Hope and Health
Thriving in the Age of Anxiety
Hope and health are intertwined. Emerson noted that hope often takes the lead. "Health… seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough." Thoreau linked both hope and health to participation in the rhythm of life. "Measure your health by your sympathy with morning and spring…the awakening of nature…the prospect of an early morning walk…the warble of the first bluebird…Thus may you feel your pulse."
In this age of anxiety, it is important to secure a hope that is "centering" as well as supportive of a healthy lifestyle. This chapter begins with case studies, illustrating the role of a hopeful outlook in promoting wellness and vitality. Hope-based fitness refers to the forward-looking agendas that motivate individuals to engage in daily rituals of self-care. Positive aging follows from continued involvement in the lives of others (attachment), sustained curiosity (mastery), and making peace with past while tolerating the "indignities of old age" (survival). A section on creativity includes strategies for gathering information to support existing hopes along with ways of reframing past events in a more positive manner. A "full hope" refers to a life of meaning derived from a deeper integration of the attachment, mastery, and survival motives.
Related issues covered in our book
Hope Tip # 18: The Power of Balance
Hope is a noun and refers to something you may have or give to another. For example, we might describe someone as "clinging to hope" or "providing" hope to a friend or loved one.
Hoping is a verb and refers to action. It is something you might do in a time of crisis or when dealing with adversity. You receive bad news and start hoping for the best. You learn that a friend is very sick and start hoping for their recovery. One stress expert (Shlomo Breznitz) has even coined the phrase "the work of hope".
What exactly is the "work of hope"? A number of psychologists believe that hoping consists of two complementary behaviors, reality construction and reality surveillance. (You could also call these "fact building" and "fact finding".) The first involves your way of framing events while the second is about gathering evidence to support your vision. While both of these activities are essential to hoping, most individuals find it easier to perform one or the other. This is because fact-building and fact-finding rely on different sides of the brain as well as different personality traits. The "work of hope" is most powerful when fact-building is balanced with fact-finding.
In our book, we provide a test of creative hoping that will allow you to gauge both your fact-building and fact-finding abilities. We also offer strategies for further developing these skills. Here are some sample questions to get you started:
(In answering the following questions, you should reflect on how you generally think and feel when confronting a stressful event)
Reality Construction (Fact-building)
Reality Surveillance (Fact-finding)