The Science of Hope and Healing

“Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.”
Christopher Reeve


Hope is defined by Ratner (2017), as “an individual’s goal-oriented expectations that include both agency (desire to achieve goals) and pathways (finding ways to achieve them).” Hope theory suggests that hope helps motivate behavior in the face of obstacles as well as provides the psychological resources to help people respond to trauma with resilience (Snyder, Rand, & Sigmond, 2018). Hope gives us a way to move beyond our challenges and allows us to focus on what is possible rather than what is wrong. We need to look into our darkness to find the light. This will give us the opportunity to find meaning in life (What is H.O.P.E?).


Hope can help us to heal from many challenges we are facing or have faced in our lives. Studies show that hope can serve as a buffer against difficult life events and is also related to life satisfaction. Optimism is a strong aspect of hope, which has been found to reduce symptoms of depression and suicidal ideation (Duggal, Sacks-Zimmerman, & Liberta, 2016). Hope can also lead to better outcomes during life threatening health conditions. Research suggests that the brain mechanisms influenced by hope can counteract anxiety. This region of the brain is called the bilateral medial orbitofrontal cortex, which produces motivation as well as problem-solving and goal-oriented behavior (Ratner, 2017).


Survivors, first responders, and helping professionals are facing multiple layers of stress, not only from experiencing or witnessing trauma, but also from the stress that COVID-19 has added to our lives. It can be daunting to live and work in the face of this uncertainty. These current stressors for survivors and first responders are having negative effects on occupational, physical, mental, emotional, and relational well-being. Now, more than ever, cultivating hope is an essential part of maintaining our well-being and thriving in the world.


Here are some ways to cultivate hope (Scharff, 2020):

  • Mindfulness: Remind ourselves that we are safe in this moment during times of distress. Activities such as meditation can help us to practice mindfulness.
  • Spiritual Engagement: Connecting ourselves to a deep sense of purpose. This could include things such as being in nature or engaging in spiritual practices.
  • Engage in activities that bring us joy and finding new activities to try.
  • Connect with others who support us and bring us joy.
  • Help others in need and perform acts of kindness.
  • Find gratitude for what we have and what is going well in our lives.

We are here for you at Resilient Retreat to help you cultivate more hope in your everyday life. Please call us anytime at 941-343-0039 to speak with one of our certified trauma professionals or email us at


  • Snyder, C. R., Rand, K. L., and Sigmon, D. R. (2018). Hope Theory: A Member of the Positive Psychology Family. The Oxford Handbook Hope.
  • Duggal, D., Sacks-Zimmerman, A., & Liberta, T. (2016). The Impact of Hope and Resilience on Multiple Factors in Neurosurgical Patients. Cureus, 8(10), e849.
  • Ratner, P. (2017). Scientists Find Out How Hope Protects the Brain. Retrieved from:
  • Scharff, C. (2020). 7 Ways to Cultivate Hope, Even in Trying Times. Try these simple practices to improve your outlook on life. Retrieved from:
  • What is H.O.P.E. Retrieved from: