As Christmas approaches during this time of uncertainty, you may be feeling less hopeful about the year to come. For many of us, these trying times have been difficult and stressful. Perhaps you are disappointed in how these past months have turned out. You are not alone. As this year comes to a close, remember that with Christmas comes the message of hope.
Christmas has always been a time for hopefulness, an opportunity to spark our faith, and strength to carry on with love, compassion, and optimism. Hope is defined as a positive psychological state that emerges from having clear, conscious goals toward what one is striving for.
Research from the University of Alberta’s Hope Studies Central unit indicates that in order for us to be hopeful, we have to develop what is called pathway thinking. Pathway thinking is the ability to think around a problem knowing that we can and will find a solution. Hope is the essential trait that builds our ability to perform pathway thinking.
Hope theory is the scientific study of where hope stems from and how we can enhance hope in our lives. Snyder’s Hope theory outlines two determining factors for creating hope in our lives:
- First, Snyder states that we need to have the “willpower” to pursue our life goals, willpower is our “why” to live.
- Secondly, we must have “waypower”- Snyder considers this to be our how to; how we manage to make our goals a reality.
When we harness both the willpower and the waypower, we are engaging in hopeful pathway thinking. Life is full of surprises, challenges, and wonderful moments which is why it is important to remember that as long as we have hope, we can overcome anything.
Here are a few techniques that Snyder and current hope researchers have identified to increase hope during difficult times:
- Focus on past success: When we engage in remembering positive past events of success, we step away from failure thinking and toward future goal setting. This also allows us to experience all of the positive emotions associated with success making us much more likely to be hopeful of further outcomes.
Imagine a time when you successfully made it through a challenge that you had limited control over. Perhaps you had to think quickly on your feet, and it paid off. Focus on that memory, how it felt if there were any physical or emotional reactions you experienced. Then think about how you can apply that same tactic or what you can adapt to this current event.
- Growth seeking goals: We have heard it before, intention is everything. To develop hope in our lives we must set the intention to grow, learn, and improve in our goals. This moves us away from self-blame and toward self-love. Research shows that people with high hope levels focus on the pathway to their goals rather than the goal itself.
Challenge yourself to come up with a pathway to your goal. Perhaps you have the goal of making this Christmas just as special, think of five things that would play a role in obtaining this goal. Often, it is easy to get lost on our way to obtaining a goal which makes us feel hopeless, by actively working toward a goal through its pathway we engage in meaningful connections, instilling hope.
Christmas is a time to enjoy our family and loved ones, share laughter and joy. Whether you are stressed out over the rushed Christmas shopping or feeling down about the uncertainty of today, remember the power of hopefulness that Christmas brings.
Blog post by Alissa Caskey, Volunteer
Bernardo, A. B. I. (2010). Extending hope theory: internal and external locus of trait hope. Personality and Individual Differences, 49(8), 944–949. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2010.07.036
Larsen, D. J., Whelton, W. J., Rogers, T., McElheran, J., Herth, K., Tremblay, J., … Chamodraka, M. (2020). Multidimensional hope in counseling and psychotherapy scale. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 30(3), 407–422.
Rafferty, K. A., Beck, G., & McGuire, M. (2020). When facing hopeful and hopeless experiences: using snyder’s hope theory to understand parents’ caregiving experiences for their medically complex child. Journal of Pediatric Health Care : Official Publication of National Association of Pediatric Nurse Associates & Practitioners, 34(6), 542–549. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pedhc.2020.06.003
Snyder, C. R. (2000). Handbook of hope: theory, measures & applications. Academic Press. Snyder, C. R. (2000). Handbook of Hope Theory, Measures, and Applications. San Diego, CA Academic Press. – References – Scientific Research Publishing (scirp.org)