Feeling hopeless is a common experience that many people, at one point or another will feel. Sometimes it can be difficult to find hope when you experience hardship or a traumatic event.
During times of hopelessness, it may feel impossible to be optimistic about the future. However, finding the strength to find hope is crucial to maintaining your well-being and moving forward with your life. Thankfully, there are things you can do to battle the feeling of hopelessness and make life feel a bit more manageable.
In this article, I will explore what it means to find hope, why it is important, and provide some helpful strategies you can use to help you find hope during tough times.
- What does it mean to have hope?
- Why is finding hope important?
- 4 strategies to help you find hope
- Wrapping up
What does it mean to have hope?
When we have hope it means we want an outcome to happen that will improve life in some way. Finding hope can make you feel less helpless and more optimistic about the future, which can make a difficult situation feel a bit more bearable.
Finding hope may signify different things to different people, depending on one’s perspective. For some, hope is spiritual or religious, placing your hope and faith in a higher power. For others, hope can entail attempting to maintain a positive outlook on a situation, despite how terrible it may seem.
Finding hope requires resilience. It is accepting that the current situation is difficult but recognizing that it will not always be this way and that you have the strength within you to overcome it.
Why is finding hope important?
When we are not able to find hope, it can be detrimental to our mental and physical health.
Feeling hopeless can leave you feeling stuck, anxious, and depressed. It makes you feel like life won’t get better, and that it lacks purpose and meaning.
That’s why finding hope is so important; it gives us faith, strength, and a sense of purpose.
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Emotional health benefits of finding hope
When you have hope, you may feel reduced stress and anxiety because you believe things will work out in the end or change in a way that positively impacts your life. You may feel more equipped to take actionable steps towards your goals because you already believe that change is possible.
Finding hope is also important when it comes to coping with difficult situations. Experts say that people who have a high level of hope tend to perceive obstacles as more manageable and less stressful and can quickly recover and adapt to adversity.
Another study found more adaptive coping strategies, such as problem-solving and proactive coping, are linked to higher levels of hope. It also has an inverse relationship with maladaptive coping techniques such as denial and detachment.
Physical health benefits of being hopeful
Hope has been linked to a variety of physical health benefits, including a healthier immune system, a better prognosis for chronic illness, and a reduction in pain, according to research.
Studies also associated hope with an 11 to 15 percent longer life span, with hopeful people being more likely to live to the age of 85 and beyond!
Hopeful people may see their lives as more purposeful and meaningful, and therefore engage in healthy activities that contribute to stronger health outcomes. Studies have found that people with higher hopes engage in superior health behaviors, such as eating a healthy diet, exercising, less likely to smoke or drink excessively, which all contribute to stronger health outcomes over time.
4 strategies to help you find hope
When you are experiencing hopelessness life can seem bleak. Thankfully, no matter how bad things appear at the moment, there are some things you can do to make life a little better and find hope for the future.
1. Turn to your support system
Family, friends, or even a mental health professional can help you to get through times of hopelessness.
Sometimes when people go through difficult circumstances, their instinct may be to withdraw or isolate themselves from their support. It may feel like being alone is what you need, but ultimately it will leave you feeling more lonely, scared, and hopeless.
A little alone time is okay, but if you find yourself withdrawing completely from friends and family, that may be an issue. Try and make plans with a friend or loved one and hold yourself accountable to go. Your loved ones can provide you with support to get through the situation and can also be a nice distraction from hardship.
Additionally, if you feel that you need professional help, a mental health therapist can help. A therapist can help you to understand why you feel hopeless, and find a way to accept, adapt, or if possible, change the situation. Additionally, a therapist can also help you to process difficult emotions and set realistic goals for the future.
2. Reframe negative unhelpful thoughts
It is natural to have negative thoughts, especially during times of distress. When you’re trying to find hope, it is important to challenge some of those negative thoughts, so that they don’t take over and consume you.
Your brain may try to tell you that things will never get better, there’s no use in trying, or that the world is unfair. However, just because you think these thoughts does not mean they are completely accurate!
Here are some questions you can ask yourself when you’re experiencing negative thoughts that may be distorted, inaccurate, or just plain wrong:
- Is there real evidence that supports this thought?
- What would I tell a friend if they had the same thought?
- Will this matter one day from now? What about one week, one month, one year?
- How have I dealt with similar situations in the past?
- Is this within my control?
3. Focus on what is within your control
When you feel hopeless it may seem like everything is out of your control, and you can’t change the situation. Part of finding hope is having some sense of control, the belief that you can have an impact on the situation and take steps towards positive change.
Of course, there will be some circumstances that are completely beyond your control, and in those cases acceptance and resilience are key. Instead of focusing on trying to change impossible circumstances, focus on taking actions that alleviate some of the unpleasant emotions related to the situation.
For example, perhaps you experience the loss of a loved one; of course, something like this is out of your control. You can take back some control by focusing on your self-care or supporting your loved ones. This can make you feel less hopeless, even though the situation itself has not changed.
You do not need to completely resolve every difficult or unfortunate situation you experience. Focusing on the influence that you do have, and the positive impact you can have on yourself, and others around you, can help you to find hope and move forward.
4. Practice mindfulness
When you are having trouble finding hope you may ruminate about past situations or worry about the future. When our thoughts are constantly stuck in the past or worrying about the future, it may make us feel more hopeless, anxious, and depressed.
Practicing mindfulness brings us back to the present moment. It involves focusing your attention on the here and now.
Research shows mindfulness practice can help people with stress reduction and finding hope. When you get the hang of mindfulness practice, you are able to take a step back from unhelpful automatic negative thoughts. This helps to cultivate more constructive, and hopeful thoughts.
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Finding hope during difficult times can be tough, but not impossible. Life will always throw you unexpected curveballs. What matters is that you are able to find the strength, courage, and resilience to view the situation as a bump in the road, rather than a complete roadblock.
Have you ever felt hopeless but were able to find hope again? What was your strategy to find hope in your situation? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!