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Springing hope in your step

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness – Desmond Tutu

Spring is here again to push away the heavy Covid cloud that has been enveloping us. We can feast our senses upon the abundance of wildflowers: poppies, lavender, saxifrage, geraniums, buttercups, orchids, iris, broom, rockrose, lupins, daisies, and so much more new life. Buds, too, adorn the trees and bushes, with the promise of delicious fruit. Through the gift of change, spring brings us hope.

With the increased light spring brings, our bodies produce more serotonin. Serotonin being the key hormone that stabilises our mood, feelings of wellbeing and happiness. This hormone impacts the entire body, also helping with sleeping, eating and digestion. Researchers think a lack of serotonin in our brains may play a role in depressive thinking which, in turn, often results in a loss of hope. This most noticeable absence of hope can keep us in a state of feeling stuck, stuck in a place where it becomes difficult to imagine a better life or a better world.

Research shows that the presence of hope is a key ingredient to successful medical intervention, i.e. the placebo effect. It gives belief in a doctor’s intervention and prescription. It is central, too, to the work of a range of therapies and is shown to be core to cancer treatment.

Living with hope is sometimes diminished to the equivalent of living in some kind of fantasy, but actually living in hope is to live in a world of real possibility. Hope can be felt in this moment in time and it can feel like choosing to live amid possibilities that you actively believe can exist.

How then can we can stay hopeful? How can we expect the best but not disappear into a world of fantasy and stay living in the moment? Here are some thoughts and techniques that can help us remain hopeful:

1. Remember – human beings have an innate drive to evolve Look to the darkest times in history and how the human race has survived, thrived and evolved through those times.

Look through your own life or, if you prefer, to people you admire and notice how you or they have survived, thrived and evolved through challenging times.

Use these observations to remind yourself that everything changes, everything evolves.

2. Visualise your future with hope We can reflect upon what we hope for and allow this hope to cushion and protect us.

American writer Barbara Kingsolver advised: “The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance, but live right in it, under its roof.”

No matter what sort of difficulty you may be struggling with, reflect upon what you would like to change. Then, after taking three deep breaths, visualise what those successes will look like. Visualise three ways in which your life will be different. Notice how you will feel different.

In this way, you can feel as if you have already experienced your future success before it happens. And so, you will more naturally feel the confidence to carry out the steps to change.

3. Visualise a future for your family or your community with hope This is the same as step 2 but extended to your family or community. What are your hopes for your family or community?

Reflect upon the challenges your family or community are facing and how this could be different in the future. Reflect upon the changes you would like to see, and reflect upon how you will all be interacting with one another. Then, after taking three deep breaths, visualise how members of your family or community are different in the future. Notice how members in your family or community will act and look different.

4. Change the way you speak to yourself and others The language we use can create an emotion within us and in others around us.

Talk in terms of: “when things improve…as things start to get better… A presupposition contains within it the assumption that progress will occur. Your assumptive, hopeful words will create an uplifting emotion within you as well as create visions of the future in your mind, which, in turn, will help you expect change. This will keep your thinking and language in line with how things always change. In this way, you can surely avoid depressive, black and white thinking.

Never underestimate the power of your own expectations and your emotive language upon others.

5. Spend time in nature Some biologists argue that since our ancestors evolved in wild settings and relied on the environment for survival, we have an innate drive to connect with nature. The stress reduction hypothesis posits that spending time in nature triggers a physiological response that lowers stress levels. And as we reduce stress and connect with our innate drives, we open the door to positive emotions like hopefulness. Studies show that children attending schools with windows overlooking nature are less aggressive, less likely to be labeled as ADHD, and more attentive in the classroom.

Being in nature even seems promising for preventing early signs of cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Studies show we can boost our mood just by walking in nature, even in urban nature. And the sense of connection we have with the natural world seems to contribute to happiness and hopefulness, even when you’re not physically immersed in nature. This connection can even make up for lack of connection with other people.

6. Do it your way

Viktor Frankl said: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

This way you never lose hope because you always maintain a hope in yourself.

Hope is indeed a pleasant, enjoyable, uplifting emotion which can cushion us from some of the knocks and bruises felt by today’s tumultuous times. It can fill the present moment with possibility, build our resilience to ill health, and make us truly happy from the inside.

May you be hopeful.

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