In the Creation story, God gives us hints for maintaining a positive outlook. His instructions come in the form of a warning to Adam and Eve about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Notice how it is presented: “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat’” (Genesis 2:16-17).

Fruit trees of every sort filled the Garden of Eden. And God said, “All this is yours to enjoy. There’s just one tree, one kind of fruit, that’s not good for you.”

What’s the picture God is reinforcing here? What’s the perspective? “Look at all that is good,” He is saying. “Keep that in mind. Don’t get stuck staring at the bad.”

In the New Testament, a man named Paul expands on that positive perspective. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God,” he tells us, “to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28, NKJV).

In other words, bad things may happen to us, as Jesus Himself said, “In the world, you will have tribulation” (John 16:33, NKJV). But God is busy bringing out the good in everything. So we shouldn’t get stuck in anxiety — we should live in hope.

The opposite of hope is despair and depression. A 15-year study done by Kaiser Permanente, the largest managed healthcare organization in the United States, concluded that depressed people utilize healthcare services five times more than the overall population. Thus, teaching people hopefulness is a way of helping them to overcome depression and improve their health.

Dr. Rebecca Moroose, medical director for a cancer institute, puts it this way: “People who have hope, people who have a goal, people who have a destiny that they want to see fulfilled, will often live longer than those who curl up and die when they have a serious diagnosis.”

In places such as physical therapy clinics, up to 80% of recovery relates to mental outlook. As one therapist puts it: “Somebody who has suffered an injury and is needing to physically recover — we’ve got to see the mental part join in. Getting them inspired — it’s a lot of work, it’s hard, it’s difficult. But to see the daily gains that they can make, this is what’s going to inspire them mentally to say, ‘You know what, I can do this.’”

When discouragement starts to creep in, focus on the positive. Your body, mind and spirit will thank you for it.