Two weeks ago, as I was leaving the ground, following a win against Swansea, my friend was still despondent. As he uttered the words ‘No point getting our hopes up, its too little too late’, a fellow fan interjected, ‘yep, it is the hope that kills!’ We were still in the relegation zone and most fans had resigned themselves to relegation. The excitement over the appointment of Rafa and improved performances on the pitch were not enough to give hope of premiership survival.
At Mindful Therapies we combine Mindfulness with positive Psychology. On our Positive Psychology day course we explore the importance of wonder, change, love, gratitude and hope. We regularly review our content and the concept of hope is a regular area of contention. We focus on the importance of something to look forward too, which at times appears at odds with mindfulness and focusing on the present moment. Hope can be defined as the desire for something combined with the anticipation of it happening.
On that Saturday, in that moment there was awe and wonder at a 3-0 victory, there was a change in attitude from players and fans alike, there was love for the club that keeps us supporting the toon, there was gratitude to Rafa and the team for giving us a decent game to watch but there was still little hope of premiership survival.
Fast forward two weeks, on the back of unexpected draws against Man City and Liverpool, we face Crystal Palace at home. On the way to the stadium I was aware that I felt a sense of excitement and anticipation I had not felt felt for sometime prior to a game – the desire for a win was combined with the expectation of victory, hope had returned to the Toon!. This time leaving the ground, in addition to the joy of winning, survival might be possible. As I returned to my car I noticed the feelings were different, I felt calm and content, a sense of acceptance that what would be, would be, no more fear of relegation, no expectation of survival, no anger at previous performances.
Is hope mindful?
Mindfulness is about being in the present moment with curiosity and without judgement, hope is by definition future focused and requires judgement – that something better will happen – and anticipation not curiosity. However, mindfulness is also about awareness. Awareness of the present moment without judgement and with curiosity gives us insight into possibilities and therein lies the seeds of hope. Mindfulness also help us with acceptance. When things we hope for do not come to pass, mindfulness helps us to accept and to appreciate the positives. It can also help us to be more compassionate to ourselves and others. Not beating ourselves up for daring to dream and not turning to blame ourselves or others for current circumstances.
Hope, like other positive emotions, has a positive impact on our brains and hormones. It affects our perceptions of the events around us, so that we tend to see things more positively. Such contemplation then slows breathing, lowers blood pressure, strengthens the immune system and engages the parasympathetic nervous system. We feel calm, happy, and optimistic. Hope is not intrinsically mindful, when being hopeful we are not being mindful, however they can complement each-other.
I have supported Newcastle United for over 40 years, there has always been hope, yet rarely fulfilled. Mindfulness has helped me to appreciate that being a football fan is an exercise in acceptance I will continue to approach each season with curiosity and just appreciate each kick, each moment.
Being a football fan isn’t about control or certainty. Just because life isn’t working out the way you want it to, that doesn’t mean it won’t work out in the end, keep the faith and allow yourself to hope, it has done no harm to Leicester City fans!