Research Finds That Hope Heals

April 2, 2018




It isn’t the same as faith. To have faith is to put complete trust or confidence in someone or something, often blindly. Hope takes faith further. True hope is to believe that something good can happen, that a positive outcome is possible—based on both faith and understanding.


Jerry Groopman, MD, author of The Anatomy of Hope, writes that hope is not merely thinking positively, but rather requires understanding and acknowledgement of the obstacles. He says, there is “no room for delusion” if we are to be truly hopeful. What does this understanding require? Knowledge. Knowing what has happened. Knowing what may happen. Knowing that you have the ability to influence your outcome. Some of the most powerful “medicine” cannot be prescribed by any physician. This medicine comes from within, from inside the human brain.


Did you catch that? Chemicals in the brain can actually help facilitate healing. The very fact that we have direct access to this “medicine” should give us great hope. Furthermore, feeling hopeful can enhance mood. It can also reduce or eliminate pain, improve quality of life and vitality, and promote healing without side effects. “Researchers are learning that a change in mind-set has the power to alter neurochemistry,” writes Dr. Groopman. How does this work? Hope (belief and expectation) releases endorphins and enkephalins that mimic the effects of morphine. In some cases, hope can even result in important effects on body processes like respiration, circulation and motor function. Additionally, the mental states associated with hope impact the nervous system, which can set off a chain reaction facilitating improvement and even recovery.


An additional correlation between hope and health can be made. Studies have consistently shown that hope promotes healthy behaviors such as eating nutrient-dense foods, exercising and quitting smoking. In his book, Making Hope Happen, Shane Lopez writes that “hope for the future is clearly linked with daily habits that support health and prevent disease.” Lopez continues to describe how hope initiates a positive cycle. When you have hope, you are motivated to make an investment in your future that pays off in the present—in what you eat, whether you exercise, how you manage stress and relationships, and whether you prioritize sleep, rest and other self-care practices.


Yet, for many people, hope can seem like an intangible--something outside of reach. The good news is there are several different pathways that lead to hope. In 2008, Duane Bidwell (a professor of practical theology) and his colleague, Dr. Donald Batisky (a pediatric nephrologist) set out to study hope by observing children suffering from end-stage renal failure. Their research identified 5 primary pathways to hope.

  1. Maintaining Identity (normalcy outside of diagnosis and treatment)

  2. Realizing Community (understanding you are not alone)

  3. Claiming Power (an active role in treatment by monitoring and maintaining your own health)

  4. Attending to Spirituality (religious, spiritual or other contemplative practices)

  5. Developing Wisdom (pragmatic and medical wisdom and finding ways to give back)

They discovered that the pathways were not a step by step prescription, but rather that hope can be accessed through any (and all) of these pathways—the more the better. Bidwell also noted that although literature tends to treat hope as a virtue or emotion, their study revealed that hope is more a social resource. It comes about due to interactions with the people who surround us, and then is embodied. Essentially the “team” of people you surround yourself with will greatly impact the level of hope that you are able to have.


Our team at BE WELLness considers it a great honor and privilege to help point our customers and clients towards these pathways to hope. We are committed to helping individuals understand and maintain their identity, not accepting a diagnosis as that identity. We prioritize building community and empowering individuals to claim back power when it comes to their personal health. We continuously stress the importance of holistic health, including spirituality as an integral part. Lastly, we pursue wisdom and encourage our customers and clients to do the same. Our greatest desire is to bring wellness within reach in North Iowa, and hope is the vessel most capable of bringing that wellness within reach.


If you're looking for a "team" of people to come alongside you, we (along with our BE WELLness Collaborative Partners) would love to help.  (641) 529-0143 or email us at

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Please reload

Featured Posts

I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!

Please reload

Recent Posts

June 18, 2019