feelings of hope - silhouette overlooking sunrise

Feelings of Hope Keep Us Going in the Most Challenging Times – PS84

Feelings of Hope

The emotion of hope is one very strong way to boost your positivity.  To be able to imagine a better future, whatever difficulty you're in, you're on the way.  Feelings of hope are the starting place for taking positive action. Today’s show is the 5th in the series of five short episodes that I created to focus on specific practices to grow more positivity in your life – at home, at work, and in community.

I was inspired to put these 5 shows together because it was the holiday period and we were transitioning to a new year.  Just like life in general, every season has its ups and downs. When we’re under a little stress, there is the tendency to default to some old negative patterns.  For example, we can revert to scarcity – not enough time, money,  not enough – you name the resource; and, we might focus on our deficiencies – lack of talent, lack of support, lack of love, lack of education, lack of help etc.  

Flipping from What's Lacking to What Exits

My objective is to flip the lens from scarcity and deficiencies to focus on what you have already.  The most effective way to flip the switch is to tap into your positive emotions. And when you access those positive emotions you open up to possibilities and opportunities:  your strengths surface and you become more understanding of others. Your perspective widens and relationships are so much easier.   

If you’ve been listening to the previous 4  episodes Smile, Gratitude, Kindness, and Inspiration, and, from your own knowledge and background, you know that we have a negativity bias wired into us from way back when we were hunters and gatherers. 

You’ll know that the negative emotion of fear, while it is highly useful for our safety and learning, can get in the way of experiencing life when there is, in fact, no real fear, but imagined.  Negativity creeps into your self-talk and conversations with others causing discomfort, distress, and over the long-term, negativity impacts your health, potentially causing disease.  In addition,  you can fall into the blame game and feel you have lost everything.  In your despair, you have this sense of there’s no hope – you fall into a negative state of hopelessness and even helplessness.

As the last topic in this mini-series on Boosting Positivity, I’m focussing on the positive emotion of hope.

Hope – One of Top 8 Positive Emotions

Hope is one of the 8 positive states that Professor Barbara Fredrickson has identified in her 20+ years of research into positive emotions that increase our joy and well-being.  The other 7 are gratitude, serenity interest, pride amusement, inspiration, and awe.

It is hope that boosts your positivity when things have taken a turn for the worse.

Life is both suffering and joy.  Adversity can strike in the form of illness (yours or someone close to you); loss (a loved one, a job, a dream); or natural disaster (fires, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, and mudslides); or you can just plain lose your mojo. You spiral downward, and possibly into despair.

It is hoped that ultimately lifts you to see other possibilities exist.  You acknowledge things can change.  Hope allows you to imagine a different future.  Without hope, you are frozen into powerlessness.  Hope is a yearning for something better.

My Personal Stories of Illness, Loss and a Natural Disaster.

In the episode, I share three stories from my own private life that illustrate how the most intentional and deliberate feelings of hope kept me from giving up. 

In each of these stories, there are common threads which I suggest are strong allies of “hope.”

  • Holding a positive image of the future
  • Being in community with others
  • Believing in the goodness of humankind

Story one is my story with my own illness and surrendering to the caregivers because they supported and encouraged my vision of a healthy future.

Story two is my dealing with loss.  The loss of a dream that I held for more than 20 years about my husband's and my future. I was unbelievably saddened and despairing of a change in my destiny that was not my choosing.   Over time and by working on a new vision of the future, I'm over it.  All is forgiven and I'm again free making new and different choices. 

Story three is my personal experience of hope during a hurricane, when our lives and home were at huge risk.  I can honestly say that I had the most palpable experience of hope during 3.5 days of living in a shelter.   I worked so hard to hold only positive images of the future. 

Appreciative Inquiry's Anticipatory and Positive Principles

In the worldview Appreciative inquiry, there are guiding principles which suggest that

“positive imagery evokes positive emotions and positive emotions move us toward a choice for positive actions.”

There are many examples throughout history that demonstrate this principle of positive image, positive future:  immediately, I think of the remarkable lives of Victor Frankl, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, and Nelson Mandela.  These extraordinary and inspiring human beings, despite the most unjust and inhumane oppression and suffering never lost hope or gave into despair in their direst of circumstances. 

Quoting Howard Zinn:

“We don't have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world. Even when we don't “win,” there is fun and fulfillment in the fact that we have been involved, with other good people, in something worthwhile. We need hope. An optimist isn't necessarily a blithe, slightly sappy whistler in the dark of our time.To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives.

If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places — and there are so many — where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however a small way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

How to Live with Greater Feeling of Hope

Where you put your attention is key.  Allow yourself to grieve or mourn your loss or pain, and then find within you the resolve to begin to shift your attention from “what’s wrong with my world?” to “what’s right with my world?”  History has shown that those people who had faith and an image of a positive future are the ones who were most able to surmount the worst possible odds.  

Where does this image of a positive future come from?  It comes from accessing the memories of the times in the past when things were going right.  You tap into your own strengths and successes from the past to help you move toward something better in the future.  To rediscover the source of your dreams that are within your heart, that is your source of hope.

Practices to Strengthen the Positive Emotion of Hope

* It starts with a belief.  A belief that whatever the hardship of the past and the present, you still have a life ahead of feelings of hope - white dog pleadingyou. A belief that you will grow from the adversity. When you believe it, you will see it.

* Make an inventory of your skills, your talents, your strengths.  

* Recall a memory of how you overcame difficulties in the past.

* If you’ve lost your dream, set some new goals and be bold to imagine a new vision or dream for yourself.

* As you get clearer about your goals and write them down, notice how they might become more real for you.

* Invest in connecting with the people and resources that inspire you.

* Hold that image – your dream of a positive future.

What are Your Stories?

I’d love for you to share your stories of hope.  You can post your stories below, and you might be inspired to record a message on the Speak Pipe app that you’ll find on the podcast home page and that link is https://positivitystrategist.org/podcast/

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My TEDx Talk – all about positivity through playful inquiry

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