The best lessons come at the worst times.
Having hope in difficult times is not just a romantic notion. It originates from the fact that human history is comprised not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness, and love. Like in the case of our own personal stories, what we choose to highlight in this complex story of ours will define our lives. If we only see the worst, we lose our ability to believe and act. If we remember the times and places, and when and where people behaved magnificently, we will have the energy to act, and the possibility of change will become a reality.
The news today is depressing. The planet is warming; species are becoming extinct; chemicals pollute ecosystems and our bodies; weather disasters are becoming more common; and critical resources such as fresh water and soil are becoming scarce in many places. We are breaching planetary boundaries and approaching tipping points that may result in irreversible, catastrophic global changes. Governments, private companies, and individual consumers are not responding quickly enough, as if they are unaware of the gravity of the situation. These planetary changes endanger human health in profound ways. Besides the apparent health consequences, there is a less obvious casualty: hope. With the planet’s future uncertain, hope is in jeopardy. Despair is calling.
We should not be hoping for a utopian future. The future is an infinite series of present times, and living now as we feel is right, challenging everything that is wrong around us, is a wonderful victory in and of itself.
The last few years have been truly remarkable for the emergence of movements, social changes, and profound changes in global ideals, new perspectives, and restructuring. And, of course, the corresponding opposite reactions that occur with all types of change. The last few months have been particularly perplexing in terms of changes, both those imposed on us and those that we seek for ourselves as a result of everything we believe in and stand for.
It is critical to understand what hope is not: it is not the belief that everything was, is, or will be fine. The evidence is all around us, and we are unfortunately surrounded by far too much suffering and devastation. The hope that matters is about broad perspectives with specific possibilities, those that invite or demand action from us.
It’s also not the cheerful narrative of “everything will be fine,” as opposed to the doomed narrative of “no foreseeable future.”
Hope is founded on the premise of not knowing what will happen, and there is room to act within the vast spectrum of uncertainty. When we acknowledge uncertainty, we acknowledge that we have the ability to influence outcomes, whether alone or in collaboration with a few dozen or millions of other people.
Hope is accepting the unknown as an alternative to optimists’ certainty and pessimists’ fear.
Hope and faith are interconnected, and the greater power is what moves mountains that, on principle, not everyone thinks can be moved.
Hope is a major health issue. Let us look into the medical aspects of hope and hopelessness.
It then delves into ancient and modern literary and philosophical perspectives on hope, highlighting the significance of hope in human wellbeing. Finally, it applies these clinical and cultural perspectives to the climate crisis, arguing that health professionals should instil hope in themselves, their patients, and society as a whole, and drawing on clinical insights to do so.
There is compelling evidence that hope promotes health and well-being and that hopelessness is toxic. Evidence suggests that hopeful people feel better, cope with stress better, and live longer lives, even when diagnosed with serious diseases. Hope has been linked to cognitive flexibility, creativity, and academic achievement. Hopelessness, on the other hand, has been linked to an increased risk of hypertension and atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction and cancer, anxiety and depression, cognitive decline, and more severe PTSD symptoms. Hopelessness predicts violent behavior, substance abuse, and early sexual activity in youngsters. Hope may account for some of the significant health benefits of the placebo effect. It’s no surprise that hope has been dubbed as a “therapeutic tool” and that maintaining hope is a medical responsibility. Nonetheless, health professionals frequently underestimate the power of hope. “We doctors are so schooled against allowing ourselves to believe the intangible, impalpable, or indefinite that we tend to discount the element of hope, its reviving effect as well as its survival function,” psychiatrist Karl Menninger observed over a half-century ago.
Hope may account for some of the significant health benefits of the placebo effect. It’s no surprise that hope has been dubbed as a “therapeutic tool” and that maintaining hope is a medical responsibility. Nonetheless, health professionals frequently underestimate the power of hope. “We doctors are so schooled against allowing ourselves to believe the intangible, impalpable, or indefinite that we tend to discount the element of hope, its reviving effect as well as its survival function,” psychiatrist Karl Menninger observed over a half-century ago.
Hope may be an overlooked health benefit.
It is not enough for us to just live. The human being requires transcendence, escape, meaning, comprehension, and explanation; we require an understanding of the general structures in our lives. We also require the freedom to go beyond ourselves, whether through telescopes, microscopes, and ever-improving technology, or through states of mind that allow us to travel to other worlds in order to prevail over our immediate surroundings. We require love that is greater than ourselves. We require hope and a sense of the future. Hope is especially needed during the most difficult times.
It is also in times of great despair and breakdown, that hope appears impossible to uphold. All we need is a drop of it to change everything. Within each of us. And the whole world!
The best lessons come at the worst times. Hope keeps you alive!