I love puns. They are simultaneously funny, corny, and clever. Two years after George Lucas launched Star Wars: A New Hope, the original film in the Star Wars franchise, a pun was born that has morphed into a global holiday. The origin story began on May 4, 1979, when a celebratory ad was placed in the London Evening News after Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The message read, “May the fourth be with you, Maggie, Congratulations.”
Beneath the mirth and nostalgia, May the Fourth invites us mere mortals to ponder an important question that can enhance our physical, emotional, and mental well-being. What exactly does it mean to believe that “the force is with you?” And what are the ways well-being science can help us to activate this real-life version of The Force—an invisible, palpable energy source—in both good times and difficult times?
According to Dr. Dan Tomasulo—psychologist, author, and academic director of the Spirituality Mind Body Institute at Teachers College, Columbia University—hope is the only positive emotion that requires a negative catalyst to be activated. Like any muscle, hope can be strengthened with repetition. With practice, we can rely on the hope framework to pull us through setbacks, challenges, and even trauma. Hope is only activated when we choose to embrace this powerful force in times of doubt or difficulty.
When three experiences with death and illness happened in my family during a ten-month period, I thought our life had imploded and we’d be sucked into a black hole of grief and pain. Instead we discovered what pioneering scientist Dr. Richard Tedeschi calls the five domains of Post-Traumatic Growth: that we are stronger than we can imagine; the healing power of relationships; a heightened sense of awe and gratitude; renewed purpose and meaning; and new possibilities. While no one wishes for trauma to befall them, 67 percent of people report that they have grown through these constricting, painful events.
Some people activate their “May the Force be With You” moments through transcending experiences in nature. They become energized by a vigorous hike, liminal sunset, or dazzling night sky illuminated and overflowing with glittering constellations from millions of light years away. Other people feel a sense of power when they pay-it-forward and donate their talent and time in the service of others. Others are enveloped with the power of “May the Force Be With You” when they are elevated to a Flow State, the scientific phenomenon developed by Mikhail Csikszentmihalyi that describes when someone becomes one with an activity and time stands still.
Forty-six years after the first Star Wars film captured the hearts and imagination of millions of fans around the world, it’s comforting to know that each of us can access the healing force of hope and our inner strength. Be creative, bold, and courageous as you explore a galaxy of thoughts, music, activities, emotions, and actions that inspire you. There are accessible, easy-to-implement methods that are as numerous as the stars in the galaxies.
In the immortal words of Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi as he encouraged Luke Skywalker on his journey, “May the Force Be With You.” And may hope always be with you, as well.