Have you ever experienced an earthquake’s heartless devastation? Or perhaps an horrific natural disaster or man-generated trauma?
Imagine the world as you knew it literally crashed down upon you. You desperately try to locate your family and save your beloved cow and goats. Not pets, but your life-sustaining source of milk. Can you even visualize losing everything you owned except the clothes on your back, while this cacophony of no-control scenario raged down upon you?
Would you have HOPE that your life would ever get back on track, if you had no food, water, nor a place to call home? You slept on the soggy monsoon ground under a tarp, your family lined up under a few covers like knocked over dominoes. Cold, hungry, and no idea whatsoever how to reclaim your life?
I am sure most of you know about the recent horrific back-to-back earthquakes in Nepal. I briefly shared with you a few weeks ago the tragedy experienced by my Nepali son, Hari and his family.
I made a plea for your help.
You came through. Your kindness, empathy and generosity are saving my Nepali family’s lives. I thank you to the highest heavens for your gracious gifts, and so do they. To say they are sublimely humbled is an understatement. They are dumbstruck by your outpouring of help. They exist with very little even when their everyday world is intact. They never ask anyone for anything. But to be alive with no hope in sight has taken them mentally to the soggy dirt mattresses of their lives.
Before I talk to you about Hope, Optimism and Resilience, let me tell you a bit about our wonderful, humble Hari, age 30. He’s a former Himalayan trekker and tour leader. He is truly one of the most amazing men I had ever met. After meeting through the travel company he worked for at the time, we began to email. I had to cancel my planned trips to Nepal several times, as my dear Mom had medical emergencies. Regardless of all the extra work I inadvertently caused him, Hari was a total dear. Patient, sweet, and the most warmly genuine person I have ever met. I told him he was like my cherished mom in a male version! That is the biggest compliment I could give anyone. He lives his Hindu values with every breath he takes.
Hari and I adopted each other years ago.
He told me he had lost him mom when he was three. He had always prayed for a mom. Now he has an American version. Three years ago, Hari toured my two girlfriends and me across Nepal. He spoiled us rotten. Getting to know him was the gift that keeps on giving. My two Denver travel mates, Kim Kirmmse Toth and Kathy Knight, feel the same way. We are all family.
In September this year, we flew back to Nepal to see everyone again. We were delighted to stay in his home delightfully perched among the lush, steep mountains. Carved into the verdant hills, Nepal reminds me of a colder version of Bali, uniquely stunning.
Of course the electricity went off just as we were traversing the minuscule path down to his home, but with a gas lamp in tow, we had a delightful evening. Hari’s mantra, “Ama, not to worry, this is Nepal!” Ever the optimist, Hari can see the good. Usually, he is resilience and optimism personified.
That said, this earthquake has taken him literally to the ground.
He became ill and had a fever. He lost weight. Yet he never complained. Despite all this, he traveled that arduous journey to Kathmandu to call to me on Mother’s Day. Sincerity is his middle name. Though he tried to call repeatedly, the phone connection gremlin won. But I DID hear a plaintiff, “Ama, Happy Mother’s Day!”, before the phone went dead. Tears of frustration and joy washed down my face at the same time.
I emailed his telling him how much that call meant to me. It was his time of need, but as usual, he selflessly put me first. I implored him to tell me what I could do. He asked me for only two things. He wanted me to do a blog that he could share with the people of Nepal to help them come to grips with the disaster. Many lost family members as well as all their material goods. And let me tell you, they exist on what we would call subsistence level as it is. He said they have lost hope and are down-trodden. In a state of shock, they can see no future. They have no idea where to turn. Numbing losses are their only vistas.
His second wish?
That somehow he can get his children and wife somewhere to do a Skype call. Why the urgency? Listen to this. They are afraid I was hurt or died in the earthquake. He has tried to assure them I am OK and so are Aunties Kim and Kathy in Denver, but they cannot comprehend this. THEY who have lost everything are worried about ME. Talk about humbling. He feels they need to see our faces to believe we are well. Gulp yet again. I am hoping and praying we will be able to do this soon, but in Nepal, there are never guarantees.
Since the devastation, Hari’s im’s and emails are rare and precious. There is no longer internet connection available. It is a long bus ride down his beloved mountains to Kathmandu to get internet connection and to buy a few supplies. There was no relief at all until recently. His family was allowed to move into the school temporarily. International relief up north is sparse, too. Noodles and crackers to date. How I wish I had a way to get vitamin pills to him, not to mention fruits and vegetables. But these are sparse even in the best of times. But I CAN send some positive psychology Hope, Optimism, and Resilience.
Hope… What a small word for a gigantic concept.
What is HOPE, anyway? And how do hope and optimism differ? How can you become optimistic and have sustaining resilience when the lens you are looking through is smashed and washed away by your tragic losses? It is surely hard to bounce back when you have seemingly nowhere to begin to bounce! You feel as if your feet are in concrete and the waves of despair are drowning you.
Hope Theory, originated by Dr. Rick Snyder, has been around for about 50 years. His book, The Psychology of Hope: You Can Get There from Here, is a classic. Hope research has flourished with the recent advent of positive psychology, especially research by Gallop’s senior scientist, Dr. Shane Lopez. His most recent book, Making Hope Happen, Lopez dedicated to Snyder, his friend and mentor.
Lopez defines hope “as the belief the future will be better than the present” along with the belief that “you have the power to make it so”. You can see why hope is especially imperative and empowering after a disaster. Lopez also maintains, “Hope is the leading indicator of success in relationships, academics, career and business — as well as of a happier, healthy life.” YES! This is exactly what Nepal needs right now. But understandably, using their character strengths is stretched to the limits.
Help in this respectfully infrastructure-poor country is severely limited. Your gifts help spread world awareness and offer them the energy to resurrect the hope and optimism they sorely need to recover. They need to know we have not forgotten them. But what is optimism? And how is it related to hope?
Optimism, according to Lopez, is different than hope.
Optimism is thinking that the future will be better than the present.” Hope is thinking “that the future will be better and you have a role in making it so.” Hope adds action. You have a role in making your future better. He outlines “The Hope Cycle” to include goals, your desired better future self; agency, your perceived ability and motivation, energy and perceived ability to achieve your goals; and pathways are the routes you take to achieve your goals. The paths you take to spark your creative problem-solving. For added empowerment, garnish your journeys with a twist of grit, passion and persistence, as you work towards your goals.
Hope is a terrific practical strategy that can have amazing results. Please note, however, that some people seem to be born a tad more upbeat than others. Regardless, anyone can increase their hope by actively practicing the 4-step belief that:
- The future will be better than the present.
- I have the power to make it so.
- There are many paths to my goal.
- None of them is free of challenges.
Lopez is spearheading fascinating new research showing not only that hope is good for your well-being, but it is also a measurable quality that can be increased with practice. His new book enlightens practical ways to nurture a positive and active approach to life. To keep alive even the smallest ray of sunshine will foster personal growth. View his optimism-inspired video here to spur hope on.
Want to explore your hope? Take the The Adult Trait Hope Scale by Snyder (Snyder et al., 1991).
Why is resilience so important and essential to live a positive psychology-based life?
Resilience is imperative to live your best self life. Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find ways to rise from the ashes. Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make someone resilience, among them, a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback. Even after misfortune, resilient people blessed with such an outlook are able to change the course and soldier on.
Here’s a great article in fostering resilience in times of disaster. Yes, it is geared for those of us in the West who are so blessed and fortunate compared to our friends on the other side of the world. I want to be mindful of our cultural differences, but I hope the kind people of Nepal find some of them helpful, too:
1. To focus on what is positive, even if it is only a smile from someone else. One flower. A hug. One memento saved. All provide meaning for you. Look for what is good/right.
2. Have confidence in yourself. That you cannot control life, but you can learn to have more appropriate reactions.
3. Put things into perspective. Tiny steps, like getting up and taking a walk, are better than sitting worried.
4. Focus on whatever you CAN do, no matter how small the step. Move toward your goals little by little.
5. Engage actively in coping. Journal your feelings and thoughts. If you have no paper, find a willing person with whom to share your feelings. Don’t censor. Be real.
6. Connect with others. You matter! Give and receive help. Spending time with others helps you feel a bond of belonging. You are not alone.
7. Draw support from those you care about. Pay that back to them. Then pay it forward to others. Helping another ignites your well-being.
8. Nurture your spirituality. Life will be better again. Talk to your higher power. Connect with nature. Ask yourself what you can do again to make life better for yourself.
9. Accept all your thoughts and feelings, even negative ones. It is OK to vent. Listen to what hurts. That’s normal. Allow all emotions that arise. Let go of those that do not serve your values.
Lastly, here’s another good blog article, Why Hope Matters in a World of Uncertainty.
Why does hope matter?
Because it is positively contagious! One simple smile can light up someone else’s world and add the very meaning a catastrophe has washed away. Research shows that people with hope cope better with injury, disease, and physical pain. They take better care of themselves. They are more engaged and productive. They achieve more, have better self-esteem, find life more meaningful, and have higher life satisfaction. They are flexible, adaptable and more resilient. They live longer happier lives.
Hope is not wishing, it is an action plan for you to create a more positive future for yourself. Nepal is an extremely lovely place with the most wonderful, caring people. But the lack of resources is a daily fact of life. Regardless, the Nepali people are a pure reflection of positive psychologist Barbara Fredrickson’s living loving-kindness. They will share their meager food with you and make sure you get the best of it, even when you protest. They are the real deal.
And speaking of Barbara Fredrickson, here is a 4-sentence loving-kindness mantra to bring peace. I have it taped on my computer:
May I be filled with loving-kindness.
May I be safe and protected.
May I be resilient in mind and body.
May I live with ease and joy.
Your gift to help the Nepali’s recover and rebuild their lives adds the fiber they need to get back on track.
I hope you can see and feel how your prayers, love and donations empower these gentle folks to get back up on their feet and look at life with a smile again. You are helping them harness hope to energize their creativity and buttress their staying power. Your support allows them to dream about and implement plans for life to assist them in feeling whole and solid once again.
Deep thanks to you all for helping my family gear up to re-vitalize their lives. I know in this process they will pay the hope forward to others along the way. The journey begins with one step, and you are helping them take that step.
Hari desperately wants to thank you himself, but at least for right now, I will need to do that for him.
Love and deepest gratitude to you all,
Judy and the Hari Aryal family
PS. The adorable photo of energetic lemonade stand entrepreneurs are friends Sarah and Todd Kashdan’s three darling, spunky little girls, Chloe, Raven and Violet. Their hard work paid off. They raised big bucks for the campaign, and Sarah and Todd matched the donations. Fantastic to see kids living their best self lives and paying forward their love. A win-win positivity force traveling around the world.
If you see it in your heart to help, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.