What do we mean by hope? It’s about believing in a positive outcome for ourselves, the feeling that events will turn out for the best, anticipating a good change in circumstances, looking forward with confidence. Hope is important when things are not going well, when there’s a lot of uncertainty, confusion and negativity.
Hope is the antithesis of despair, but it doesn’t mean that everyone should remain ‘hopeful’ at all times, even in the face of insurmountable difficulties. Hope is not the same as naive unrealism. It’s always useful to look at potential pitfalls and risks in a situation, and sometimes face the possibility of failure or disappointment. Challenges and difficulties need to be acknowledged.
But research has shown that people who are hopeful tend to be more psychologically resilient and cope more effectively with obstacles, while more pessimistic individuals tend to shut down. Pessimism often leads to a sense of powerlessness and inability to take action.
So how can we foster hope in ourselves and in others during hard times?
- Practice Appreciation – build an ‘attitude of gratitude’ by noticing what you’re thankful for in your health, your family, the natural world around you
- Be Kind – helping others makes a difference, maybe to someone else who’s struggling, and also to yourself
- Take Care of Yourself – get sleep, eat right and exercise. If you feel stressed, overwhelmed and negative, take a break
- Set Goals – think of something you’d like to work towards. Big or small, it doesn’t matter. A goal helps you to get up and face the day even when all seems pointless.
- Ask for help – this can feel scary but can also make the world of difference. Help from someone else can see you through those rough patches when negativity rules.
- Engage in meaningful action – the antidote to despair and anxiety is action. Focus on the small things you have control over that you can change. Work with what you have, one step at a time.