“Hope springs eternal in the human breast” – Alexander Pope
There was a collective sigh of relief recently in my neck of the woods. Spring had finally sprung!
Buds burst into life and miraculously became bright green leaves and beautiful blossom seemingly overnight. Such a wondrous sight.
On one of those first glorious days I visited Nymans, a renowned garden in the south east of England. As I followed its winding paths my senses were re-awakened after the dreariness of winter.
I feasted my eyes on daffodils, magnolias and emerging beech and oak leaves. Gambolling lambs warmed my heart. I closed my eyes to listen to the rapturous song of blackbirds and robins and felt the kiss of the sun on my face.
So much beauty and bounty feeds the spirit.
How much easier is it to succumb to negativity or depression in the depths of winter when day after day is dark and cold? The lack of positive distractions for the senses almost compels us to look inwards and become conscious of any discomfort or emptiness in our lives.
Losing both my parents in successive winters has taken its toll on my usually positive mental attitude. Time has passed more slowly and painfully for me, particularly without the diversion of a job. Yet I know so many people battle far, far worse circumstances.
But at last spring is here with its gift of rekindling hope.
I say “rekindling” because hope doesn’t die (Pope says it well: it springs eternal in the human breast): but it can lie dormant, waiting to re-emerge like the buds in spring. Furthermore, it isn’t something that magically appears from some external source: we generate it from within ourselves. We sometimes just need a little help to do this and to find ways to increase hope.
What is hope, then? According to the Oxford English Dictionary hope means expectation of something desired; desire combined with expectation.
Hope motivates us to reach for goals. Without hope we don’t believe we can attain them so we may not even try. When we have no hope we feel any attempt to change our situation is pointless – in other words, hopeless.
Hope is future-oriented. It gives us reasons to live, enables us to change our lives for the better, to live more meaningful lives.
I believe hope is even more vital in retirement when our timeline – our future – is so much less expansive than when we were younger.
So if spring can inspire hope, what can we do to boost our store of this life-enhancing gift? Here are a few reminders.
- Look for the good in everything and everyone rather than focusing on the negative. We find what we focus on.
- Appreciate and be grateful for what you have and the good things around you – big things (like good health, a loving family, friends, a home) and small ones (such as the sight of a flower or hearing birdsong).
- Be nice to everyone you come across in your day. They will usually be nice back and everyone’s day will be brighter.
- Do something kind for someone. Making a difference in someone else’s life – someone you know or a stranger – creates hope in both the giver and receiver.
- Volunteer for a good cause that resonates with your values. There are so many benefits which include making the world a better place and feeling more positive about yourself and hopeful for the future.
- Laugh! It will make you feel so much more optimistic and hopeful – and since laughter is contagious, other people will benefit too.
These are just a few ways to increase hope. And if we can help others to be more hopeful and optimistic in the process, we may even change the world!
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