Hope and Joy This Season and Beyond

My holiday wish is that we individually and collectively celebrate this season with a focus on hope and joy; that as we move ahead to more normal days we find in them a more profound appreciation for the joy and hope they deliver. This article is dedicated to ways to accentuate those hopes and joys of the season…and the hopes and joys of each of our days going forward.

(Average reading time 180 seconds)

After coupling eight months of a pandemic with an emotionally charged and exhausting election, our most motivating attributes, hope and joy, may seem a bit elusive.

Yet research shows that the best reaction for this moment is hope combined with a focus on the joys, big and small, surrounding us. Hope and joy defend us from anxiety. They protect us from stress. A multitude of studies have demonstrated that hopeful and joyous people have better coping skills, lower levels of burnout, and rebound from setbacks better. Their relationships are stronger with better communications and more trust.

In addition to science, our common life experience tells us that people that are hopeful and joyous are less angry, less violent, more peaceful. Hope and joy emanate from and reinforce each other. Combined they upgrade our positive emotional, physical, mental and societal results.

Hope is usually defined as longing for something possible but not assured, combined with a confidence that you have some power to make it happen. It differs from optimism, which is trusting things will turn out positive no matter what actions you take.

Most psychologists believe there are two necessary components for hope: a motivation to achieve a desired goal and a strategy or plan to make it happen. The same is true for joy. Unless you are one of the lucky ones who inherited naturally joyous genes, to routinely experience joy you must have it as a goal and consciously do things to expand it in your life.

Here are some proven methods to upgrade the impact of this truly dynamic duo, hope and joy, in your everyday life.

Recognize Hope and Joy Are a Choice

The brain area that triggers us to experience hope and joy, the rostral anterior cingulate cortex, is ideally positioned at the intersection of the limbic system, which governs emotions, and the prefrontal cortex, where thoughts and actions are initiated. Scientists have demonstrated this is important as it gives us some intentional control over our levels of hope and joy.  Rick Miller, who directs the Advanced Study and Practice of Hope at Arizona State University states emphatically, “The good news is hope is choice”, as is joy.

Every situation is an opportunity. Either we harvest hope, joy and well-being, or boredom and misery – it is our choice. All our sufferings are created in our heads by worries about the future or regretting things from our past. Happiness comes from seeking the hope and joy in the situations, lessons and opportunities each day presents us. Why not make hope and joy your daily conscious goal, your desired choice…starting today?

Keep Company with Hopeful and Joyous People

We are a social species and want to belong. It benefits us physically, intellectually and emotionally to associate with hopeful and joyous people who know they are able to make choices and take actions to positively impact their present and future well-being. Through that association we learn from and reflect their positive traits and behavior. Seek out such people.

Have a Historical Perspective

As a nation we have endured the Great Depression, September 11th a Civil War and past civil unrest and turbulent political times. We battled Great Britain, the world’s dominate empire at the time, and won our independence. We’ve fought World War I, World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars and experienced an abundance of other society wide stressors and challenges. We’ve endured and prevailed as a great nation through it all. For me our history puts 2020 in perspective and serves as a reminder that bad times end.

It may take a bit more time and patience but we will overcome our current challenges as well. Therapeutics have been successfully deployed and vaccines are now being introduced. On some fronts the pendulum may have begun its swing to the positive side. Add your push to the positive by keeping our current situation in perspective with the past and offering up your share of hope and joy to the present.

Envision Your Four Quadrant Goals and Have a Plan

Visualize the quadrants of your life – Work, Family, Friends/Community and Self.

Now visualize what you would like each of them to look like in the future. Render them in detail in your mind. What are you doing? Who are you doing it with? What are you feeling? It is often helpful to write out this detailed description. Now pick at least one, if not all four, and determine what you need to start doing now as well as going forward to make that vision happen.  Schedule at least one of those to do items in your calendar. Now you have goals and a plan, the foundations of hope and joy.

Make Your Hope and Joy Contagious

With your words, actions and attitude express the hope and joy you find in each day to others. Share why you are hopeful and happy. Right now most of us are searching for more of both. Beget hope and joy to others. You make the world a better place when you do.

My expectant hope for the world is when normal begins to reappear each one of us will have a greater and lingering respect and appreciation for it; for the luxuries of an average life style that were unimaginable for most of human history; for the freedoms we have only possessed for little more than two centuries; that we will derive from those exceptional blessings an even greater hope and deeper joy as we continue our human journey.

May hope and joy be your constant companions for the holidays and beyond.



“We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy.”

“Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging.”

“The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.

Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) was an American mythologist, writer, and lecturer.


Take a Small Step

When struggling with stress we can become overwhelmed and inaction can set in. When in that mode select one goal for the week.  Identify and schedule the actions necessary to make it happen. Executing on that one focus goal as the priority can restore your sense of control. It delivers hope that you can positively shape your future.  You should also take away meaningful joy from your achievements big and small.  Literally pat yourself on the back when it’s done and you will see.