The Psychology of Hope

hope

“Hope” is a word often used in less-than-hopeful contexts: “I hope this or that happens” frequently carries the implication, “but it probably won’t.” A proper understanding of hope, however, focuses on an optimistic attitude that not only wishes for good things but expects them, and takes an active role in bringing them about. Properly hopeful people are consistently healthier and more successful than their more pessimistic counterparts.

Hope and Recovery

Our motto at PACE is Positive Attitude Changes Everything—not least for those struggling with chemical dependency, mental illness, or both. Even if your mind, will, and sense of order have become uncontrollable, you can still make the decision to seek help in reclaiming a healthy life.

One important early step on the road to recovery is realizing that hope isn’t something you either have or don’t have: it’s a skill that can be learned and practiced. Even if your temperament isn’t naturally geared toward high optimism, you can build new habits to improve your everyday hope quotient.

The key elements of positive hope are that it’s:

Values-Based

Living only to make money, advance your status, or indulge yourself reaps feelings of emptiness. True fulfillment includes a commitment to something bigger than yourself, whether that’s a religious/spiritual outlook, a social cause, or shared happiness with friends and family. Decide where your greater purpose lies, and commit to living everyday life according to values that serve that purpose.

Proactive

Stephen Covey labeled proactive living as the first secret of being “highly effective.” Reactive people wait for good luck to happen to them, blame everything and everyone else when it doesn’t, consider themselves powerless victims of circumstances—and go through life “just following orders” and usually bitter and depressed. Proactive people make things happen. They keep their hope active by taking responsibility for their lives and by focusing on what they can do without fretting about the rest.

Goal-Oriented

Proactive goals, worked for and achieved, are the building blocks of hope. You may have heard of the SMART principle: worthwhile goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely (aka set with deadlines). They also should be personally meaningful: working for peer approval or someone else’s dream will only leave you frustrated.

Adaptable

Even the best-planned goals aren’t guaranteed to come off flawlessly. (Ask any experienced achiever whose original 2020 calendar was filled with travel plans and public-speaking engagements.) Healthy hope accepts that course corrections will be necessary and disappointments inevitable. Rather than take difficulties as evidence that planning doesn’t work, a hopeful person knows how to shift to Plan B and keep moving in the right overall direction.

Persistent

Where hope includes belief in long-term goals and dreams, it also includes stick-to-itiveness to keep going, even in the face of setbacks and delays.

Resilient

Resilience is the driving force behind adaptability and persistence—and more. Resilience:

  • Remains confident of recovery even from major disasters
  • Enables people to get back on track in the aftermath of relapsing into mental illness or drug use
  • Knows that wherever life continues, failure is never total.

Growth-Minded

Just as there’s no such thing as complete failure, there’s no such thing as complete success: growth was always intended to be a lifelong journey. Understanding this is important if you want to avoid the “I’ve blown it, so I might as well give up trying” trap. “Progress, not perfection” is hope’s mantra. Internalize it, and you’ll not only build up resistance to quitting: you’ll enjoy life far more as you approach each day expecting new opportunities, adventures, and achievements yet to come.

Embrace a Positive Attitude for Lasting Recovery

Positive Attitude Changes Everything—even the worst life situations. But if you have a behavioral and/or mental illness, the change to a healthy, hope-centered life isn’t a journey to undertake alone. PACE Recovery Center provides detox, care, and therapy for men seeking freedom from addiction and hopelessness.

Don’t let anyone tell you that “being a man” requires bottling up your feelings and toughing everything out alone. We understand your needs, and we provide a safe, empathetic environment for rediscovering your true identity. Contact us today to learn more!

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