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  • Writer's picturePenelope Davis

Hope and Optimism

Hope plays a major part in Positive Psychology. In fact, a branch of Positive Psychology is called Hope Theory. According to a study by Snyder, et. Al., hope is defined as a state that utilizes determination, goal orientation, and personal agency that helps us work to achieve the things we want. Incorporating optimism can improve both mental and physical health, helps with coping, increases immunity, increases quality and quantity of life. 

Hope can help increase resiliency. Hope is like a light at the end of the tunnel. When we can foresee that there is an end to the challenge that we are facing, it’s easier for us to keep moving towards that closure. Hope can help motivate us to make positive changes in our lives. Hope is also dynamic. It can be focused on achieving goals, finding comfort or happiness, finding peace, or promoting growth by overcoming obstacles. If we feel defeated, hope can also help us bounce back and return to normality. 

What is the difference between hope and optimism? Hope involves a desire that you work towards. Core components of hope include things like will and follow-through. Optimism on the other hand is a broader concept of general positivity. Optimism tells us, “Everything will be okay.” Optimism means having a positive outlook on life and can be a personality trait. Everyone can experience optimism, but some people are more optimistic than others. 

Optimism is part of the foundation of Positive Psychology. Optimism increases in physical health, well-being, and helps us build stronger relationships with others. However, this doesn’t mean that we ignore risks, obstacles, or be overly cheerful. We must have a balanced perspective that sees the negatives and both hope that we can overcome them and have faith in our own self-efficacy that we have the skills to overcome them. To do this, we must face those challenges and acknowledge the negatives in the situation. 

Cultivating optimism and hope in our lives involves exercises like practicing gratitude, actively challenging negative thoughts, practice mindfulness, be willing to learn from mistakes, practice self-compassion, and set SMART goals. SMART goals are goals that are strategic, measurable, achievable, and time oriented. One of the major problems we have is when we set unattainable and unrealistic goals for ourselves and then feel defeated when we can’t achieve them. Using SMART goals helps us reflect on what we want and if that goal is grounded. Hope can be cultivated in a similar way to optimism. By cultivating mindfulness, practicing self-compassion, learning from mistakes, practicing gratitude, and breaking big tasks into smaller ones to make them more achievable. 

For more information check out our Positive Psychology Group! 


Snyder, C. R., Irving, L. M., & Anderson, J. R. (1991). Hope and health. In C. R. Snyder & D. R. Forsyth (Eds.), Pergamon general psychology series, Vol. 162. Handbook of social and clinical psychology: The health perspective (pp. 285-305). Elmsford, NY: Pergamon Press.

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