The ancient wisdom of the Tao Te Ching tells us that:
The Tao leader creates harmony
Reaching from the heart
To build community.
(Tao, chapter 49)
Today we need community more than ever to restore our hope. In the midst of the COVID pandemic, research reveals alarming rates of depression and anxiety worldwide (Nochaiwong, Ruengorn, Thavorn, et al., 2021). In America, 84% of adults have been experiencing prolonged stress and 40% have had symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 2021; Panchal, Kamal, Cox, & Garfield, 2021).
Research has shown that we need a sense of community to live healthy lives (Fredrickson, 2013; Seligman, 2011; Umberson &Montez, 2010). The Hopeful Mindsets project has found that building a Hope Network is one of the five keys to restoring our hope (iFred, 2021).
Do you have a Hope Network--a supportive team of people who care about you? Not just anyone but people you can trust and confide in, who offer encouragement and support, who make you feel better when you're around them.
Who's on your hope team? Your best friend? A wise mentor? A trusted family member? A supportive teacher, doctor, therapist, faith leader, counselor, or coach? As you cultivate your hope network, become more aware of the quality of your connections. Someone who makes you feel inferior or drains your energy can only be an acquaintance, not someone for your hope network. Cultivate your hope network intentionally,strengthening your current connections and building new ones with these five steps inspired by the Hopeful Mindsets Project (iFred, 2021).
1. Listen with empathy to the people around you. Often, the best gift you can give someone is simply letting them know they've been seen and heard. Ask how they feel, then take a deep breath and just listen, reflecting back what you've heard.
2. Practice Openness. Take your relationship deeper than simply talking about the weather, sports, or the latest news. Begin sharing your feelings, goals, and challenges as you listen to theirs.
3. Forgive yourself and others. We all make mistakes. When you think of a past mistake, give yourself self-compassion, realizing it's only human to make mistakes and forgive yourself (Neff, 2011). If you've been harboring feelings of hurt, anger, or resentment toward someone, consider one thing you've learned from this experience. This may mean standing up for yourself and setting better boundaries (Neff, 2021). Give yourself self-compassion, then release the negative feelings, and move on.
4. Express appreciation with the 5:1 rule. Consciously look for the good in the people around you and point it out, giving five positive comments for every critical one.
5. Perform simple acts of kindness not only with friends and family but also when you're out doing errands. Hold the door open for a person carrying packages or let someone with only a few grocery items go ahead of you in line. Challenge yourself to perform at least one act of kindness each day.
Now think of one step you can take to cultivate your hope network—can you listen, be more open, forgive yourself and others, express appreciation, or perform an act of kindness? As you take that step, feel a warm sense of connection and community as you bring greater hope to your life and the world.
I wish you joy on the path.
American Psychiatric Association. (2021, February 2). U.S. adults report highest stress level since early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2021/02/adults-stress-pandemic
Fredrickson, B. (2013). Love 2.0: How our supreme emotion affects everything we feel, think, do, and become. New York, NY: Hudson Street Press.
International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression (iFred). (2021). The Hopeful Mindsets Project. https://hopefulmindsets.com/
Neff, K. (2011). Self-compassion: Stop beating yourself up and leave insecurity behind. New York, NY: William Morrow.
Neff, K. (2021). Fierce self-compassion: How women can harness kindness to speak up, claim their power, and thrive. New York, NY: Harper Wave.
Nochaiwong, S., Ruengorn, C., Thavorn, K. et al. (2021). Global prevalence of mental health issues among the general population during the coronavirus disease-2019 pandemic: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Scientific Reports, 11, 10173. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-89700-8
Panchal, N., Kamal, R., Cox, C. & Garfield, R. (2021, Feb 10). The implications of COVID-19 for mental health and substance use. Kaiser Family Foundation. https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/the-implications-of-covid-19-for-mental-health-and-substance-use/
Seligman, M.E.P. (2011). Flourish. New York, NY: Free Press.
Umberson, D., Montez, J. K. (2010).Social relationships and health: A flashpoint for health policy. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 51(1), S54 - S66.