How many times have we heard someone respond to another’s hopes and dreams with, “Get real?” Well, maybe we do need to get real, but hope may be tied more closely with reality than we think, especially in the quest for health.
The effect of hope on health may be viewed like that of prayer and meditation – it’s hard to provide scientific proof questioners will accept. But according to Amanda Enayati, the positive effects of hope are well documented. In her CNN article, “How Hope Can Heal,” Enayati highlights a number of studies that show the power of hope.
For example, stepping to the forefront in promoting the value of hope is Shane Lopez, author of Making Hope Happen. Lopez is unfazed by the current resistance to quantifying different aspects of hope. He believes that hope is the stuff of change, recovery, and healing by being a buffer from stress, anxiety, and negative life events. And he finds that hope promotes healthy behaviors.
But Lopez isn’t the only one taking up the challenge to explain the positive effects of hope on health. Jerome Groopman writes in The Anatomy of Hope that “researchers are learning that a change in mind-set has the power to alter neurochemistry.” Groopman’s research shows that people who maintain belief and expectation – two mental states associated with hope – recover more quickly from illness because these states of mind have a positive impact on the nervous system.
Hope is not just wishing that everything will turn out all right, it is actually showing up for the hard work. This concept of hope and hard work being tied together rings true for me.
I’ve often found that it takes work to keep my thinking in tune with what’s good around me. This isn’t only modern insight, but also ancient wisdom. For instance, the Letter to the Hebrews in the Bible refers to the idea of trust and hope being a firm foundation under what makes life worth living. This trust in God, or in good, as I sometimes think about the divine, lifts me out of the daily grind of life in matter, into a mental realm a bit higher.
The Holman Bible Dictionary defines hope as a trustful expectation, particularly with reference to the fulfillment of God’s purpose. And I see divine purpose as always good. Indeed, it takes work to keep a trustful expectation of divine goodness at the forefront of your thinking, but I’ve found that it’s been a helpful healing element in maintaining my health.
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