Where Hope Blooms

One of the earliest and most-welcomed signs of spring are the flowers who have persevered through the winter. As colder temperatures subside and give way to spring, crocuses respond by pushing new shoots up through the earth and opening their cheery blossoms. This can remind us that there is always potential for change and growth, even during difficult times.

In order to bring about positive change in our culture, or ourselves, we begin with hope.  Fostering hope has been shown in various research studies to help decrease symptoms of depression and improve mental health, self-esteem and the ability to function with a chronic illness. In a study of older adults, hope was linked to better physical and mental health and health behavior outcomes.

To better understand what hope is, we can look at the science behind it. Goals are the thing we are striving for and become the cornerstone of hope. Pathway is the ability to identify routes toward goals and to find new pathways (problem solve) around obstacles, if necessary. Agency (willpower) is the ability to sustain motivation to move along these pathways. No matter the difficulties we may face, hope is accessible to each and every one of us. Unlike optimism, which is simply the expectation of a better future, hope is action-oriented and a skill that can be learned.

To foster hope in your life, you may need to re-frame your thinking and form new habits. Hope experts recommend these tips:

  • Break goals into smaller chunks so they are more manageable.
  • Stay connected. Hope is a social gift. It is not something that happens in isolation within us. It happens in relationships with each other. We should be more intentional in our social connections. Our connectedness with others or with something greater than ourselves is one of single best predictors of hope.
  • Celebrate small successes. It is important to acknowledge and celebrate what you have accomplished to boost your willpower to reach the next small goal.

At the heart of change is our ability to understand the way things are right now in our lives… and that we can begin to imagine the way things could be. This is where hope is born. So, when you see early spring flowers, let them remind you to hold on to hope and believe that things will get better, and the courage to take some action to bring about change.

Source: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County, carter.413@osu.edu