Training Your Brain to Retain Hope

Training your brain to retain hope will help you reduce the impact of stress and anxiety. Likewise, being able to transmit this feeling to those close to you makes it possible to create safer and more emotionally nurturing environments.
Training Your Brain to Retain Hope
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

It’s possible to train your brain to retain hope and any time is as good as any to make changes and evolve mentally and emotionally. Also, to better integrate new thinking schemes with which to make your way through the present. Likewise, you can’t ignore one thing: that enhancing all of these directly improves your mental health.

There’s another important factor: you mustn’t only be able to maintain and retain hope but you must also know how to transmit it to others. Society has reached a point where everything related to the issue of personal growth is focused on self-care, procuring self-well-being and happiness.

One could almost say people are drifting into a kind of somewhat selfish materialism, all at once. It’s also time to go beyond oneself and take into account those who are nearest. Thus, it’s time to cultivate certain psychological skills with which to improve the quality of life and, in turn, be able to create nurturing environments for everyone.

Having hope might just be the most determining value and emotional resource right now. Continue reading to find out how to do it.

“The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.”

-Barbara Kingsolver-

A person releasing a bird.

Five keys to training your brain to retain hope

Psychologist Dacher Keltner, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, understands hope from a neuropsychological point of view. In his book Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life, he explains the mechanics of the areas that have a strong impact on well-being and happiness. He also discusses mental health in it.

He goes on to say that people are biologically prepared to experience hope. This fact that gets one’s attention has an explanation behind it: it’s a survival mechanism. The brain will always prioritize optimism, overcoming, or resilience in the face of defeatism. This is because, otherwise, people wouldn’t be able to advance in the journey of life.

There’s also research such as a study conducted at SiChuan University in China. It illustrates that hope is an antidote for stress and anxiety. Researchers observed, through MRIs, that one can train the brain to retain hope via psychological therapy.

It happens by greatly activating areas such as the bilateral medial orbitofrontal cortex. Also, by reducing the level of cortisol in the blood. All this translates into greater motivation and confidence in oneself and one’s future. Thus, researchers developed some keys with which humans can enhance this dimension.

Think short-term

You can better retain hope if you set a short-term goal rather than a long-term one. Thus, it’s best to look at what might happen next week or next month in order to reduce stress and have a greater sense of control.

That which might happen in 12 months is still unknown. Thus, focusing on it often leads to discomfort. As you can see, it’s better to concentrate on something that’ll happen sooner.

Hence, it’s best to set simple goals for a few days from now. For example, tell yourself that all you want to achieve next week is to meet with friends or acquaintances and share ideas about your professional life.

It might just be that someone knows of a job offer or gives you an idea that’ll make you feel better in one of these encounters. The mere fact of attaining that week’s goal will make you feel better. In fact, you’ll feel more confident about achieving anything you set your mind to.

Finding meaning in the daily little things

Training the brain to maintain hope involves finding vital meanings. The human brain needs things, dimensions, and people to anchor in order to feel safe. Thus, having hobbies and values, and remembering what you’re passionate about, or would like to achieve in life, act as an anchor towards safety. They help you keep looking forward to your future.

To emphasize them, take a notebook and write simple sentences that represent what’s meaningful in everyday life. For example:

  • “I like to be with my partner” translates to “Love helps me retain hope”.
  • Also, “I enjoy being with my pets and taking them out for a walk in the mountains or at the beach” translates to “Nature is important to me”.
  • “My work is important” can be expressed as “I would like to advance professionally, this gives me the strength to continue”.
A person at the beach.

Train your brain to retain hope and stop looking back

Your mind will obsessively drift into a lost yesterday that won’t allow you to move forward if you’re nostalgic about the past and focus on it. In turn, training your brain to maintain hope implies having control over your thoughts and attention.

As we mentioned above, it isn’t appropriate to look at a too distant future where nothing is certain. That’s where there are only hypotheses that can increase anxiety. Likewise, it isn’t correct to place yourself in the past that’s no longer there.

How to succeed, then? Well, focus your attention on the present and no farther than the short term future. This is your zone of survival and also of opportunities. You must seed this area with new decisions in order for your objectives to flourish. Likewise, it’s also that scenario in which new opportunities hide. Yes, the ones you should take advantage of.

The mere act of accomplishing things increases your hope and makes you feel safer. To conclude, your level of hope has a direct impact on your mental health. Thus, working on it and transmitting it to others should be your immediate priority. Just keep that in mind.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Wang S, Xu X, Zhou M1. Hope and the brain: Trait hope mediates the protective role of medial orbitofrontal cortex spontaneous activity against anxiety.Neuroimage. 2017 Aug 15;157:439-447. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2017.05.056

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.