By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.
Hope lies on a continuum.
The way people talk, and some of the articles I read on the Internet, might lead you to believe that hope is a genetic factor, like eye color, hair color, and so on. In this way of thinking, when your genes are being blended at the time of conception, God, or random chance, decides on what genes you will get from the pool available and, therefore, what you will be like, and you’re stuck with that. While some genes are yes or no, like hair color, even those genes can change in the way they are expressed across the lifespan. My gene for black hair now produces white hair.
Hope is one of those things like your weight, which lies on a continuum. Your environment, early childhood experiences, possibly genetics, may start you off with high hope or low hope or somewhere in between. But throughout your life, a great many factors can move you along the continuum resulting in increases or decreases in hope. This is good news for someone low in hope. But it’s also a caution for those who are high in hope, that they need to nurture that high hope.
Hope is a way of thinking, feeling, and behaving.
Many people think of hope as a feeling. It’s easy to think that whatever your feelings are, they were caused by outside influences, and therefore you have no control over them. I don’t believe that’s accurate. Hope, like other feelings, is fed or starved by what you’re thinking and by the way you behave.
This connection between thinking, feeling, and behaving, is the basis of cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is one of the most recognized therapeutic approaches. We know that changing the way you think about things can change your feelings. As your feelings change, you are likely to alter your behavior. So, keeping track of your thoughts, avoiding rumination, and challenging unhelpful thoughts can all change the way you’re feeling.
This process also works in the other direction. If you begin to behave in a more positive manner, you begin to feel better, and your thinking about your situation will change. Repeated research has shown that aerobic exercise can treat depression. Depressed people who walk for twenty minutes a day, five days a week or more, even when they don’t feel like walking, often experience a reduction in their depression. This approach is summed up by the old recovery proverb that people who want a different result in life should “act as if.”
High hope people tend to follow this system. Whether they are aware of the value of cognitive-behavioral therapy or not, high hope people repeatedly tell themselves they can do something. These self-statements, sometimes called positive affirmations, change the way they feel about things. These new feelings result in high hope people taking action towards those goals, and as a result, they begin to feel more hopeful.
When you run low on hope you need to replenish your supply.
Once you begin to understand that hope is on a continuum and you’re not stuck with a low amount, the possibility that you can replenish your supply opens up. So, if you are currently low in hope, there are things you can do to increase your level of hope and create a happier, more productive life.
Reaching out for help increases your supply of hope.
Hope is one of those emotions that isn’t reduced by sharing. Sometimes when people can’t see even a faint glimmer of the light of hope, others around them can help them find the hope they are lacking. Just the act of reaching out, talking to your friends, positive family members, or professionals, can increase your supply of hope. Sometimes what you need is an infusion of hope from friends or professionals.
The counselor’s office has a good inventory of hope.
If there’s one thing you don’t want to run out of during these difficult times, it’s hope. If you watch the news too much, you are likely to believe that hope is in even shorter supply than toilet paper. When you need groceries, you go to the grocery store. When you need medication, you should visit a pharmacy. When you’re going through difficult times and running short on hope, there’s no better place to find it in your therapist’s office, whether that office is a physical place or a virtual office. If you’re not finding hope when you talk to your counselor or therapist, then you may be shopping in the wrong place.
What varieties of hope are counselors stocking these days?
Counselors have a remarkably good supply of hope. And no matter how much hope they give to their clients, more seems to arrive each day. When clients arrive at a counselor’s office, just the fact that they made it through the front door often increases their level of hope. Being able to take an action that you think might be helpful raises the possibility you have something to hope for.
In future posts, I want to give you some additional information about hope. We’ll talk a little bit about how to grow more hope, and some of the technique’s counselors use to help clients find the hope they need.
Staying connected with David Joel Miller
Six David Joel Miller Books are available now!
Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.
Dark Family Secrets: Some family secrets can be deadly.
What if your family secrets put you in danger?
Letters from the Dead The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.
What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead?
Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.
Planned Accidents The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.
Sasquatch. Wandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive?
For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller
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