Tag Archives: hope

What is Hope, and How Is it Related to Well-Being?

When you think of people who have lost hope, you probably think about clients who struggle to get out of bed, stop caring for themselves, and may even give up the will to live. Actually, this can be a misrepresentation of hope. Most often in therapy, a lack of hope occurs when clients collide with the future and feel stuck and cannot become who and what they want to be. In essence, the stress, anxiety, trauma, and sadness about their collision with the future leave them hopeless, believing there is no or limited hope. Therapists must remember that hopelessness is not a permanent situation with no solution. For most people, losing hope is a temporary state of mind or being that occurs when things do not go as expected, and they feel stuck.

Cultivate Hope and Engagement in Your Life, from Positive Psychology – The Hope Series

Feeling Hopeless?

Many clients find themselves feeling hopeless. They could not envision themselves reaching their idealized vision of the future. Let’s take a look at the stories of several people participating in my research studies:

  • Sally is a single mother who works multiple jobs to make ends meet. She felt overwhelmed, wondered how her actions could make a difference, and eventually lost hope. The therapist helped Sally envision a future in which she combined the skills she gained in her jobs to develop a great resume and get a high-paying job that she loves.
  • Jason was having difficulties achieving his educational goals. He encountered many challenges and obstacles and started feeling like giving up. Because Jason felt like he could never get to where he wanted, he began to lose hope. The therapist helped Jason positively envision a successful future by setting goals to find a more meaningful major, taking control of his study habits, and finding a tutor.     
  • After spending years caring for her elderly parents, Lakesha found that she was profoundly tense, snapped at people around her, suffered from physical symptoms of chronic stress, and lacked sufficient methods of self-care. She felt helpless and hopeless to move forward. The therapist helped Lakesha explore possibilities leading to her ideal future and assisted her in developing a sense of optimism.
  • LeBron lost his life partner and felt depressed. A massive part of his self-identity was tied up in this relationship. He felt stuck, and he began to feel hopeless. The therapist helped LeBron activate hope by understanding the positive, motivating aspects of change and transitions. The therapist helped LeBron generate optimism, visualize the future LeBron, and remain flexible and open to the many possibilities and opportunities.

As you can see, people lose hope for all sorts of reasons. Feeling hopeless is a natural, universal response to personal and social events that impact life. While all people experience many ups and downs, some can recover more quickly than others. These people have hope.

What is Hope?

We have talked about hope, but what exactly is hope? Putting your finger on what constitutes hope is difficult because it is such an abstract concept. The dictionary defines hope as a feeling of positive expectation and the belief that something great will happen in the future. This definition, however, conjures up crossing your fingers and engaging in wishful thinking. Hope is much more. Being hopeful is about remaining positive, focused, and goal-oriented until achieving a desired future.

Why is hope so important? How does hope manifest itself in your life? Hope is powerful in many ways:

  • Hope is that feeling that keeps clients going and gives them something to live for.
  • Hope is critical when clients are dealing with chronic stress, life problems, and challenges.
  • Hope helps clients maintain resilience in the face of obstacles.
  • Hope helps propel clients toward goals, even when things seem stressful or uncertain.
  • Hope provides a positive vision of all of life’s possibilities, a plan to make this vision a reality, and the practical tools to look forward to a better future.
  • Hope helps clients remain committed to their goals and motivated to take action toward achieving them.
  • Hope gives clients a reason to continue fighting and believe that their current circumstances will improve despite the unpredictable nature of human existence.
  • Most importantly, hope reduces stress and builds resilience to cope.

When your clients feel hopeless, they need help learning to cultivate significant levels of hope to build resilience, move forward, and find a life filled with possibilities. While hope is undoubtedly a personal experience that can be challenging to define, hope’s value and optimistic impact on human life are widely recognized and difficult to ignore.

Written by John J. Liptak, Ed.D.


Frederickson, B. (2009). Positivity: Top-notch research reveals the 3-to-1 ratio that will change your life. New York, NY: Harmony.

Leutenberg, E.R.A., & Liptak, J.J. (2016). The journey to transcendence teen workbook. Bohemia, NY: Bureau for At-Risk Youth.

Rorty, R. (2022).  What can we hope for?: Essays on politics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Snyder, C.R. (1994). The psychology of hope: You can get there from here. Los Angeles, CA: Free Press.

Worthington, E. (2005). Hope-focused marriage counseling: A guide to brief therapy. Westmont, IL: IVP Academic.

Managing Hope to Build Resilience and Overcome Stress

Hope-based resilience helps people overcome stress. Stress is the biggest obstacle that people experience. In a recent American Psychological Association* survey, the researchers found the following statistics about stress:

  • 80% of all people surveyed have experienced physical symptoms of stress.
  • 48% of people have suffered from sleep disorders due to prolonged exposure to stress.
  • 33% of the population considers their stress level to be extremely high.
  • 70% of employees experience stress at work so much that they are unhappy doing their jobs.

What is Hope Management Theory?

While most therapists work to help people manage stress and its ancillary emotions (i.e., anger, anxiety, sadness), Hope Management Theory suggests that hope is a natural way to build hope-based resilience and overcome the effects of stress. The following are some of the central beliefs of a Hope Management Theory approach: 

  • Hope is the most potent, positive, universal human emotion, characterized by intense feelings of motivation, optimism, and elevated mood about the future. Therefore, people need to manage the positive components of hope like they similarly manage the negative aspects of stress.
  • Feelings are more robust than thoughts and behaviors, thus they create thought patterns and direct behavioral routines.
  • Hope functions as a self-motivator, influencer, and inner driver to help people experience positive stress and flourish.
  • Hope is the best way to build natural hope-based resilience coping skills.
  • Hope not only builds resilience, but it also operates as a natural antidote to stress (and its subsequent problems, including trauma, anxiety, and sadness). 
  • As hope increases, resilience and positive stress increase, and negative stress decreases.

All people have stressful collisions with the future. The intensity of these collisions determines how much stress people experience. This negative stress harms emotional, psychological, and physical health and wellness. Rather than manage stress and its ancillary issues (anger, anxiety, sadness, etc.), people can take a positive approach by managing and enhancing their levels of hope to generate enough positive stress (eustress) to overcome the effects of negative stress (distress). Positive stress, or eustress, is beneficial stress that motivates people by providing a meaningful, positive challenge.

Discover and Create Meaning in Your Life workbook cover
Discover and Create Meaning in Your Life from Positive Psychology – The Hope Series

Application of The Hope Management Theory:

People can cultivate “hope on steroids” to generate positive stress, build a shield of resilience, and eventually eliminate negative stress:

  1. Activate Hope (Trigger the emotion of hope by understanding change and transitions, remaining optimistic, visualizing the future you, and being flexible and opening your mind to possibilities.)
  2. Make Hope a Habit (Engage in hopeful actions and build “Hope Habits” by creating a map of your vision, developing meaning and purpose for goals, and utilizing flow to maintain hope.)
  3. Maintain Hope (Make hope a lifestyle by maintaining positive stress over a lifetime, generating resilience in the face of obstacles, finding ways to integrate hope into your lifestyle, and sustaining self-care.)

Therapists can use the workbooks from Positive Psychology – The Hope Series written by Dr. Michelle Scallon and Dr. John Liptak, currently being published by Whole Person Associates, to ensure hope becomes a habit. The five workbooks are:

Discover and Create Meaning in Your Life

Generate a Sense of Accomplishment in Your Life

Maintain Positive, Healthy Relationships in Your Life

Regain Control in Your Life

Cultivate Hope and Engagement in your Life

In conclusion, hope is the most intense emotion people generate, and the feelings associated with hope must be triggered, managed, enhanced, and maintained. When people are able to develop it in all aspects of their lives, hope becomes an antidote to stress and a way to build a protective shield of resilience. 

Written by John J. Liptak, Ed.D.

*APA (2023). Stress in America 2023: A nation grappling with psychological impacts of collective trauma. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2023/11/psychological-impacts-collective-trauma

Children need hope and optimism to deal with stress

Pessimistic people get depressed much more often

No matter how wonderful and stable a child’s life may seem, she still has stress: rejection by friends, difficulty with homework, dealing with a bully. Your children need to know that when they experience these set-backs, life’s not over; tomorrow is another day.

Children need hope and optimism to be resilient to stress and to persist in dealing with life’s inevitable ups and downs. The more realistically optimistic your children, the better they’ll deal with stress – usually.

Optimism is the fourth component your children’s Stress Safety Net, which helps them feel safe, secure and loved. This gives them the foundation to better handle stress throughout their lives.

Dr. Martin Seligman, a highly respected researcher in the field of cognitive psychology, has found in more than 1,000 studies involving more than a half-million children and adults, pessimistic people do worse than optimistic people in three ways, they:

  • Get depressed much more often;
  • Achieve less at school, on the job and in sports;
  • Their physical health is worse;

With today’s depression rate ten times that of the 1950s, anything that can fight depression is vitally important, which optimism does.

However, sometimes pessimism is the more appropriate response. When the consequences are high that an optimistic view is wrong, it’s better to go with a pessimistic perception. For example, an optimistic perception of cheating on a test would be, “I won’t get caught.” If the consequences of being caught are too great, then the pessimistic, “I’ll get caught,” is the better way to go.

To help your children become more optimistic teach them the connection between their thoughts, feelings and behavior; what they think about a stressor determines how they feel emotionally about it, which determines how they react to it. Teach them that all-or-nothing words like always, never, everyone, no one, are indicators they’re probably thinking pessimistically and adding unnecessary stress to difficult situations.

For example, your daughter’s very interested in the boy who’s approaching her in the hall. She’s thinking, “He’ll never notice me because I’m always so boring.” She feels anxious, worthless and pessimistic.

Teach her, however, that she’s not feeling these emotions because he ignores her but rather because of what she’s telling herself about this possibility. Teach her to change what she thinks in order to change how she feels and responds.

She could think more optimistically, “Here he comes. He hasn’t noticed me before but maybe I can engage him in conversation. He won’t notice me unless I assertive myself.”

Obviously, he still may have no interest but – and this is a huge but – she can limit the damage by spinning it more optimistically. Understanding she feels rotten because she tells herself rotten things about herself teaches her to change what she thinks to something like, “It’s his loss.”

Many adults never learn that their feelings are determined by what they say to themselves. They never learn to take charge of their thinking. Instead, give your kids the gift of optimism with this self-empowering and stress reducing understanding.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach.