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The Science of Hope - How Hope Facilitates Healing in Areas of Mental Health and Addiction

Updated: Jul 11, 2022

Hope is defined as one’s capability to see a path toward their desires and goals. Most of us have found ourselves hoping for something at one point in our lives or another. Hope has pushed many of us to work toward our big goals. Hope has helped us fight through painful times. Sometimes, having hope is just what we have needed to get us through our most uncertain and trying times, helping us find the light at the end of the tunnel. Research has shown time after time that hope is crucial to both our mental and physical health. Hope does not always have to be conscious.

mental health and addiction

What is Hope?

Hope is one’s ability to see a path and work toward their goals and dreams. Hope is essential to an individual’s health and wellbeing, happiness, confidence, and optimism. Those who are hopeful are more capable of reaching their goals, perform better both academically and athletically, and experience a higher quality of life.

According to Snyder’s Hope Theory, hope is derived from two different sections: agency and pathways. Agency is the motivational section of hope. It tells one that they are capable of moving toward their goals. Pathways consist of one’s ability to see a path to meeting their goal. When agency and pathways are combined, they work together to create hope. However, life is full of obstacles and barriers. When one’s original pathway becomes blocked by an obstacle, Snyder’s Hope Theory claims that they will likely work to think of an alternate pathway to still be able to meet their goals.

Snyder’s Hope Theory also claims that our emotions are directly related to the emotions we are experiencing. In other words, when we feel as though we are successfully moving toward our goals, we will be experiencing positive emotions. When we are experiencing obstacles and barriers against our goals, we will begin to experience negative emotions. Snyder’s Hope Theory claims that increased levels of hope are directly related to improvements in cognitive and physical performance, as well as overall health and wellbeing.

How Hope Facilitates Mental Health Healing

Hope has been found to be crucial in the recovery process of mental illness. This is because a huge factor in successful recovery requires a desire to get better. When one has hope, they will be more likely to find the motivation to fight for their mental health and wellbeing. When one loses hope, their desire to get better will be drastically affected as they will struggle to see the point in fighting for their mental health.

Many studies have shown hope to be a major factor in one’s resilience against mental health issues like anxiety and stress. Hope has also been found to be a huge determining factor in the success of psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is a form of therapy in which a patient and their therapist talk through their thoughts and feelings to determine what is causing their mental health issues and to begin the path to healing. However, a patient’s path to healing is going to be directly related to their levels of hopefulness.

A study conducted by Gallagher et al. examined how hope plays a role in recovery from an anxiety disorder. As participants’ levels of hope were found to be increasing, their levels of self-reported and clinician-rated anxiety were found to be decreasing. This study is just one of many studies that have shown just how important hope is in the healing of one’s mental health and wellbeing.

How Hope Facilitates Healing from Addiction

Healing from addiction is a much more complex journey than just abstaining from drugs or alcohol. It often requires a journey full of obstacles that can be hard to push through. Hope is a huge factor in facilitating addiction recovery. Having hope that you will get through your toughest times and lowest moments will allow you to build the resilience needed to get through those moments.

A study conducted by Mathis et al. examined how hope was related to substance use in individuals residing in communal-living recovery homes. The study found that hope and substance use may be related, especially in the later stages of recovery.

Hope Builds Resilience

Resilience is an individual’s ability to adapt to tough and stressful situations. Whether one is experiencing trauma, hardships, misfortune, and times of extreme stress, individuals will build resilience to adapt to the tough times. Resilience often involves personal growth and helps individuals get through their lowest moments. So, how does hope build resilience?

Hope involves optimistic thoughts about the potential for meeting our goals in the future. Having hope for a better future will motivate you to find the different pathways needed to work through obstacles and build resilience.

Hope and resilience are directly related to a higher quality of life, health and wellbeing, success, and happiness. Together, hope and resilience work to act as protective factors, allowing individuals to effectively deal with stressful life events.

Fostering Hope for Mental Health Healing and Addiction

Hope is a crucial player in one’s health and wellbeing. It isn’t always easy to have hope, though. When we experience tough times and are struggling to see an end, we may find ourselves losing hope for a better future. However, there are ways you can foster hope to improve your mental health and help your healing process in recovering from mental illness or addiction. You can foster hope by:

  • Setting specific goals. When you have specific and attainable goals to work toward, meeting them will feel possible. This will help you feel hopeful in meeting your larger goals and dreaming of a brighter future.

  • Being kind to yourself. Tearing yourself down when faced with obstacles will do nothing to improve your feelings of hopefulness. Being kind to yourself is crucial to having hope that you will one day find a brighter future.

  • Find inspiration. Hearing the stories of other people who have experienced similar obstacles as you and came out on top will be extremely helpful in cultivating hope. Knowing that somebody else was able to find success after their lowest moments will help you feel hopeful that you will one day find success after your own.

Hope is a lot more important to our overall quality of life than you may have previously believed. With life being full of so many unpredictable obstacles, hope can sometimes be just what we need to get through the tough times.

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