Make Hope your daily neuroplasticity workout


As a physician healer, I often hear the phrases, "Don't get their hopes up" from other docs trying to convey that we must be realistic with patients. (Of course we do, but bear with me here.) Or from patients, "I don't want to get my hopes up, doctor" lest they be shattered. Do you hear what I hear behind these statements? Fear, a whole lot of fear. We don't want to have "false hope"...we don't want to get too excited for something that might not happen.

But today I am going to break down why I think this is the wrong way to approach life. And it's not because I think you get everything you want or put out to the universe. No, I can vouch that life does not always turn out the way you expected. And that it is a total bummer when it doesn't. But this fear-based way of living is shattering your ability to live fully. It's time to release it and I am going to break down exactly why and how. 

Alright, let's start with the negative effects of shunning Hope.

Yep, it's bad for your health, take it from this doctor!

1. Notice when you move away from Hope and towards despair or hopelessness, what happens in your body? 

This will be different for everyone but invariably, there is a tensing somewhere. A clenching, a resistance. Notice for yourself next time where it resides in your body. Your shoulders, your jaw, your heart...? I noticed when I was in a series of stressful years trying to fight for inclusion of my disabled child, I would go into each meeting wanting to be hopeful deep down inside but instead, not "wanting to get my Hopes up." And so I would brace, I would constrict (mostly in my neck and shoulders) and I could feel this tension mount inside of me as I neared the meeting. Now, is that the way to go into a meeting? You know the answer. When we resist the urge to have Hope, we cause this tension and stress in our bodies and I know you don't need more of that. Yep, isn't it ironic to create more stress, while we are waiting to see how an already stressful situation will pan out. Do you see what I am getting at? Don't layer on more stress!!

2. When we move away from Hope, we invariably move towards negative thinking. Moreover, we lose the opportunity to rewire our brain. 

Alright, walk through this with me. Each time I resisted Hope in my example, do you see how I invariably moved myself to expecting a less than positive outcome? It wasn't intentional. But that's what happens. Try this example. A few months ago, I asked one of the resident physicians we train how their fellowship interview went. "Good, I think, but I don't want to get my hopes up." There it was again. That dreaded statement. So I asked, "Why not, why wouldn't you have Hope?" The answer was to prevent disappointment if the outcome was a rejection. Okay, try this on, I asked. "Won't you be disappointed, no matter what, if you are rejected?" Well, of course. Then, why spend more time in disappointment? Why not live these moments leading up to the decision in Hope, in living in the Possible, in feeling comfortable with your potential? 

You see, our brains are wired to look for the negative. To look for the threats. That doesn't serve our modern lives very well. So why not take every opportunity you have to rewire yourself for the positive? When you are waiting in Hope, you are rewiring your brain and even if the answer is a disappointment, you have primed your brains for living more time in the possible. That's a good place to be and a good place to smoothly flow back into any time you need. Stay there as often as you can!

3. When we shun Hope, we accept Fear as our only story. 

Now, if you have been following me for a while, you know that I am good with feeling and accepting all emotions, including fear. It has a ton to teach us. So, I am not saying that fear is something to push away. No, to the contrary. I am merely saying that you are much much bigger than just your fear. You are so much more than that. But Fear is a large, taking up a lot of space, kind of character. When Fear is around, other parts of us tend to sit back in its shadow. When we take on hope, we allow our other stories to share the stage. You are not just fear. You are more complex than that. If I had accepted fear as my only story for my son, I would have stayed in my clenched, negative self and he would not be in the mainstream classroom now, thriving and teaching so many children compassion and tolerance. Now, his story, and thus mine are much more vibrant. Make your story more complex, make it as rich as it deserves to be. 

4. Even if the final outcome is not what you wanted, there is ALWAYS HOPE to be had. 

Yep, Hope still has a role even when we feel disappointed! Now there is room for Hope that we will accept what is so that we can make change for next time. It is much harder to reattach to Hope when we have left her in the dust for so long. You gotta hang with Hope so that she keeps on keeping on. I hold Hope for so many outcomes now for my son even when things don't go the way I wanted. 

Do you see how not getting your Hopes up is hurting your chance at living this beautiful life?

So, let's try this on, RIGHT NOW....

Let's reframe our language. Instead of those automatic, repetitive comments about Hope we hear and say so often, let's try on a way that supports our best and most vibrant self...

"I am scared, but today I choose Hope."

"Hope is part of my story, always."

"Hope is never false."

"Hope is always with me."

Try on one of these, try on your own but try something.

Your chance at living your full, thriving life depends on it. Next time don't dash your Hope, boost it up as far as it can go. It will stay supercharged for you to hold on anytime you need.

Live (and Hope) well,