“The very purpose of our life is happiness, which is sustained by hope. We have no guarantee about the future, but we exist in the hope of something better. Hope means keeping going, thinking, “I can do this.” It brings inner strength, self-confidence, [and] the ability to do what you do honestly, truthfully, and transparently” The Dalai Lama, 2013
The theory behind hope is that individuals can discover the tools for achieving their goals and become motivated to use those tools. Hope can steer emotions and well-being. The purpose of using hope in terms of positive psychology is to evoke a shift in psychology – from a focus on fixing the negative things to also working on the positive things in life (1).
A 2018 study offers strong validation to hope theory by showing that people with high hopes were more likely to engage in successful goal-setting behaviour than those with lower hope and therefore more likely to move towards important life outcomes and achievements (2).
“Higher hope consistently is related to better outcomes in academics, athletics, physical health, psychological adjustment, and psychotherapy.” – Snyder (3)
Hope refers to the will to get to your goals, and the various ways to get there. Hope theory can be divided into categories to help us better understand it.
- Goals that are valuable and uncertain are described as the anchors of hope theory as they provide direction and an endpoint for hopeful thinking.
- Pathway thought is the map we draw to help us accomplish our goals and our anticipated capability to follow this map.
- Agency thought relates to how motivated we are to make the journey towards achieving our goals.
- Barriers impede the realisation of our goals and with the occurrence of a barrier, we can choose to either give up or use our pathway thoughts to design another map to our goal destination.
Loss of hope
Low-hope individuals may be deficient in pathways and agency and have a tendency towards:
- A lower sense of long-term goals
- A tendency to focus on previous failures
- A lack of self-control
- Lower self-esteem
- An increased likelihood of negative behaviours
The Adult Hope Scale
This assessment tool was developed by Snyder to measure how hopeful a person is (4).
The assessment tool is a 12 question self-assessment. Four questions relate to agency thoughts (as above) (e.g. Q2. I energetically pursue my goals). Four questions relate to pathway thoughts (as above) (e.g. Q4. There are lots of ways around any problem). Items are scored on an eight-point scale.
There are three score results: a hope score, created by summing the agency and pathway items, or two individual scores that relate to agency and pathways independently by totting up their respective items.
Total hope scale scores range from 8 to a maximum of 64. A score of 40 – 48 ranks you as ‘hopeful’; 48 – 56 is ‘moderately hopeful’; and 56 or higher ranks as ‘high hope’. Agency and pathway scores range from a minimum of 4 to a maximum of 32, with high scores reflecting high levels of hope (4).
How to Cultivate a Hopeful Mindset
Now we have a better understanding of what hope is, here are some simple tools you can integrate into your life, to help you support a hope mindset and reap the rewards.
1. Design your pathway
The ability to see how the path you are following will result in the coveted change is vital to having hope. Without being able to see how the steps you are taking can achieve a positive result, executing the plan is likely to be a challenge.
*Map out each element needed to bring you to where you want to be.
2. Look for heroes
The world has many heroes, young and old, who have overcome adversity, and with the introduction of the internet, their stories are only a click away. Discovering their story and immersing yourself with their positive message can help you to build hope.
*Set yourself the task of learning about one positive life-story every week. You might find this example in a book, or even by reading credible internet stories.
3. Perform an act of kindness
Performing small acts of kindness can drastically improve your mood and outlook. A kind act stimulates the release of serotonin (the happy hormone), so creating a mood-lifting effect. It also calms stress and helps to reduce pain (5).
Repeating acts of kindness may help you improve how connected you feel to the world due to your sense of contribution. Signing up to help out weekly at a charity store or walking dogs at a shelter every Sunday are excellent options.
*Whatever you choose make sure to note it down and hold yourself accountable for whatever kind act you intend on bringing in to your new routine. This will make you more likely to stick with it.
4. Be kind to yourself
Being kind involves being kind to yourself as well. Try and speak to yourself as kindly as you would to someone else in your situation. No more negative thinking and criticisms of yourself. Make it a habit to think of yourself with compassion.
*For one month try jotting down three things you like about yourself every single day. It could be physical aspects, personality aspects or just positive things that you do. When the month is up, do a quick self-check: are you feeling warmer towards yourself? Has it helped you to feel brighter and more confident?
Every evening, try to write down three positive things, big or small, that happened during the day in a journal. Noting these happy experiences daily will help you to focus on the positive things and increase your ability to become hopeful for the future.
*Buy a journal and fill it in as above over a three-month period. At the end of three month spell, fill in the Hope Scale again and see whether your score has increased.
6. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness can be a very powerful tool on your journey to becoming a more hopeful person and has shown positive results in supporting those suffering from depression (6).
It is common for your thoughts to naturally wander to events in the past and focus on things that did not go well or circumstances that were painful. This can add to your feelings of hopelessness. When your mind drifts regularly to these types of thoughts, it can be difficult to remember that you were ever happy or that you can be happy again in the future. Mindfulness aims to focus a person on living in the present moment, while gently acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings and thoughts.
This practice has been shown to help develop a more hopeful outlook, with more calm and less stress (6).
* Pick up a book on mindfulness (such as I am here now by Alexandra Frey & Autumn Totton) or go and see a mindfulness practitioner to learn mindfulness techniques that you can integrate into everyday life.
Before including any of the above into your routine fill in The Adult Hope Scale and note down your scores. After three months of implementing some or all of the above suggestions do the test again so you can see how much your hopefulness has increased.
1) Snyder, C. R., Rand, K. L., & Sigmon, D. R. (2002). Hope theory: A member of the positive psychology family. In C. R. Snyder & S. J. Lopez (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology(pp. 257-276). New York, NY, US: Oxford University Press.
2) Cheavens, Jennifer S., et al. “Hope, Goals, and Pathways: Further Validating the Hope Scale with Observer Ratings.” The Journal of Positive Psychology, 26 June 2018, pp. 1–11, [Online] Available at https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17439760.2018.1484937 (Accessed 6 Nov. 2019)
3) Snyder, C. R. (2002). Hope theory: Rainbows in the mind. Psychological Inquiry, 13(4), 249-275.
4) Snyder, C. R., et al. “The Will and the Ways: Development and Validation of an Individual-Differences Measure of Hope.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 60, no. 4, 1991, pp. 570–585, 10.1037//0022-3522.214.171.1240. Accessed 7 Nov. 2019.
5) Aknin, Lara B., et al. “Giving Leads to Happiness in Young Children.” PLoS ONE, vol. 7, no. 6, 14 June 2012, [Online] Available at https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0039211 (Accessed: 5 Nov. 2019)
6) Monnart, Aurore, et al. “Treatment of Resistant Depression: A Pilot Study Assessing the Efficacy of a TDCS-Mindfulness Program Compared With a TDCS-Relaxation Program.” Frontiers in Psychiatry, vol. 10, 2019, p. 730, [Online]. Available at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31708808 (Accessed 11 Nov. 2019)