When things feel gloomy, here are some ways to find and keep hope
Look at hope as a process in which you can choose to take action.
In my practice as a clinical psychologist, I often hear some version of this plea: “How can I feel hopeful without deluding myself?”
Hope is an action-filled process – and I teach my patients to look at it that way.
According to a renowned hope researcher, Dr Charles Snyder, hope arises when you identify paths to approach your goals alongside a willingness to persevere despite obstacles.
Here are some of my favourite ways to spark and maintain hope in hard times.
CONTROL WHAT YOU CAN
While you should allow yourself to experience a certain amount of distress and mourning, step away from the urge to give up entirely.
When crises in the world at large feel out of your control, thinking about the various components of your life – and setting small, specific goals to improve them – can help reduce feelings of helplessness.
“I remember the values, like kindness and compassion, that form the North Star I try to navigate my life by,” said Sharon Salzberg, a mindfulness teacher and the author of Real Change: Mindfulness To Heal Ourselves And The World.
WORK ON YOUR MENTAL AGILITY
Remember that a key facet of hope is creatively problem-solving when obstacles arise. Plan ways to move forward rather than shutting down when stressors come up.
Similar to athletes who anticipate “hitting a wall”, rehearse pushing past fatigue. If you strategise before you’re drained, you can keep going.
Take a moment to anticipate thoughts like, “I can’t”, or notice when you’re itching to give something up, then imagine shifting your inner soundtrack, perhaps by seeing these thoughts as visitors not to take too seriously.
CONSIDER WHAT IS STILL TRUE FOR YOU
Amid so much pain, it’s possible to consciously notice what hasn’t been broken by all the disruption. Salzberg prescribes reflecting on the question, “What’s still true?"
“If you can find something intact, whole, unbroken, it will give you hope,” she said. It might be a child’s smile, or “fundamental beliefs in things like the power of love.”
BUILD A HOPE KIT
Gathering photos, music, mementos and a list of practices that inspire you can keep you going when you need a boost.
While this may seem superficial, one study showed that creating a hope collection significantly increased hope in patients with terminal cancer. Creating hope takes willingness and ongoing effort yet ultimately leads to enjoying an improved perspective.
By Jenny Taitz © 2020 The New York Times
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.