Monday, July 10, 2006

Habit of Hope

I’m going to post something that may at first glance seem a bit odd for a writer’s blog. The thing is that I believe that we who write hold tremendous power in our words. We can help readers imagine places and people and situations and POSSIBILITIES they might not otherwise ever know. When I write, I try to imagine how my characters can overcome whatever challenges might be in their lives.

Part of this, of course, grows out of the fact that in my own life I’ve faced a number of challenges and had times when it was easy to feel overwhelmed. I know the difference it made in my life when I began to create a Habit of Hope.

I put that in capital letters because it’s important and not something our culture always encourages. But it’s something I try to give my characters and it’s the way I try to live my life. It’s my hope, often, as I write my books that seeing my characters triumph over difficult odds may encourage readers to believe that they, too, can triumph over the challenges in their lives.

So...what do I mean by a Habit of Hope? Well, let’s begin with what it’s not.

For many people, it’s far too easy to fall into a pattern of feeling discouraged or sad—and often with good reason, given what’s happened in their lives. Unfortunately, this makes life an uphill battle.

So how can you—or your characters!—replace this with a Habit of Hope?

1) Surround yourself with things you LIKE. This includes wearing clothes that make you feel happy and confident, eating foods that are HEALTHY and make you smile, doing things you love.

2) Find ways, EVERY DAY to smile, NO MATTER WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON IN YOUR LIFE. If you do this when times are good, then when you hit a rough patch you already have this habit. And by smiling, even in the midst of difficult times, you are promising yourself that you will not always feel this way. You are promising yourself that no matter what happens you will ALWAYS be able to find moments of happiness.

3) Make and hold onto a list of everything good about yourself—all your strengths, all your successes, all the good things about who you are. And every time you feel stressed or scared, look at that list and remind yourself of these things!

When we do these things, it changes our lives. We feel more confident, we have more resilience, we see other people and the world in new ways, and our brains literally begin to function more efficiently under stress. And as we change how we see the world, we change how the world sees us as well.

So please, begin today. Seek out things you have that make you smile. Surround yourself with them. Make it a point to find reasons to smile at least three times every day (and even more if you can!), and make that list of successes and strengths and good things about yourself. Create that Habit of Hope. And if you’re a writer, look at the ways in which your characters might be able to have or learn to have habits of hope as well.