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Wish Blog

Jul 14, 2020

The Health Benefits of Hope

Child smiling
At Make-A-Wish, we know that hope is a powerful thing. For a majority of our wish kids, the wish experience actually serves as a catalyst to better health.

When a wish is granted, it gives the child control they feel they’ve lost, and helps them replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy and anxiety with hope. Mental and emotional health matters immensely and can directly impact your physical health, which is just one reason why the wish experience is so essential.

While many wishes have been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the promise of a wish to come is still providing something children with critical illnesses need more than ever right now – hope.

When you summon hope, it can help not just your state of mind and emotional wellbeing, but your physical health as well. Andrea Bonior, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, speaker on the faculty of Georgetown University, and the author of “Detox Your Thoughts: Quit Negative Self-Talk for Good and Discover the Life You've Always Wanted.” In her article, “The Health Benefits of Hope,” she explains that seeing the light in dark times has important positive implications.

Here are some of the ways hope and optimism can help:

Hope can reduce physical pain. Several studies have shown that those who have higher dispositional (trait) hope have lower perceptions of pain. This could be in part because people with higher hope are less likely to jump to extreme negative conclusions about their pain, which in turn diminishes its mental hold on them. And when pain seems less powerful cognitively, it takes up less of your attention, allowing you to view it as less debilitating. The perception of pain is the classic example of a process that seems objective and physiological, but instead has much to do with our emotional and cognitive interpretation.

Hope may boost circulation and respiration. Hope, optimism, and a positive outlook, in general, have been associated with protection against chronic illnesses. This may be in part because the absence of depression or chronic negative emotions is important in its own right — we know that those can be detrimental to overall health. It could also be that people who are more hopeful and optimistic are more likely to engage in positive health behaviors and take better care of themselves. That said, it is still strongly suggested that hope in and of itself has a positive effect on physiological processes like circulation and respiration, most likely because of its stress-reduction properties — which in turn help keep the nervous system from being overtaxed.

Optimism improves cardiovascular health. The data is convincing: Optimism is good for your heart health. Large-scale studies have shown that an optimistic outlook reduces your risk of heart attack, and the data is so significant that many cardiovascular experts believe that improving mental health outlook is a crucial part of preventative treatment for heart disease. The connection should not be considered surprising, given that the stress response — a direct link between emotional health and physical health — plays such an important role in long-term heart health.

Hope and optimism can have positive effects on blood pressure. It can actually boost treatment efforts for hypertension. When blood pressure is managed and maintained within healthier levels, the benefits extend beyond your heart, helping prevent your risk of stroke as well.

Click here to read Andrea Bonior’s full article, “The Health Benefits of Hope.”

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Stories of joy, resilience and healing that can only happen with Make-A-Wish.

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