Sunrise on the road to Great Oak Manor Inn (c 1740)....a few miles from Hopeful Unity
Never give up hope.
Hope and its healing properties (Wilmington News Journal, April 6, 2010)
Have you ever thought about the presence or absence of hope in your life? A large part of our human experience involves meeting the challenges of daily existence, and at times those challenges can seem enormous or overwhelming.
It is during those difficult times in life when we generally seek comfortable ways to cope with our stress. One healthy coping path we may travel involves hope.
It may not surprise you to learn that there appears to be a strong connection between a person who is hopeful and a good quality of life. But did you also know that people who take a hopeful approach to their medical condition tend to experience better health outcomes than those without hope? For instance, scientists have found a relationship between the increased risk of death due to cancer and heart disease and a person's sense of hopelessness.
So it makes sense to take a closer look at what hope is all about.
Hope is a belief or feeling that something better is about to happen. When someone has hope, that person is expecting good outcomes, looking forward to a more positive future and minimizing the current negative aspects in a given situation. The hopeful person also appears to have a healthier immune system and seems more likely to fare well when struggling with a serious illness.
On the other hand, people who feel hopeless are more likely to also feel depressed and pessimistic, which are feelings and states of mind that appear related to immune system suppression. One study showed a relationship between reported levels of hope at the beginning of treatment for depression and increased T and B cell activity three months later. T and B cells are white blood cells that help the body stay healthy.
Chronic depression, hopelessness and the social isolation that usually accompanies depression appear to eventually lead to increased risk for cardiovascular disease, malignant forms of cancer and death from external causes. So having hope appears to be essential to our very long-term survival.
Even the famous placebo effect is a study of hope in action. The literature is filled with studies and anecdotes regarding patients who felt better and recovered from illness with just the use of a sugar pill (placebo) -- and with measurable physiological changes taking place in the body despite the lack of "true" medicine having been ingested. There is even a study that showed a group of psychiatric patients on a waiting list who felt better than those who received a prescribed course of psychotherapy, simply because those on the waiting list were looking forward to -- hoping for -- relief for their symptoms through a treatment they anticipated would help them.
Learning to be hopeful or optimistic appears to be possible for anyone interested in doing so. If you are a person without a hopeful attitude at this moment, don't give up hope completely. It may take time to change your lifelong (or even temporary) responses to challenges. But you are likely to find yourself gradually moving from a place of giving up to the comforting cradle of hope.
What's most important is that you practice cultivating hope in small ways every day. For example, you could keep a hope diary, and in it record your hopes and dreams. You could also use this diary to keep track of thoughts that reflect hopelessness so you can identify patterns that may be obstacles to your new, hopeful direction. After identifying these patterns, begin to silently argue with your chronic hopeless thoughts while learning to identify and focus on the inherent hope in every situation.
If you find yourself unable to shake a pervasive or severe sense of hopelessness, you may be suffering from clinical depression and would benefit by talking with your health care provider about treatment options.
Otherwise, seize the moment to be hopeful about your future as you enjoy the now lengthening spring days.
Practice finding hope in any situation where you initially feel upset. Encourage others to be hopeful and optimistic. And support those who are struggling by choosing a hopeful, compassionate attitude as you help them.
Let's all hope for more warm weather, sunshine and peace.