Our experts share easy, uplifting ways to kindle the proven power of hope so you can find more joy in the moment and in the future
Invite hope in. It is that powerful.
Hope differs from its cousin optimism in a surprising way, reveals researcher Chan Hellman, Ph.D. “While optimism is the belief that the future will be better than today, hope goes one step further: I have the chance to make it so.”
In other words, far from passive, hope is active, helping us not only envision a brighter tomorrow, but bring it into existence. “It’s a way of thinking, which is so important because it means it can be learned.”
Watch it grow.
This way of seeing the world often starts with a small spark, says pastor Max Lucado, revealing that one of the most inspiring examples comes from a general he met years ago who survived nearly eight years in a POW camp.
“He told me there was a ditch where he could see a single blade of grass — it became what he called his ‘transfusion of hope.’” While his is an extreme case, it captures how hope begins, says expert Denise Larsen, Ph.D. “Find the tiniest thing that sparks it, like a flower in your garden — this helps you see a future you want to be part of and help shape.”
Allow for support.
Even when we discover glimmers of positivity, anxiety about the future can cloud our eyes. Fear often causes us to isolate ourselves, observes Lucado. “It’s important to do the opposite: Call a trusted friend and just say, ‘Do you mind if I ask how you got through X similar challenge?’” Hope is proven to be contagious, and when we see it in others, it helps us discover and celebrate it in ourselves.
Plan for positivity.
“The hopeful mindset triggers ‘pathway thinking’ — identifying a road map toward our goals,” says Hellman. To create your map, think of the word PLAN, adds Lucado. That’s Pray, Learn, Act and Never (give up).
First, leave your doubts with a higher power so you don’t have to carry them, then learn about your goal and take one simple action, like identifying a moneymaking talent if you want to boost your income. As for “never give up,” acknowledge your progress, even when you have a setback, to bolster your faith in yourself.
Share a smile.
Hope comes to us when we give it to someone else, promises Lucado. “That could be as simple as sharing a word of kindness — just give that and watch your world expand.” Indeed, anything from smiling at someone to giving a genuine compliment boosts our own self-esteem and hopefulness.
Your bright future.
“It isn’t always an effervescent feeling,” notes Larsen. “Hope is a conscious choice we practice daily by reminding ourselves to look for it.” What better way to help ourselves continue to see it than to walk down memory lane.
“Just gaze at photos in a scrapbook or on your phone of something good that happened to remind yourself that it will happen again. Even amid darkness, we can find hope through recalling stories of the past and looking ahead to the future.”
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.