It's a dark, cold winter, capping off a truly bleak year — but thanks to geophysics and the way our solar system shakes out, the Northern Hemisphere, at least, is about to see more daylight and warmer weather ahead. The march of the seasons is one persistent reason for optimism when everything else seems too messy. It also provides a window into how our attitudes can help us conserve what we do have.
Psychologists at the U.K.'s University of East Anglia have just released a study into a quality we may overlook or take for granted in hard times: hope. The researchers wanted to know if having hope really does protect us from behaviors that could hurt us down the line. More specifically, they looked into what's called relative deprivation, the instinct to compare ourselves to people who seem to have it better than us.
In experiments, study participants who scored high on relative deprivation but also high in hope took fewer risks in a gambling scenario. In other words, according to coauthor Shahriar Keshavarz, the researchers "found that increased hope was associated with a decreased likelihood of losing control of gambling behavior, even in those who experienced relative deprivation."
Being able to hold out for a better time (or a better offer) is a key part of judgment. When we're exhausted by circumstance, it's easy to think it makes no difference to let the chips fall where they may. By allowing yourself some hope, however, you can take a more objective look at your situation. The long lens may turn out to be the best one for you.