Scientists Find Out How Hope Protects the Brain

Since hope appears to come from a physical place in the brain, scientists are hoping to figure out how it shields the rest of the brain from negativity. Really. 

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Life Is Short, But It Doesn’t Have to Be Shallow—How to Capture Deep Hope

Capitalism has hijacked our emotions and rewired us for instant gratification—but we can reclaim our lives by practicing deep hope.

There are two kinds of hope, and between them is a world of difference, says Andre C. Willis. The one we use and speak about most often is what he calls trivial hope, which has superficial aims like, "I hope that my Domino’s pizza will arrive on time," or, "I hope that my career is successful." What makes these superficial is that they relate to probable futures, and are underpinned by the heavy hand of market capitalism, which increasingly tells us what we desire and what our ambitions are. How can we overcome that emotional hijacking? Willis contends that the second kind of hope, 'deep hope', is the antidote to the shallow living Western culture is up against. Deep hope is not based on measurable rewards or future desires, but is a way to face the true facts of life. What are those? Willis explains above, and fills us in on why we need a special toolkit to relate to the present without delusions. This video was filmed at the Los Angeles Hope Festival, a collaboration between Big Think and Hope & Optimism.

How Theater & Philosophy Rehabilitate Prisoners Better Than Harsh Sentences

Here's what Israel Guillen learned about life by studying 8 hours a day during his 22-year prison sentence.

Being "tough on crime" doesn't work. Former inmate Israel Guillen is proof that what does work is nurturing people's sense of humanity through philosophy, theatre, and teamwork. Ten years ago, actor Sabra Williams had an experimental idea: she wanted to bring The Actors' Gang Theatre Company into prisons to work with non-actors, and offer them training to understand and manager their emotions. With an incredibly low recidivism rate of just 10% among her students, Williams' experimental idea has proven its worth and now operates in ten prisons across California, which is where Sabra Williams met former inmate and Actors' Gang student Israel Guillen. Israel recently shared his personal story of what he learned throughout his 22-year prison sentence at the Los Angeles Hope Festival, a collaboration between Big Think and Hope & Optimism. The Actors’ Gang conducts weekly and seven-day intensive programs inside the California prison system, a weekly re-entry program in the community, as well as a program in juvenile facilities, and soon to be a program designed for correctional officers. Head here for more information on The Actors' Gang Prison Project.

Positive Judaism: How Jokes and Wisdom Inspire Better Living

Have you heard the one about the U.S. Open and Yom Kippur? You're about to.

Darren Levine is the founding rabbi of Tamid, The Downtown Synagogue in New York City, which is guided by Positive Judaism. In an open letter earlier this year, Levine defined Positive Judaism as a spiritual life that "expands the mind, deepens personal character, strengthens community, improves the world, and adds joy and optimism to everyday living." Because of pop-culture stereotypes and the Jewish history persecution, people may not instantly think that Judaism and positivity are in sync, but Levine contents that joy and hope have been at the heart of the Jewish mindset for 3,000 years. You can choose to look at history with pessimism and negativity, says Levine, or you can instead find beauty in brokenness and turn it into jokes, positive emotion, and wisdom. "In the 21st century, it is the People that will or will not choose to be Jewish... Historical memory, Israel, the threat of anti-semitism and are not strong enough motivators for Jewish engagement. We need something new and serious and Positive Judaism is one new construct." Here, Levine shares a timely joke for Yom Kippur, and shares a teaching about hope and perspective.

Hope Isn’t Blind: It’s a Way to Build Trust and Manage Anxiety

Some anxieties are essential, and for millennia they kept our ancestors alive. But there's another type of anxiety that we can actually do away with—and it's defeated via hope.

In this refreshing take on the utility of hope, Princeton research scholar Victoria McGeer explains that there's a difference between blind hope and practical hope. The latter means taking a clear-eyed view of potential disappointment, knowing that there may be failure, and then putting your anxieties offline by trusting in the elements that are beyond your control. Trust is a critical feature of human social life, and we're often obligated to trust in uncertain circumstances: trust your kids, trust that stranger, trust your neighbor. Hope, when done properly, can fortify trust, reduce anxiety, and actually give you the tools to cope with disappointment. This video was filmed as part of the Los Angeles Hope Festival, a collaboration between Big Think and Hope & Optimism.