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Henry: Hello, I'm Henry Emmons and welcome to Joy Lab.
Aimee: And I'm Aimee Prasek. Here at Joy Lab, we infuse science with soul to help you uncover joy. To do that, we focus on building the elements of joy, the positive emotions and inner states that become the building blocks for joyful life. The element for this episode is hope... and actually resilience as well.
We're doing our series on the Roots of Resilience that started in episode 53. In this episode, we'll talk a bit more about Hope and Resilience, how they go together, and in the following four episodes, we'll get into those remaining roots of resilience.
The next one being Calming the Mind. Yes, please, right?! Okay. Resilience and hope. We're adding, uh, this element of hope to our roots of resilience series because working on our resilience skills is something that can actually feed hope, which then boosts our resilience, which then fuels our hope, which is the upward spiral we love here.
And also the next four roots we are going to work on are really more mind and heart focused. Whereas the first three we did were sort of more body-focused. And even though we don't see the body and mind as, and heart, as separate or discreet pieces of us, it can be helpful to address them separately at times, and especially if the body doesn't feel like it's working for you in the way you like,
I think it's really powerful to remember that we can tap into our resilience and hope, particularly in this mind and heart space as well.
Henry: Yes, and we, we do want to be really clear that we don't see hope as just an ideal or as an illusion that we have simply made up in our minds. In order for it to be genuine, hope needs to be founded on something real. Something accessible, you know, something we can count on. And we do believe that hope flows from resilience, which is why we're linking them here.
So we want things we can actually do that have a legitimate chance to change our circumstances, if we want them to change. And with resilience, there are a set of skills that we can practice and we can get better at. No matter where we're starting from. So resilience gives us something to build on. You know, it makes hope more than wishful thinking. It makes it authentic.
Aimee: Yes. Hope is not all in your head. I love it. I think that's such a big difference too, between hope and optimism that I wanna point out. There's this phrase I've heard, I think it's first from Hope researcher, Dr. John Parsi, that optimists see the glass as half full and hopeful folks figure out how to fill the glass.
I love that.
Aimee: So good because I am not an optimist by birth, I don't think. But I'm a really hopeful person, because that's what I've practiced. I feel better when I'm hopeful. And, uh, well, I like to point things out that are wrong too, and then I go to hope. See, it just works. It's a beautiful balance. Equanimity.
Henry: The perfect balance.
Aimee: Yes, wisdom right there.
And as I've said here before, right, you don't have to be born an optimist to be hopeful or joyful. Particularly as we build hope from resilience. Love it. It's grounded, it's actionable. Uh, and sort of a pioneer of hope research, Dr. Rick Snyder, conceptualized hope in this way as well. He noted that hope consists of two dimensions: agency and pathways.
So in his theory of hope, he interpreted agency as our determination and commitment that moves us toward a goal. And pathways are our perceptions about our ability to reach a goal and our perceived ability to pivot and make a new plan, to reach a goal when obstacles come up. Because they will, says the pessimist. It's perfect.
And the way he talked about these two dimensions though I think is super helpful. Dr. Snyder called them our willpower and our waypower. And we need both for hope. We need the will to shape our future, and we need to see the ways to make it happen. And there's also a really great study from 2020 that I think adds more of the grounding aspects to hope that I like so much.
This is a study from Dr. Katelyn Long and colleagues out of the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard. So they analyzed data out of the health and retirement study, which offers a really representative sample of US adults over the age of 50. They included 13,000 people in their analysis with an average age of 66, and found that a greater sense of hope was associated with better physical health.
So some specifics there were reduced all cause mortality, less chronic conditions or fewer chronic conditions, uh, a lower risk of cancer, and fewer sleep problems. Hope was also associated with higher psychological wellbeing, which included variables like a more positive mood, more life satisfaction, and feeling more purpose in their life.
Hope was also associated with lower psychological distress and better social wellbeing. So I think it's also interesting in this study, that hope had a less strong or no association with some other physical health outcomes like stroke, diabetes, and hypertension. So it's not like hope is this magic potion to stop all illnesses or that it can't exist when our physical body is sick.
And at the same time as we are linking it with resilience, we can see how working with the body and mind can foster hope. So in the same study, they found quite a few health and wellbeing factors, um, that served as antecedents of hope. Simply means that the efforts we take to improve the health of our bodies and minds can boost hope, and that boost in hope will return back to boost those same health and wellbeing factors.
And Henry, I'll just let you guess which factor the researchers highlighted as an antecedent or predictor of hope. With the exception of sleep, I think it's one of your favorite predictors of good mental health.
Henry: Hmm. Okay. I think it has to be either self-acceptance or social connection, cuz those are my three big pillars for good mental health. Those two plus plus sleep.
Okay, those were antecedents related to those, yes, but the one that they really were sort of focusing on? Physical activity.
Henry: Ah, okay. That's my fourth big pillar
Aimee: Right? I know. Shoot.
Henry: good mental health.
Aimee: there. Yeah. More physical a activity led to more hope. More hope led to more physical activity.
Henry: Yeah. So, you know, it's, it's worth adding that we do not see hope as a passive thing. It doesn't depend on something happening outside of ourselves, you know, outside of our sphere of influence.
In other words, we don't have to wait to be saved by some outside force. Because there's so much that we can do that we have a chance to influence in order to change the things that we want to change. And it doesn't require even changing the world around us. We can start within. So we're really shifting the nature of our conversation right now.
A conversation about resilience because we are going to go beyond what we eat, how we move even, how we manage the big stresses in our lives, or even how we relate to the natural world. We're gonna focus in these next few episodes on what I like to think of as the inner life. You know, what's going on inside of us, and how to build hope from within.
I love this because I think it changes the dynamic from, simply a focus on self-care or lifestyle medicine, you might say, toward looking at how we see the world and our place in it. And our perception, in other words. And that's really an inside out job. And that's the kind of thing that can build authentic hope from within.
Aimee: Yeah, I love that reminder. It's within. There's something here as well about meaning making that I think is interesting to name here in this episode. We touched on that term actually of languishing a few episodes ago. Sort of the opposite of feeling like you're tapping into meaning and purpose in your daily life, and I think the lack of these elements really addresses that experience of languishing, the lack of resilience and hope.
Uh, there's some really great conversations here by researchers looking at cultural perspectives of resilience, particularly the work of doctors Katherine Panter Brick and Mark Eggerman, and they identify that more resilient families are able to maintain hope in a way that gives meaning and order to suffering in life.
Isn't that beautiful? It's as if these families can weave the past, present, and future, with all its struggles, in a way that integrates all the really terrible pieces and the really wonderful ones as well, in a way that kind of blossoms hope from all of it. Which might sound overly optimistic, but it's really the heart of resilience and hope.
It's the way things are. Really, really terrible stuff and really, really beautiful stuff knocks into each other throughout all of our lives. And if we don't kind of tie the threads a bit and cultivate hope, then of course those terrible things tie us up or put us in that cynical, kind of apathetic, meh, state of languishing.
I really like the wisdom of activist and first president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel, about hope. It really erases a Pollyanna kind of stereotype hope can fall into, I think. This is what he said:
"Hope is not the conviction that something is going to turn up well, but the certainty that something makes sense, however things are going to turn out."
I like the way that feels in my body when I read it. I mean really viscerally hope is within us, just like resilience.
Henry: I love the way you and Vaclac Havel have just described that. Hope is visceral. It's woven into our bones. It's natural to us, just like resilience is natural to us. So some of our listeners no doubt are familiar with the story of Victor Frankl, who was a Jewish psychiatrist who survived the concentration camps. And he didn't just survive them either.
I think you could say that he used the experience to become an even more exceptional human being. He wrote about this later and he realized that no matter what happened on the outside, he retained the inner freedom to think and feel as he chose. No one could take that freedom away from him.
So he made the very conscious decision to keep his spirit alive, not in a fake or exuberant way, but really, really deeply, authentically. And he concluded, and this was not just at an intellectual level, but this was tested in the harshest conditions imaginable. He concluded that one can endure all kinds of suffering if you can find meaning and purpose in life, and you won't be broken by the suffering either.
So personally, I don't think we make meaning or hope from things that we have or what we do. I think meaning and hope are already there right in front of us. No matter where we are or what we do for a living. The trick which Victor Frankl discovered, is to realize that. And that means improving our ability to see what is.
So over these next four episodes, we're gonna try to do just that. We're going to get into the roots of resilience that involve the mind and the heart, which can help us to see more clearly. They might even help us to find more inner freedom. To become, like Victor Frankl, even more exceptional human beings.
Aimee: Yeah. We are all exceptional. Last episode, we learned that just sleep can be a big factor toward that exceptional self. just a nap. But in the next four episodes, we'll talk about lots more ways, as Henry just said, that you can tap into your exceptional, resilient, hopeful self. Here's a quick outline of what's coming.
So next episode, we'll discuss calming our minds. We'll then explain how we can turn toward our feelings, particularly the ones we rather run away from. After that, we'll learn about cultivating a good heart, and then we'll end our roots of resilience series on how we can create more deep connections.
Until then, let's close with a bit of patient and powerful wisdom from Eleanor Roosevelt. She said:
"We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down."
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