We know, for example, that even a relatively small degree of hope can lessen physical pain through the release of endorphins and enkephalins – natural brain substances that block pain and cause a sense of well-being.
We all have heard about the ability of some people to remain hopeful in the face of extreme difficulties. It may be a cancer patient who survives against the odds. Or a military veteran who creates a life while struggling with enormous mental or physical challenges.
And we know others who collapse under the weight of the struggle. Some cancer patients give up. Some veterans develop addictions or mental illness after their trauma.
This over-simplification is so unfair to those facing such enormous challenges. But it does highlight the truth that our circumstances do not dictate our thoughts, emotions, or behaviors.
What is it that allows one person to successfully overcome enormous obstacles while another succumbs under the same problems?
One big factor is HOPE.
Hope visualizes a better future, and grabs onto the emotions associated with that better future.
Hope does not ignore true challenges or threats. Instead, hope chooses which lens to evaluate reality with. Hope:
- sees reality in sharp focus
- lessens fear
- improves the ability to make clear decisions
- provides fuel to take appropriate action in the face of that reality
The best news of all is that hope is a choice.
Sure – some people have an easier time feeling hopeful than others. But hope is not primarily a feeling: it is a way of looking at reality and seeing beyond it. Hope chooses to see a positive future beyond the present.
If you have repeatedly been disappointed, it may be hard to hope. But it IS a choice you have!
Whatever your challenge, choose hope!
- If you’re drowning in debt, visualize being debt free
- If you’re lonely, visualize having a few close friends
- If your marriage is struggling, visualize true intimacy of body and soul with your spouse
- If you’re addicted, visualize living free
- If you’re anxious and afraid, visualize peace
Hope is not only passive. Once you visualize your better future, there may be some things you need to do on the road to that future. Hope allows you to see that more clearly, and walk down that road one step at a time.
Now, what do you hope for?
Your turn: What better future do you hope for? How does that hope help you take appropriate action today? I’d love to hear from you.