracks. The simplest way to become unstuck is to choose one simple action you can do right away. A friend just had a baby? Call them and ask them what’s a good time to come by and drop off dinner for them. Know of an elderly person that’s feeling a little lonely? Ask them if they’d like to be pen-pals.
A 2020 study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies stated that people who regularly volunteered reported better overall health and were more satisfied with their lives. And we all know that happier people are hopeful people (or maybe it’s the other way around). If you don’t quite know where to volunteer, start with this question, “What really breaks your heart when you look at the world?” The answer will clue you in as to where to go. Pick up the phone or send an email to an organization today.
After the last three years, it may be difficult to summon up the will to work towards hope, but can we really afford not to? In a place without hope, nothing can ever change. And I think I speak for all of us when I say – no one wants that.
We can find hope in a hopeless place – by making it ourselves. Comment below and let us know how you’ll be cultivating hope starting right now.