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
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
by Stephanie McCrackenDecember 1, 2014 counseling, holidays, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy, wisdom0 comments
Holidays offer a time to renew hope as we become enamored with the sparkle of the glimmeringly bedecked pines and spruces in all of their exalted luster. The fa,la,la,la of Christmas carols blaring on the radio while baking cookies, pies, and perhaps even a bit of gingerbread to share with loved ones and guests. It’s the time of year when I want to hug a little longer in escape of the winter chill, and most importantly its the time to remember that dreams do come true. Do you want to restore your bounty of belief in magical goodness? This task is simple my friend, stare into the eyes of a young child and ask the age’s old question, “What do you hope that Santa will bring for you this Christmas.” Watch the delight and make a note of what should be placed high upon Santa’s list, maybe now you are beginning to remember that Christmas dreams do have a way of coming true. Beneath the rising crime rates, tendencies of avoiding intimately connecting with others, even deeper than our capacity for fear, we can believe in magic, we are able to be propelled by faith, we can marvel in miracles, we can offer kindness and exude love too. Just give it a try and notice what happens when with wide eyes and voices slightly above a whisper, you say “I think I heard something, is that Santa’s sled?”
We all know about broken hearts, loneliness and only one limited time span of life to live, but once again with the light displays and holiday party’s maybe we can allow ourselves to “catch the Christmas spirit” and drift along on the currents of hope and love for a while. When elves and reindeer whirl about the night air, it is indeed an act of true love to make hundreds of millions of dreams come true. Little ears stretch to listen for the sound of Santa lurching down the chimney or through the front door, only the crumbs are left from the feast of cookies serving as a token of gratitude for Santas affectionately hard work. Remember that feeling, the sheer delight of surprise and wonder as your feet flurried down the stairs on Christmas morning, and the excitement of brightly wrapped presents and piled beneath the tree. Every scrooge can have his day to embrace a little magic, love a little more, recall with a soft smile those early days when anything could happen, those days are now. It’s the day of year when we can eat cookies for breakfast and magic becomes reality. The snowflakes sparkle just a little more or maybe they reflect that twinkle in our eye.
You see, I believe in magic, I know that its as real as you and I for I have seen tear drops evolve into loving and exuberant smiles. I have seen hatred and ferocity in action, upon the news headlines, in the news feed, but I also know of random acts of kindness, a loving hand extended towards our brothers and sisters near and far. I have seen greed and thirst for material objects, tight fists grappling with stacks of paper money but too I have seen boundless generosity and selfless investments of time and care towards the betterment of our human race and the earth. I have seen the dark days and felt the chill of December’s air but I too know the exhilaration of a well-placed ray of sun upon the skin. Maybe too this is what this Christmas time means in its distilled and essential version, all of the gift giving and frenetic purchases, we want to believe. We want to believe in others as pillars of goodness and ourselves as givers of happiness, mounds of good cheer. We want to elevate our neighbors and friends to the fullness of bright smiles, we want to believe in love at first sight, in tradition, in hope, in the birth of merciful demigods, in salvation, for we can see it now, with the coming of the lights and the scent of baking cookies, pine freshened air, it’s with the wrapping of the bows, and the long embrace of hugs, the outstretched warm hands to hold, yes, yes, I remember now, we believe, the Christmas spirit is here…
In Holiday Hope and Love,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Offering Psychotherapy and Couples Therapy
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233 Suite 100
by Stephanie McCrackenAugust 26, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, elephant journal, marriage counseling, psychology, psychotherapy0 comments
Written by us and as featured in Elephant Journal
elephantjournal.com/2014/09/ how-to-work-through-guilt-a- psychotherapists-musings- stephanie-mccracken/
Guilt. Certainly we all know that haunting sensation.
Even the most conscientious and heroic among us will experience guilt from time to time.
Those living a socially mindful life often can’t escape the sensation of guilt. Concern enters when we perceive ourselves as having erred in a grandiose manner—sometimes this results in reactions coursing from the deepest parts of our psyche.
Human thought and emotion become duplicitous as we note that the mind, always churning ephemerally, mechanically is able to dole out doses of guilt for thoughts which are repressed and lying dormant, deep in the layers of the unconscious.
When guilt and regret lay unconscious it often has deleterious effects on our psyches. We self-defeat, isolate, lose sleep and sometimes exhibit melancholic or anxious tendencies. Yet, within the symptoms often lie the opportunity for the cure.
Guilt is a Mechanism of the good guys and girls.
There is evidence suggesting that people who feel the most guilt are the most highly morally conscious.
Consider a priest who, despite living beyond reproach, perpetually contemplates whether he is performing enough service for human kind. “Is God pleased by my actions?” He may ruminate with guilt because he only offered five hours of his time to children’s literacy last week.
In this sense, guilt is a cursory sensation meant to guide our moral compass toward a better outcome for the next time life offers us a choice. For example, you have left your dog for eight hours without a walk and fresh water while you are out with friends for the afternoon. Or you haven’t called your grandmother in a couple of weeks to say hello.
These examples would likely elicit some measure of guilt which would guide our human impulses to change our behavior and do better in the future to bypass guilt’s irritating sensations.
Guilt Symbolizes Growing Wisdom.
Barring the possibility that we were born without any sort of moral compass—typically clinicians label this one of the primary makings of a sociopath—let’s assume that we are like most, delicately hearty mortal creatures who will inevitably make guilt inducing errors, great and minute, within this life.
Certain segments of life’s timeline are founded upon the knowledge that errors are to be made so that we can, in the words of Maya Angelou “know better and do better.”
Consider the teen years spent squealing and careening into adulthood with our lapses of budding judgment in hand. Teens are often experimental with cliques, manner of dress, maybe are even rebellious with rules, saying and behaving in ways with parents that later churn up a bit of guilt. Yet the forbidden memories become a product of our mounting wisdom guiding us toward a safe and stable path.
Self-compassion releases guilt.
Sometimes we set out, cloaked in the armor of our best intentions, cradled with the assurance that we are acting toward the best good for others and ourselves, yet later we discover that we have made a terrible mistake.
Provided we make it forward to a new day, we evolve with altered perceptions as those well intentioned choices become shrouded in a fog of regret. How do we deal with these scenarios? How do we make peace with and move beyond the pain of guilt?
These are worthwhile questions as we unravel the layers to subjectivity.
Picture this: Tina enters therapy as a recently married woman who is struggling with depression. It becomes evident that her husband is increasingly abusive, but she retreats into self-blame about the growing violence.
Through many sessions, Tina shares that she was previously married to John for five years. She says one day they were driving to a picnic at the east end of town and Tina was a bit upset because John had picked Tina up an hour late. Tina and John quibble while making their way to the barbeque. John turns to Tina who is staring out the window and says, “I am sorry, I really hope…”
He never finishes his sentence. A car comes swerving into their lane hitting them head on. He dies immediately.
Tina survives on life support but quickly remembers the fateful day as she reemerges. In addition to her grief she is frozen by the inexplicable guilt that if she had not been brooding he would still be alive.
Through growing insight into her unresolved feelings as well as self-compassion, Tina begins to nurture choices which lead her away from depression and towards greater peace.
The key to living a good life is to not become so consumed with our cloak of shame that we miss out on the opportunity to continue our evolution.
We must learn from our mistakes yet not become crippled in the negative self-outlook which comes from realizing that we have erred in judgment. Regrets can be a fluctuating foe. Courage and a wealth of internal resources to glimpse within are required to traverse the innards of thought by understanding and accepting our limited human capacity for perfection.
It is within the conscious processing of regret that we encounter the opportunity to garner wisdom. We are here to learn from life’s inevitable lessons.
We can never be expected to know it all from the outset.
In health and wholeness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Offering Psychotherapy/and Marriage Counseling
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh Pa 15233