You Can Have Hope

Magna Porterfield, Ph.D. (Psychologist)

During this coronavirus pandemic, how much hope do you have? Many are in despair because they have experienced loss on many levels, including loss of loved ones, job security, health, finances, and the list goes on. But the question is, can we have hope even during these difficult times? The answer is, “yes!”

Hope can be defined as “looking for and expecting something better in the future.” When you have hope, you don’t merely focus on the present – “what is” – but on the future – “what can be.”  This type of outlook does not come naturally.  It takes time and intentional effort to develop it.

Psychologists have recently begun to study the topic of hope and have found some interesting things. For one, hope is more than just optimism.  Optimism is the thought that everything will turn out well in the end. People who are optimists tend to look at the cup “half full” instead of “half empty.” They truly believe that things will get better.  Those who are hopeful also view life in this way. However, they add an important ingredient: planning and working toward a goal.  Hopeful people don’t just sit around wishing and believing that things will improve.  They come up with strategies to achieve a “better” future and they believe that they can work toward that end.
There are other characteristics of hopeful people that have been discovered by researchers. Specifically, it has been found that they are not easily distracted from their long-term goals, implement healthy habits (such as proper sleep, good diet, exercise) especially when they are stressed, stick to their goals even during difficult times, and don’t spend much time thinking about the negative things or events in their lives. Psychologists tell us that we all can develop more hope. It is not something that we are born with, so to speak.  But it is a skill that we can develop. However, as mentioned earlier, it takes time, patience, and effort.

So, we can have hope, even as we are faced with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.  If you’d like to develop and maintain more hope in your own life during this time, here are some suggestions:
Develop some goals. For example, if you lose your job you can see how you can save money, which may include reducing food costs and/or cutting out or changing your living situation (finding a roommate, if you are single, or moving to a cheaper place to live, if you can).  Or, if you feel alone and isolated, do things that will help you to be less self-consumed. This may include working on a hobby, developing a new skill, reaching out to others by calling or sending emails, texts, etc.

Make sure you take good care of yourself by getting to bed at a decent hour, eating more simple, wholesome foods, taking a walk on a regular basis, etc.

Try your best not to ruminate about the negative things that have happened in your life because of this pandemic. When these come to mind, tell yourself, “STOP,” and immediately focus on some uplifting things and the blessings in your life.

Develop a stronger spiritual life.  Many have found comfort and strength by placing their hope in God and in His Word. If you are not religious or spiritual, this may be a good time to consider how you can develop this part of your life more fully.

These are just a few ways that you can develop hope.  If you spend time developing a more hopeful outlook, you will experience rich rewards – which may include a better mood, less sadness, and even decreased anxiety.  Challenge yourself to be more hopeful. You will be happy you did this!