by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJuly 13, 2020 exercise for gratitude, hope, Understanding Hope0 comments
When looking for the definition of hope, it’s difficult to find merely one answer. Throughout the history of psychology, there have been numerous attempts to define hope. Hope is a human universal, and being universal, it falls into an interesting paradox; while all people experience hope, each individual’s experience is personal, intimate, and unique. Because there are so many ways to subjectively experience hope, it is useful to have a universal definition that can be implemented across all experiences that call for hope. Positive psychology offers us a lens through which we can view this complex, yet essential, human experience.
Those who have made it out of the depths of despair and difficulty know that hope is much deeper than a simple desire: it is a deep longing in our heart for a better future. An understanding of hope allows us to cultivate better emotional health.
In psychology, hope has been given many definitions. The most comprehensive definition of hope is, ‘‘a process of anticipation that involves the interaction of thinking, acting, feeling, and relating, and is directed toward a future fulfillment that is personally meaningful (Stephenson, 1991).’’ It is not just a feeling, but a system of thoughts, feelings, and actions that bring us into the future while creating that future. Hope is a healthy habit that involves our will and our emotions. Hope can be practiced and developed. We might not always feel the emotion of hope, but these are the times when we truly have to choose to be hopeful.
Charles Richard Snyder developed Hope Theory which defines hope as “the perceived capability to develop pathways to desired goals and motivate oneself via agency thinking to use those pathways (Snyder, 2002).” Developing pathways refers metaphorically to the ability to read a map and to find the best route to a destination. Agency refers to the actual desire, driving ability, and confidence needed to reach that location. Taken together, these create a sense of positive future outlook. This concept of hope has been consistently validated by psychological study.
In recent studies in the field of positive psychology, research on hope has blossomed. Christopher Peterson is one of the founders of the movement and he explains, “Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living (Peterson, 2008).” Positive psychology studies human strengths and virtues in order to better understand how we can promote human flourishing. In positive psychology, hope is defined as, “expecting the best in the future and working to achieve it; believing that a good future is something that can be brought about (Parks, Peterson, Seligman, 2004).”
Hope is particularly important for human flourishing, and there is a tremendous amount of research to support this concept. In fact, hope has been found to be one of the two-character strengths most associated with life satisfaction and well-being(Gander, Hofmann, Proyer, Ruch, 2019) (Zhang, Chen, 2018) (Martinez-Martini, Ruch, 2014). Hopeful people are less likely to suffer from anxiety or stress disorders (Arnau, Gallagher, 2018) (Long, Gallagher, 2018), and if they do become anxious, those feelings tend not to overwhelm them. Researchers found that in a group of student athletes, higher levels of hope predicted superior classroom achievements. On top of that, hope predicted superior athletic achievements, and did so beyond various psychological states (self-esteem, mood, and confidence), amount of time practiced, and natural athletic talent (Curry, Snyder, Cook, Ruby, Rehm, 1997). Similarly, in a group of first-year law students, researchers found that hope significantly predicted better academic performance. Additionally, the same measures of hope predicted greater life satisfaction at the end of the first semester (Rand, Martin, Shea, 2011). Showing just how much of an impact hope can have on students, a 3-year long study of hope and academic achievement found that hope uniquely predicts objective academic achievement above intelligence, personality, and previous academic achievement (Day, Hanson, Maltby, Proctor Wood, 2010). Individuals high in hope tend to perceive obstacles as less stressful, are quicker to rebound from obstacles, and demonstrate resilience in response to challenging circumstances (Snyder, 2002).
So, what can you do to increase your hope? The answer is short and simple: be grateful. A recent study found that a brief gratitude-related writing intervention significantly improved the participants’ state of hope and happiness. Raising awareness of the good outcomes already present in our lives can uniquely inspire hope for future good outcomes and also make us happier (Witvliet, Richie, Luna, Tongeren, 2018)! The greatest opportunity to foster gratitude is in the present moment. Taking time to be mindful of the unique people, events, and highlights of your day provides an opportunity to step into gratitude.
Having hope is like creating a healthy relationship with the future. It requires thoughtfulness, and at times, a bit of work. It involves being able to identify pathways to achieve our desired future, and the ability to pursue those pathways. Hope is not something that happens to us: it is something that we practice. It is something that we strengthen, develop, and grow. In short, hope is a habit that makes us happy.
If you’d like to cultivate hope today, take a minute to try this exercise. First, think of a hope you have for the future. Now, reflect on a time in your past when you had hoped for an outcome, and your hope was fulfilled. You could do this in your head, on a piece of paper, or on your phone. Write about what you learned through having this past hope fulfilled in your life. As you reflect on this experience of hope, identify and name what you are grateful for and to whom you are grateful (Witvliet, et.al. 2018).
By: John Paul Dombrowski Counseling Intern
Curry, L. A., Snyder, C. R., Cook, D. L., Ruby, B. C., & Rehm, M. (1997). Role of hope in academic and sport achievement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73(6), 1257-1267. doi:10.1037/0022-35126.96.36.1997
Day, L., Hanson, K., Maltby, J., Proctor, C., & Wood, A. (2010). Hope uniquely predicts objective academic achievement above intelligence, personality, and previous academic achievement. Journal of Research in Personality, 44(4), 550-553. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2010.05.009
Gander, F., Hofmann, J., Proyer, R. T., & Ruch, W. (2019). Character strengths – Stability, change, and relationships with well-being changes. Applied Research in Quality of Life. http://doi.org/10.1007/s11482-018-9690-4
L.J. Long, M.W. Gallagher Hope and posttraumatic stress disorder M.W. Gallagher, S.J. Lopez (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Hope, Oxford University Press, New York, NY (2018), pp. 233-242
Martinez-Marti, M. L., & Ruch, W. (2014). Character strengths and well-being across the life span: data from a representative sample of German-speaking adults living in Switzerland. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1253. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01253
Park, N., Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. (2004). Strengths of character and well-being. Journal of social and Clinical Psychology, 23(5), 603-619.
Peterson, C. (2008, May 16). What Is Positive Psychology, and What Is It Not? Retrieved July 10, 2020, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-good-life/200805/what-is-positive-psychology-and-what-is-it-not
R.C. Arnau Hope and anxiety M.W. Gallagher, S.J. Lopez (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Hope, Oxford University Press, New York, NY (2018), pp. 233-242
Rand, K. L., Martin, A. D., & Shea, A. M. (2011). Hope, but not optimism, predicts academic performance of law students beyond previous academic achievement. Journal of Research in Personality, 45(6), 683-686. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2011.08.004
Snyder, C. R. (2002). TARGET ARTICLE: Hope Theory: Rainbows in the Mind. Psychological Inquiry, 13(4), 249-275. doi:10.1207/s15327965pli1304_01
Stephenson, C. (1991). The concept of hope revisited for nursing. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 16,
Witvliet, C. V., Richie, F. J., Luna, L. M., & Tongeren, D. R. (2018). Gratitude predicts hope and happiness: A two-study assessment of traits and states. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 14(3), 271-282. doi:10.1080/17439760.2018.1424924
Zhang, Y., & Chen, M. (2018). Character strengths, strengths use, future self-continuity and subjective well-being among Chinese university students. Frontiers in Psychology, 29. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01040Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghNovember 28, 2019 gratitude, gratitude challenge, reframing cognitive distortions, thanksgiving0 comments
The Real Gratitude Challenge
It’s Thanksgiving and everyone wants to talk about turkey and gratitude. Newsfeeds and flyers encourage us to take the ‘gratitude challenge’ by sharing how happy we are for our kids, our marriage, families, our job, our house. Nowonder, according to the National Institute of Health, gratitude can help us increase our life satisfaction and mental health! Oh, how nice that is! Things really are so well and good through the lens of this gratitude, but isn’t it almost too easy when we simply share what is great? I want to talk about a different kind of gratitude, the dark side of gratitude if you will, this is what I call a gratitude challenge. It is not the shiny happiness and gloating we feel when everything works out just the way we want it, but instead, this gratitude challenge, is the kind of gratitude that we can choose to cultivate when we are sitting on a big tall mountain of suck. In this vast beautiful adventure of life, reality more often than not smacks us in the face, universal are the experiences of hurt, loss, and grief. Yet, even more important than making a mental note of gratitude for all of the ways that we are blessed, our mindset truly evolves when we deliberately choose to frame our losses in one beset by gratitude.
Of course on the day that you get the job, and then again when you land the promotion, you are elated, but can you be grateful for those years of success and comradery even when you get the news that company is downsizing and you are handed your severance? Of course, you are beaming at the altar on the day that you say “I do” to the love of your life, but can you still find gratitude when you are headed to marriage counseling because you’re in conflict and bickering about who is doing more cleaning around hte house? Of course, you will be joyful on the day when you learn that you have finally conceived the child you have been yearning for but can you still be grateful that it has happened when their little heart stops beating in utero? Of course, you are thrilled when you finish the marathon in 2nd place, but what can you choose to be grateful for when you have knee replacement surgery from all of that running?
Choosing gratitude amidst the sucky moments of life doesn’t mean that we pretend it’s all ok. Instead, we do not try to block the hurt of our losses, we feel the devastation and despair deeply because let’s be honest here, we have no choice! Some things in life will rip the wind right out of our lungs and bring such agonizing hurt that we will fall to our knees in the pain of it. Yet, the difference is that we choose to live in the memory of the joy that they brought us, we choose to be grateful that the wonders in life have happened no-matter how long or short they stay with us. Cognitive behavioral therapy instructs us to reframe the despair of our cognitive distortions, we do not allow misery or grief to frame the pictures of our memories or the loss in our life. The gratitude challenge is to be penetrated by the suffering of a life well lived but then to hunt like a little scavenger for every little bit of joy, peace, and hope that our experiences have shown to us. Some days that might mean that we are grateful to know that they pain won’t last forever and allow ourselves to contemplate the gratitude for that. When you get here and can nurture this sort of perspective, you take a little bit of power and direction back to your life. On Thanksgiving and every day, the decision to live a life peppered in gratitude is yours. So go ahead, take the challenge, how grateful can you be, what about your pile of suck can you be grateful for?
We are Free!
The sunshine is emerging on this Pittsburgh morning, in a moment of quiet reflection the gravity of a thought was borne. A glittering thought about this freedom that we gather to celebrate today. As we set off to our picnics and rejoice in our long holiday weekend, in enlivened revelry as we gather just as we have gathered as a nation since 1776. The enlightening and ebullient notion where we may float as light as a feather in the intoxication of this freedom, yet too this freedom has such weight as in choice there is gravity for we must then assume accountability in this staggering possibility. We as citizens of this great freedom, we the masters of our own lives, the freedom to create our own identity, free to be the preservers of our own happiness, the free proponents of our lifestyles. This freedom is ours no matter what moments we have experienced victimization and disappointment, emotional or moral outrage, you see indeed we are still free, given this freedom which propels us to limitless choice yet weighs each of us with the burden of choice. In this very governmental, emotional, intellectual, and religious freedom in which we are esteemed this gleaming and distinguished honor, we are afforded the experience of freedom on this and each day, let us take a moment to thank those forefathers who sought to establish and protect our emancipation from the severe and deleterious rule of any other another nation, any other notion or thought which would sever our choice or promote our bondage, allow us to be bright and somber in this hopeful and heavy choice of who we will be and how we shall become it. In our early years we united as a union and fought for this freedom with the eventual outcome of assembling as one nation, one nation under god, and it is within god that we trust. As a country we are given the constitutional right to boisterously proclaim our truths and to pursue our pleasures with little interference provided we act in accordance with the basics of dignity and respect; yes, indeed we are free. What a thing to be untethered and able to account for our own choices, consider and rejoice in this, WE ARE FREE! Free to marry whomever we wish. Free to enjoy boundless borders and unalienable rights. Freedom is an honor and a notion to be protected, consider how many gun shots have been fired in the name of this, our freedom. Allow us to remember those canons sounding as our fireworks sound through a nation in celebration of this honor of freedom. Today let us gather with friends and loved ones, strangers alike, and allow us to remember what an honor it is to be free, an honor to serve the magnitude of opportunity, let us revel in this vast and intricate responsibility and possibility within our independent freedom.
In loving and grateful freedom,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Nicole Monteleone MA LPC NCC
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233Learn More