Hoping Is Not A Hopeless Endeavor
Having a healthy dose of hope can be motivating and inspiring. It keeps people focused on what's ahead instead of what's in the past. It can also help keep the focus on possibilities, and reframe obstacles as opportunities.
For some, however, being hopeful goes hand-in-hand with feeling naïve or foolish when things don't work out as planned. They would rather not have hope at all if it means later disappointment.
But for others, having hope doesn't mean living in denial of life's difficulties; it simply reminds them there are better times ahead.
The Benefits of Hope
Research indicates that it's more beneficial to have hope than not. Hopeful people tend to show more resilience when faced with difficulties. They have healthier lifestyle habits and, on the whole, are more successful, personally and professionally.
According to the Mayo Clinic, having a hopeful, positive attitude has health benefits as well. These include: increased life span, reduced depression, lowered levels of distress, increased resistance to the common cold, greater emotional and psychological well-being, decreased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, and improved coping skills during difficulties and stress.
In addition, people with hope typically have meaningful long- and short-term goals, a plan to achieve those goals, flexibility to find alternate ways to achieve goals when faced with obstacles, and positive self-talk.
We human beings are sometimes too inventive for our own good -- we can envision a future course of action along with every potential catastrophe that could occur along the way. Being aware of everything that can go wrong often makes doing nothing -- in an attempt to avoid failure or pain -- seem like a viable option.
Cultivating hope, on the other hand, helps activate creativity and inventiveness and prompts us to solve the predicaments we face by taking action in spite of our fears.
Hope brings with it the belief that things can change for the better. Regardless of how dire things may seem, there is potential for a positive outcome.
Is It Possible to Be Too Hopeful?
It could be said that optimists have a healthy dose of hope while "extreme optimists" suffer from blinding hope. They want nothing to do with bad news.
Researchers at Duke University found that extreme optimists (you could call them "high-hopers") don't save money, don't pay off credit cards and don't make long-term plans, but they are more likely to remarry if divorced.
Moderation, as usual, is the key. The researchers also found that "moderate optimists" tend to work harder, work longer hours, make more money, save more money, and pay off credit cards.
Being a moderate high-hoper doesn't mean keeping your head in the sand when it comes to life's occasional unpleasant circumstances. It just means keeping a positive attitude -- believing the best will happen, not the worst.
Studies seem to suggest that being hopeful is a skill that can be learned. So whether you're an extreme optimist, an extreme pessimist or somewhere in between, there is hope for us all.
A Different Kind of Hope that Gives Us Strength
Feeling the love of God and believing in Jesus as our resurrected Lord has brought us a different kind of hope.
"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." (Romans 5:1-5)
Author's content used with permission, © Claire Communications
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Winnis Chiang, LMFT and founder of ParentingABC.com, is passionate about helping Mandarin- and Cantonese-speaking parents to get along with, enjoy, and positively influence their American born children.