What Hope Is — and How You Hang On to It

seafoam green cocoon_chrysalis_grief hope_breakthrough power

Photo: joyfulbutterfly.com


I recently discovered a quote in a treasured book by Sarah Young, and I love how she describes hope. Sarah says, “Hope is a golden cord connecting you to heaven. This cord helps you hold your head up high, even when multiple trials are buffeting you.”

I have my own picture of hope. I like to think of hope as part our DNA. I see it as a key element of our internal make-up, just like the cells of our bodies, yet it’s deeper than that. I envision hope as a real but invisible link, devised and engineered by God, that ties us to Him—an unmistakable connection that nudges us to go on when we’re down; that whispers to us when we stray; that tugs (and tugs) at our hearts when we need to listen; that throws up road signs for us to see when we’re lost; and that points out everyday miracles to us when we need encouragement.

Hope is …

Hope is the ‘push’ we need to get up in the morning when we wonder if we can face the day. Hope is the call from a friend, or the note that arrives in the mail, or the hug from someone we run into unexpectedly, or the word from a stranger—at just the perfect time. Hope is the strength we pull out of reserve when we wonder if we can take one more step, and yet we do!

Hope is the reason we live. It’s the reason we keep pushing toward a goal that is greater than we are. Hope is why we have big dreams and take huge risks—because something important is worth it.

Hope is essential. We can’t live without it. In fact, without hope, we don’t even want to live!

Research shows …

I read a fascinating article entitled “Growing Hope,” by Louise Danielle Palmer, about research on hope. According to Palmer, “Psychologists believe hope might be the most important feeling state or emotion we can experience … Yet we tend to think of hope as something you either have or you don’t, something you’re born with, or born into, through perfect parenting or perfect circumstances.”

Palmer goes on to report additional exciting research about hope. Anthony Scioli, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Keene State College in New Hampshire, directed cutting edge research showing “that hope is a skill you can acquire.”

Scioli’s research showed that you can ‘grow’ hope, and he also showed that it is self-perpetuating. Hopeful people, because of the attitude they project toward others and the world around them, are more likely to receive more back than less hopeful people, which continues to feed their hope—and this circle of hope repeats itself.

Hope’s power …

Hope and healing are connected. Hope has been tied to the achievement of goals. A link has been identified between hope and aging well; between hope and gratitude, joy, and well-being; between hope and better health; and between hope, faith, and a spiritual foundation.

Hope is the bedrock, the foundation, of life. It sustains and determines so much of all that we are and all that we do. I’m not sure anything is more important to the way we face our lives than hope is. It’s a driving force, a determining factor, a predictor, in all that we are and do.

brilliantly colored butterfly perched on golden flower_grief hope

Photo: office.microsoft.com

If hope carries such power—don’t you want to do all you can to ensure that you not only hang on to the hope you have—but you cultivate and grow hope in your life? How do you do that?

A study conducted by psychologist David H. Rosen and other colleagues shows that “Laughter might be the best medicine for transforming the faintest of glimmers of hope into an eternal spring.” Rosen adds, “The finding is important because it underscores how humor can be a legitimate strategy for relieving stress and maintaining a general sense of well-being while increasing a person’s hope.”

What you can do …

Here are a few practical steps you can take to nurture your hope, even in the midst of your grief:

• Remind yourself, over and over, that something good can come out of even your greatest pain

• Don’t deny your emotions, but don’t allow them to consume you 24/7

• Seek comfort

• Avoid ‘flashpoint’ issues (traps) surrounding grief such as excessive anger; self-pity (victim mode); bitterness; doubt (doubt your doubts instead of your faith); envy (envying those whose lives seem to be free of loss – they may just look like they’re free from problems, issues, grief); isolation; fear; unending ‘Why?’ questions

• Fix your mind on positive thoughts – on what’s good in your life; on inspirational quotes and verses; watch or read things that bring smiles; get involved in activities you enjoy; spend time with people who make you smile; listen to uplifting music

If even scientific evidence points to the fact that hope can be grown, and hope is the driving force of goodness in your life, isn’t it worth your time and effort to not only hang on to it, but grow hope in your own life!

© 2013 Judy Brizendine
Cocoon photo: joyfulbutterfly.com
Butterfly photo: office.microsoft.com

Related reading:
Exciting Research on Hope – Growing Hope – Louise Danielle Palmer

Humor Can Increase Hope, Research Shows – ScienceDaily
Grief: Finding Hope in the Darkness
What Color Is Your Grief Umbrella?
Watch Out for Built-In Obstacles
Gratitude During Grief



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7 Responses to “What Hope Is — and How You Hang On to It”

  1. Felecia Wong says:

    Yes, hope has been the push that I need to get out of bed every morning for the past 2 years -what would I be without it? And as a believer, I am grateful that I have hope in Christ that will never disappoint. Thank you for reminding, Judy!

    • admin says:

      We all need a continuing source of hope and I cannot imagine trying to live life without it. Christ offers the ultimate hope that never fails and never disappoints. I, too, am so grateful that I have that hope!

      Thanks so much for your continued support and encouragement, Felecia. I’m so glad we’re connected!!


  2. Thanks for this lovely post, Judy. I’ve found an ability to feel hope and grief simultaneously. Yes, I have lost and learned hard lessons from those losses. Still, there is much joy and love in the life I live now. Nature’s beauty, walks with my dog, talks with my sons, daughter-in-law, and friends, and the natural cycles of living keep me from focusing only on grief. For me, both are there and I always seek to hold the balance. Today is a day where I need more hope in the stew of life, so I’m grateful for your suggestions.

    • admin says:

      You’re so right, Elaine. Deep loss brings hard lessons, but those lessons add value to our lives if we choose–and I know that you have made that choice. I’m glad you’ve been able to carve out tremendous love and joy in your life now, even though your loss is greaat. Each of us needs more hope on certain days and during certain times of our lives. I’m glad my article was helpful!

      Thank you for your support and encouragement, Elaine! I’m very glad we’re connected, and your photos and posts are so beautiful. I look forward to them with great anticipation!


  3. Robin Botie says:

    Thank you for the beautiful post on hope. This is my first time on your site and I love what you say. I’m realizing that my own hope is creeping back after a long dark time. I feel lighter and I’m interested in the future now that hope is back. I may even bake a cake for the first time in years.

    • admin says:

      So glad to hear your wonderful news, Robin, and thank you for visiting our site. I hope you’ll return often and check out the ongoing resources here. Hope makes all the difference in the world–whether we feel like living or not, whether we enjoy life or not. It’s great to know that we can truly ‘grow’ hope!

      What kind of cake are you baking? Enjoy!!