What is Hope and how does it benefit your well-being?

Desmond Tutu once said: “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” Unfortunately, the last two years have taken a toll on many of us, making it incredibly difficult to find that light.

One thing is certain – hope is what we need to confront our fears and overcome them. It is one of the key elements that keep our minds resilient and give us strength in the face of adversity.

But what is hope and what does it have to do with our mental health? 

According to the American Psychological Association, hope is “the expectation that one will have positive experiences or that a potentially threatening or negative situation will not materialize or will ultimately result in a favorable state of affairs.” In other words, hope is what we lean on when we wish the best for ourselves and our loved ones.

This explains why we often associate hope with optimism. The link between the two, as noted by Psychology Today, is the belief that things will happen and one’s wishes or aims will ultimately be fulfilled.

Since hope equates with the assumption for a positive outcome, it is also a crucial part of setting and eventually achieving goals. Whenever you decide you want to accomplish something, whether it is related to your personal or professional life, you hope for the best possible circumstances that would help you do so. Of course, you put a lot of hard work into your dreams in the meantime. Therefore, hope plays a massive role in building a mindset that pushes you to do better every day.

How does hope benefit your well-being? 

Hope has a massive influence on our lives. It contributes to our physical and mental health, while also helping us improve our social skills. For instance, hope often serves as a shield against stressful life events.

However, according to a 2010 study, it can be much more than a tool to handle negative experiences. The researchers, who described hope as a type of “psychological capital,” discovered that people holding high hopes demonstrate better athletic, academic, occupational, and health outcomes. Not only do they feel better, but they also have measurably higher levels of achievement and are healthier than those who disregard this fundamental emotion.

So, what makes hopeful individuals show better results both mentally and physically? 

One theory states that the people prone to lean on hope when it comes to their health, their family, their job, and their social life, take better care of themselves. They are generally more successful and healthy because they take action towards improving all these aspects of their lives.

For example, a person who hopes to get in shape and realizes they also need to do something to achieve that would likely start exercising and adopt a healthier diet, which will eventually lead them to their goal. Meanwhile, someone who doesn’t have faith in themselves that they could change their lifestyle and become the best version of themselves would probably do nothing in that direction.

Can hope heal?

Interestingly, other studies have found that hope is an essential factor in the healing process of patients diagnosed with a serious illness. Dr. Kenneth E. Hart, a professor from the Department of Psychology at the University of Windsor, Canada, unveiled that forward-looking patients experience positive physical health outcomes because they are more likely to search for alternative ways to alter the course of their disease.

Moreover, Dr. Gordon L. Flett, Professor in the Department of Psychology at York University, Canada, determined that hopeful patients were more adaptive and better prepared to deal with the challenges of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

These findings reveal that hope is more than just a tool to fight stressful situations. It is also something that helps us adapt and reprogram our minds so we could perform at our best even when nothing seems to be in our favor.

How can we use hope when being responsible for teams or organizations?

Being a leader can be immensely challenging. It puts you in the position where you are responsible for the actions of a group of people. When something goes wrong, it is you who has to make sure the team’s spirit is uplifted. When something goes right, you are the one who has to make sure the team is motivated enough to keep going at the same successful pace.

Unfortunately, being a leader in the midst of a global pandemic has proven to be beyond troublesome. Thankfully, there is an approach you can use to improve your working environment and contribute to your team’s future achievements. Yes, we are talking about hope!

Here is what Dr. Camille Preston, a leading business psychologist, advises you to do: 

  • Set clear goals. When it comes to setting goals, a leader should be clear, firm, and focused. The aims should be realistic. If a task seems near impossible to handle at once, break it down into several smaller steps. The more steps your team completes, the more hopeful and engaged in the process they would become.
  • Cultivate a growth mindset. The people you lead should have it instilled in their mindsets that they can keep growing even when facing challenges. This way they would be constantly motivated to give the most of their skills and capabilities to contribute to the company’s goals.
  • Align goals with values. Making goals feel valuable for each team member would make them feel more connected to the workplace and inspire them to perform at their best selves.
  • Take perspective on a regular basis. Help your team take perspective at regular intervals. Witnessing each other’s progress would foster hope for their personal future and that of the organization.

“Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.”

Christopher Reeve

Do you agree that hope plays a significant role in our well-being? Could it serve as a powerful tool for leaders to boost their teams to perform at their best? Let us know in the comment section!

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