Uncertainty of the pandemic and its long-lasting effects can leave little hope.
“It’s very common that when we’re faced with multilevel challenges in terms of finances, health, lifestyle, relationships, and just living in the pandemic, that we have to dig deeper and work harder to find something to be hopeful about,” Diana Brecher, PhD, clinical psychologist and scholar-in-residence for positive psychology at Ryerson University in Toronto, told Healthline.
As unattainable as hope may seem, research shows that finding hope and optimism can have a positive impact on your mental and physical health.
According to a 2019 study, researchers found that optimism is specifically related to an 11 to 15 percent longer life span, on average, and to greater odds of living to the age of 85 or beyond.
“Research indeed suggests that individuals experiencing greater optimism are more likely to age in health and to live longer; they are also at a decreased risk of developing chronic diseases, particularly cardiovascular disease,” Claudia Trudel-Fitzgerald, PhD, research scientist and clinical psychologist at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told Healthline.
She added that optimistic people are more likely to engage in physical activity and eat a healthy diet, as well as less likely to smoke, which in turn contribute to better health over time.
“There is also evidence that optimism is associated with lower risk of hypertension and overweight/obesity, hence reducing the risk of chronic disease and premature mortality later on,” Trudel-Fitzgerald said.
While there’s good reason to become more hopeful, finding ways to build hope can seem challenging.
However, experts say the following five tips can help you tap into the positive side of life.
1. Take some control
The renowned and late psychologist Shane J. Lopez described hope as “the belief that the future will be better than the present, along with the belief that you have the power to make it so.”
“This says to some extent, we are in control of what will happen. While during the pandemic, we can’t control a lot — when the vaccine is available, when you are eligible to take it, if you will get sick — but there are things we can control,” said Brecher.
While the emotions of feeling hopeless are real, she said thinking about what is in your control that can have a positive impact on yourself and others is a good way to counter those feelings.
“Some people are choosing to be proactive toward other people, like helping neighbors or supporting people who are struggling, and by doing so they probably feel more optimistic because they’re able to do something as opposed to feeling stuck and like nothing is going to get better,” said Brecher.
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