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On the Meaning of Hope

During tough times, it can often become difficult for even the most optimistic person to remain so. What is hope, why is it important, and how to we replenish our stores of hope when we seem to have depleted them?

Hope encompasses two elements: the belief that circumstances can and will improve; and the desire for such improvement. Generally, when things are going well for us, hope isn't as necessary to hold on to as when we are experiencing difficulty. But when our lives appear to be in chaos, the idea that better must come can be reassuring, and even life-saving.

Why is hope so important, particularly during times of hardship? Simply put, hope gives us the strength and endurance to deal with hard times, given the promise that easier times are coming. If we did not believe that there would be a reprieve from our hardships, the will to endure might not be as strong, if evident at all. Hope, allows us to keep moving forward when we would otherwise not have done so.

Many of us have experienced times in our lives when the feeling of hope was simply not in our grasp. Perhaps a long-term illness or destructive relationship meant that whatever hope we had was now gone. So, what can we do to help bring hope back? Caring for oneself and for others can help. Here are my ideas:

1) We can spend time with people who fill our hearts with joy. These are the people who make us laugh, who allow us to feel safe in their presence, who never expect us to be anyone other than ourselves.

2) We can take time to be in nature, away from our worries. If we don't have an entire week, we might take a long weekend. If you're like me, perhaps you love the ocean breeze or a hike in a nature preserve.

3) We can get in touch with our spiritual selves. If you usually attend church or temple services, perhaps you could attend a service, pray alone, or find a way to become more involved in related activities. If you are not connected to a religious or church group, perhaps you can learn how to meditate or do yoga or tai chi.

4) Volunteering can remind us of humanity and of the need for interconnection among us as human beings. Perhaps one can look into volunteer opportunities in the local area.

5) Develop a "bucket list" - and then begin completing the tasks on said list. In other words, live!

Can you think of other ways that you can replenish your stores of hope?

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