Alas, we’re over the dreadful year of 2020, and it’s also the last day in the first month of 2021. Sadly, the COVID-19 virus is still on a rampage.
Last time, I spoke of how stress was a time thief, stealing of our time. Today, we will be looking at its antithesis that adds to our time — hope.
Now, unlike the meds prescribed for you often in a hospital, hope isn’t a pill to drop down your throat. It’s intangible. Thus, making its influence on our life span a questionable point.
However, have you heard of the placebo effect? There was a time I saw a woman freaking out, totally anxious, and had gotten herself to believe that if she doesn’t get a drug for her anxiety, she would never be at rest. The good doctor did give her some pills to take. Only they were vitamin C tabs. She rushed these down her throats and was all calm in some minutes.
I’m sure she would have given the good doctor a good punch on the face if she knew it wasn’t her anxiety drug. But that was the point. While the doctor knew she was in no need for a drug, she believed entirely that she would never be calm without one. And upon taken the tab, she got what she expected of the drug — serenity.
Today, the placebo’s effect is becoming more of an accepted culture. This concept is, however, somewhat similar to how hope heals us through that thing called expectation.
Hope is how you define a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen. Two things— a desire and an expectation, makes hope what it is. As in the placebo’s, when you are hopeful, which is being expectant of a particular thing, you sometimes get to lay hold of this thing.
In this context, however, I’m going to be talking of how hope heals, or better still, how hope ensures your mental well-being, which in turn, enhances your physical well-being.
To start with, let’s answer the question of if you have ever found a hopeless, yet happy person? You know, like, “I’ve got no hope in this world, yay. I can’t contain my happiness knowing I’m hopeless.” Huh, well, I seriously doubt hopeless and happy can ever be found in the same context. That tells us we all have come to accept the fact that the presence of hope itself is a thing to be happy about.
However, the presence of hope doesn’t mean the absence of events that can weigh down our minds. Stress still comes around, and that’s all the more reason to remain hopeful, which leads us to my first point.
Hope Buffers The Effects of Stress
So, a quick reminder here. Stress acts by upsetting your balance. And when it does this, your body releases two hormones of interest, the cortisol and adrenaline. These are useful for a short-term response to stress, like in the flight-or-fight response.
In sustained stress, as in exposing yourself constantly to the source of the stress, say, news headlines about the COVID-19 death toll and you overthinking things, the hormones stay longer than they should. The complications could be hypertension, stroke, and even kidney damage, hence my last title calling stress a time thief.
Well, now that you recall the influence of stress on your body, what happens when you do have hope in these unsettling times?
Hope provides you with an avenue to choose a reaction, the next course of action that will ensure your happiness. This action nullifies or slows down the effects of stress. A better way to probably explain hope in this context is in C. R. Synder’s words as “a positive motivational state that is based on an interactively derived sense of successful agency and pathways.”
Agency talks of that energy of yours, your willpower and determination to achieve these goals you’ve set for yourself. The pathways are how you thoughtfully consider your options, your alternate routes that take you to the place you achieve your goals.
In other words, being hopeful affords you to stay and think positive even when faced with stressful events, and this is all you need to begin with to see through such events. Why? When faced with stress, negative thoughts, a negative state of mind only propagates the stress, and you know a thief always steals, only time is the target here.
However, take on positive thoughts. Rather than focussing on the crippling changes that are forcing us into stress disorders, being hopeful means believing and expecting that you can get to stand tall again. It means thinking, with optimism, the options that will take you to overcome such changes. Being hopeful means you can find the strength to walk the routes that will make you overcome these changes. Not at any time do you feel defeated and your body knows this.
Thus, instead of being put down by stress, you are instead filled with energy and joy, knowing there is hope, and that you have hope. In all, your positive outlook of what comes next helps to mitigate the effect of stress, and that saves you up some time. So, being hopeful isn’t in any way a bad thing.
Hope When Ill
Earlier, I talked of stress with no specific stressor in mind but you should know that being hopeful is still possible even when ill. This is really where the placebo’s effect explanation comes into play. Records have shown a hopeful person’s expectation for healing has been known to aid healing. On the other hand, having negative thoughts, and being hopeless about what the future holds has somehow been associated with premature mortality.
Researches are still ongoing to understand better the power of hope in healing. However, one certain thing is being hopeful helps you to live in each moment of your life in the best way possible, with a smile, with people you love, even when you are ill.
One sure effect of hope is that a hopeful person with a positive outlook for their future develops healthy behaviours. This habit, in turn, leads to a healthier lifestyle that prevents diseases. A hopeless person embraces everything unhealthy, wishing for the day the grim comes around to end the life of misery. But the hopeful one quits everything unhealthy while embracing the healthy.
They keep believing, expecting, and working for a better future. And this tells you being hopeful isn’t just about wishing for something good. It involves working for that good thing. Recall there is the belief, expectation, then the thinking of the alternate routes to make the expectation a reality while also utilising the available energy hope affords you to chase after the routes.
So, while wishing leaves you passively waiting for a good to happen, being hopeful helps you to actively seek that good out. This brings me to my last point about hope.
Hope Isn’t Denial
Denial is having no regard for truth and reality. Actions that come from denial are usually carried out rashly as they lack the thoughtfulness associated with hope. Hope, instead, is recognising these dangers and sad truths about the threats of your current situation but still choosing to live a life that navigates the best route around these threats.
You are well aware of the stressors around you, but you’ve decided to live above these, being hopeful for a better future that puts the stressors behind you. Being hopeful will then be a perfect integration of thoughts, decisions, strength, activities, habits, and happy moments that bring you closer to that better future.
Hope Thrives Within Hopeful Interactions
Hope, like many other of our emotions, comes from our interactions with people. As infants, we found it easier to be hopeful as we had little things to worry about. A little time spent in the company of friends back then left us with enough hope for what tomorrow could be holding for us.
As we grew up, we became more aware of the ills around us, and when faced with difficult situations, hope became a stranger. However, you can still find and keep your hope when faced by these difficult situations by:
- Taking time out to understand what the situation is all about. If necessary, talk to someone close to you. After all, victory starts with knowing your enemy, right?
- Then, when you feel your peace being drained out, think on those things that made you happy in the past. Stay more on the things you were grateful for — past victories and the likes. These have their way of keeping you going.
- After which, your next action will be to cut off or reduce all intake of bad reports. Your thoughts rely deeply on the information you consume, and if all you take in spell danger, then you’d find yourself building on stress, not on hope.
- This is the time to visualise what victory over this situation would feel like. A taste of it from your imagination will help you stay hopeful.
- Finally, hope comes and is sustained by hopeful interactions. So, stay within that circle of hopeful people, and you’ll love your life.