Today, you are encumbered by a world full of stress, uncertainty, and chaos. Every day your news feeds are inundated with endless stories that promote fear and panic. Even the mere act of aging inflicts distress as we experience our youth being replaced by chronic pain and illness. As we age, there seems to be more pain than you can heal, more dissent than you can mediate, and more uncertainty than you can make sense of. However, we at More Than Healthy know that in times of such distress, there is a literal cure. It is a remedy that brings the light back into your life and actually improves your physical and mental health- hope.
What is Hope?
Hope is not a passive exercise in wishing, but an active approach to life, arising when there is something we want when we’ve got a clear goal in mind. Although optimism is a byproduct of hope, it certainly isn’t a Pollyannish view of life. Hoping doesn’t mean discounting trials or denying hardships that will arise. Hope is expecting that life can continue on and that we can find light in any situation. Not only does this hope greatly impact your mental well-being, it can profoundly change your physical health.
Good for the Heart
Hope not only gives you heart- it is good FOR your heart. Data has shown that a hopeful outlook can actually reduce your risk of heart attack. With data so significant, many cardiovascular experts believe that improving your mental health outlook through hope is a crucial part of preventative treatment for heart disease. This correlation isn’t surprising given that our response to stress plays such a crucial role in long-term heart health.
Another prominent factor in this profound connection is blood pressure. Hope has been shown to have positive effects on blood pressure, boosting treatment efforts for hypertension. When blood pressure is maintained and managed within healthier levels, the benefits extend beyond your heart-helping prevent your risk of stroke as well.
Today, science is exploring the powerful influence hope can have on health- including your immune systems, wound healing, even how you experience pain and longevity. In his book, “The Anatomy of Hope,” Dr. Jerome Groopman, Harvard Medical School Professor and Chairman of the Department of Medicine, gives incredible accounts of how hope helped his patients cope with issues traditionally deemed hopeless- such as illnesses and chronic pain.1
Dr. Groopman’s research showed that when people are ill, there are two emotional states which are associated with hope—belief, and expectation. Both of these seemingly trite qualities can profoundly impact the human nervous system- setting off a chain reaction which increases the likelihood of improvement and recovery. It is believed that positive emotions such as hope can alter neurochemistry and inhibit pain by releasing the brain’s natural painkillers called endorphins which mimic the effects of morphine.
Promoting Healthy Habits
Hope is the catalyst of aligning our habits with our goals to be the healthiest, best versions of ourselves. That’s because hope triggers a virtuous cycle. Hopeful people conjure a vision that sustains them, that causes them to show up for the hard work and accept setbacks. Hope also allows you to make an investment in the future that pays off in the present. In the way you eat, exercise, conserve energy, take care of yourself and stick to your daily health regimen. Studies have shown that hope behaviors, including increased fruit and vegetable consumption, regular exercise and removal of unhealthy habits such as smoking and excessive drinking.
It is relatively simple to continue habits that enhance your health and wellbeing at times of peace and contentment. Hope KEEPS you fighting for those habits when setbacks inevitably happen. This drive will sustain you when the future has little to no certainty and everything around you seems dire. Healthy habits paired with hope will change those habits into a lifestyle, regardless of how trying our lives may become.
No matter how much we envision a life free of hardship, the stark reality is- bad things just happen. From the backlash of a global pandemic, to tribulations brought on by mere mortality- life will be difficult. But there is hope. At More Than Healthy, we believe that through hope, you can foster healthier habits. These new habits will have profound impacts on your physical and mental wellbeing. You can remain steady towards all of your goals and aspirations- regardless of the countless failures and setbacks. Through hope, you can enjoy and live a life that is full of happiness, meaning, and health.
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