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      The Importance of Hope

      The Importance of Hope

      Hope is such an essential aspect of health and wellness. Our ability to be optimistic about the future and feel we have control of the outcomes plays a vital role in our well-being.

      The power of hope is evident in research done on rats. In experiments done by Curt Richter, the power of hope and resilience was center stage.

      Though I feel these experiments are cruel and unnecessary, the findings are fascinating and speak of the effect of hope on our bodies and minds.

      Curt Richter did a series of experiments regarding rats, swimming, and their fight to live. He would take rats and put them in water to see how long it took them before they drowned.

      He first took a mix of both wild and domesticated rats and put them in buckets. He thought the wild rats would last longer because they tend to be good swimmers, and he hypothesized that they would have more fight and, therefore, survive much longer. He found that all of the rats in the buckets drowned in only a matter of minutes.

      Then he did another round, where he took a new cohort of rats that were all similar to each other. He introduced them to buckets to have them swim. This time, he watched closely for the moment at which they were about to give up. He then rescued the rats and held them for a while to help them recover.

      When the rats were made to swim this second time, even though they were tired from the first round, they swam and swam. They swam much longer than the first time. The only thing that had changed was that they had been saved and, therefore, had hope that they would be rescued again. And this gave them hope.

      So what was the difference in time?

      In the first experiment, the average time it took for the rats to sink was 15 minutes.

      When they were given hope, it was a completely different scenario. And the second time, the rats that now believed swam for an average of 60 hours!!!!

      What a difference with just one change. But what can we do, as humans, to help to cultivate more hope in our lives?

      Everybody's definition of hope is different, but I like Dr. Shane Lopez's definition in the book The Science of Hope. He states, "the belief that the future will be better than the present, along with the belief that you have the power to make It so."

      A significant component of hope is that we have control of the future. This also means that a lot of us misuse the word. When you say to someone, "I hope you have a good day." We should say that we wish or desire for them to have a good day since we don't have much control over somebody else's day. Instead, hope should be what we want for our future to improve with goals of how to get there.

      Therefore, there are activities that we can do to increase hope in our life:

      1. Set micro goals that provide satisfaction and joy from accomplishing the goal. Small goals can give us big wins.
      2. Acknowledge and express gratitude every chance you get. When we focus on appreciation, we see more of the positive and increase hope. Adding more gratitude to our lives includes the benefits of improving happiness, health, and life satisfaction. It also decreased negativity and problematic thinking.
      3. Cheer for yourself. Being your own biggest supporter helps to establish new brain pathways and patterns. Stanford researcher B.J. Fogg found that habits are formed mainly through deep emotion and not just repetition.
      4. Be kind and serve hope to others. Psychologist Dacher Keltner explains that because of how our brains are wired, we derive pleasure when we provide hope to others. In return, we also get more hope for ourselves for the future. Therefore, serve others and spread hope.

      So focus on actively improving hope and realize that we have control of the outcomes of our lives.

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