Is hope the answer for mental health? It might not be the only antidote to depression and despair but perhaps we can all agree that hope helps. Those who possess a healthy mind often possess hope. Hope connects us to the future and gives us something to get out of bed for.
I’ve got a brother who had a brain tumour around the age of 10 and as a result he lost the ability to talk. When his speech began to return it did so with very limited vocabulary. Today when he speaks, he creatively uses a limited number of words and most of the time he finds a way of saying what he needs to. As a result he’s got lots of catchphrases that if you’re around him for long enough you begin to pick up and enjoy. One of them is hope well. I hope you have a good day, I hope you are well… hope well. But those two words are pretty profound. What does it mean to hope well? There are times when that’s easier than others aren’t there? Losing sight of a hopeful perspective might be the most normal response to hard circumstances but it’s not the only one available.
A healthy heart and resilient mind are full of hope. We might have been advised not to hope in case what we long for doesn’t come to pass. It’s a plan that many of us adopt to protect our hearts from the pain of disappointment. But hope is the life blood of the heart. Not hoping is not living. The heart is the place where dreams are made and if broken, made again.
Carol Dweck, the author of Mindset and creator of the concept Growth Mindset discusses the role a hopeful perspective plays in contentment. In discussing the dissatisfaction she knew in various areas of her life she says ‘Nothing was easy. So why am I satisfied? I changed my mindset.’ This is hoping well. Clinging to a point of view which invites us to create a better future.
So what does this mean in the classroom? Beyond just hoping that Friday comes a little quicker there is a vital role that it plays. Hope is infectious. In choosing to see what is almost out of sight we encourage others to do the same. And in the classroom it means that children learn to approach the future well, to apply effort one more time thanks to the hope you have in them. The Pygmalion effect, made famous in the classroom by Rosenthal shows that the expectancy and belief that the teacher has towards the students has a significant impact upon them.
Hope flies in the face of cynicism. Cynicism – which believes the worst – is a poor masquerade for wisdom. It says ‘I’ve seen this before and it’s not good.’ And although hope looks foolish to the cynic it’s life to the child and fellow teacher that need it. In choosing to hope, you’re choosing to bring life to those around you and in a world where we have a mental health epidemic that goes a long way. Hope is one of the greatest needs in society today. There are people in your school who need hope, who need you to hope in them so they can hope in themselves once again.
At HeartSmart we offer tangible tools for you to use to inspire hope in your classroom. A fun, creative new approach that quickly captures a child’s imagination and results in a hope-filled internal dialogue. Through PSHE lessons, assemblies, films and so much more, schools are telling us that HeartSmart is having instant impact as children are learning that they are loved, to love others, to process hurt, be themselves and, through one of our HeartSmart principles ‘No Way Through’ isn’t True,… to hope well.
Today may you have the courage to see the way through, both for yourself and for others. And if you can’t see it yet, keep searching, there’s always a way through. May you… hope well.