8 Science-Backed Ways to Increase Your Hope

It’s a skill we need right now

Benjamin Hardy, PhD
Forge
Published in
6 min readJul 27, 2020

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Confident young woman with hoop earrings.
Photo: Alex Farfuri/Getty Images

Especially in a time of social unrest, widespread unemployment, and a global pandemic, the advice to “stay hopeful!” might make you groan. But in getting through hard times, hope may be more powerful than we realize.

In his book Making Hope Happen, the psychologist Shane Lopez writes that in a crisis, less-hopeful people tend to shut down. They’re more concerned with “surviving the now” than preparing for the future. The most hopeful people, however, are more likely to create a picture of a meaningful goal that expands their sense of what they can accomplish.

Hoping for something doesn’t mean you’re not taking action. Hope is action. As an organizational psychologist, I’ve found that hope requires three things: a specific vision of a better future, the agency to learn and do whatever is required to get what you want, and a constant search for different pathways to achieve your goals. Here are eight ways to incorporate it into your life.

Look back on past wins

In a study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology, participants were asked to write about past experiences in which something they hoped for was eventually realized. After doing this, their happiness and hope for the future increased.

Dan Sullivan, the founder of the executive-coaching company Strategic Coach, recommends a similar routine called “the gap and the gain.” At the end of every, week, month, year, and decade, he suggests looking back at the “gains” you’ve had. The practice can help you go from feeling like your goals are always out of reach to feeling like you’re continually making progress.

Pray or meditate

In a recent survey I sent to my readers, one question I asked was: “What do you do, or what gives you hope, when things start to look bleak?” With more than 3,000 responses, the most common answer was “prayer.” Research has shown that prayer can increase hope and optimism, self-esteem, and adaptability during challenges, while decreasing feelings of depression and suicide. Prayer has also been shown to greatly improve relationships and can even improve health problems.

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Benjamin Hardy, PhD
Forge
Writer for

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