Without hope, our lives become devoid of meaning and purpose. Hope gives us something to strive toward and look forward to. In tough times, hope gives us faith that the winds of change will blow in with better days. When we lose all hope, we can become consumed with hopelessness.
Being stuck in the trenches of hopelessness can have grave consequences. Any negative life experience can cause us to feel hopeless. When we endure hopelessness we are unable to recognize that our circumstances will improve. Very often, we give up and withdraw from the world.
This article will explain what hopelessness is and how it impacts us. We will also suggest 5 ways to help you overcome feelings of hopelessness.
What is hopelessness?
According to this article, hope is considered a bedrock of human thriving. We associate hope with feelings of positivity about the future. But our lives change when hopelessness replaces these positive feelings of hope.
We can think of hope and hopelessness as being on opposite sides of the spectrum.
Hopelessness involves feelings of despair and a lack of belief that life can be better than it is. People who suffer from hopelessness lack enthusiasm and positive thoughts for the future or even day-to-day activities.
You may not be surprised to learn that when scientists introduced feelings of hope into a study, they were able to buffer the ideation of suicidal thoughts in participants with identified hopelessness.
When we are affected by hopelessness our inner dialogue paints a bleak future. We suffer from fatalistic beliefs.
- No one can help me.
- Nothing can change.
- I have no future.
- I can’t be happy again.
- I'm not good enough.
These kinds of thoughts become self-perpetuating.
How does hopelessness affect us?
While we experience hopelessness independently of depression, it is also a significant symptom of depression.
According to this study, adverse life events combined with a negative cognitive style can lead to hopelessness. If this is pervasive enough, it can turn into hopelessness and depression.
Conversely, positive life events with associated affective experiences impede hopelessness and depression.
Hopelessness is often a symptom of mental health disorders, including:
- Eating disorders.
But while it is often associated with mental health disorders, sufferers of hopelessness may not have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder.
Hopelessness can have a catastrophic effect on us. The most severe impact is suicidal thoughts. It also induces:
- Low mood.
- Feelings of apathy.
- Feelings of powerlessness.
Hopelessness is what causes us to feel at rock bottom.
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5 ways to overcome hopelessness
It is perfectly normal to feel hopeless sometimes. In a world of chaotic politics, war, immense cruelty, and terrifying climate emergency figures, it is normal to experience hopelessness at times.
While these hopeless feelings are normal, we don’t want them to move into our heads permanently. Therefore it is vital to take action to overcome or prevent feelings of hopelessness.
1. Engage with cognitive behavior therapy
First and foremost, if you are someone who regularly suffers from feelings of hopelessness, I strongly recommend you seek professional help.
Many therapists offer cognitive behavior therapy. This type of therapy helps reframe negative thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors. It also enables you to find coping mechanisms to deal with thought patterns.
When you take control of your thought patterns, you are empowered to bring about change. It is easy to allow our thoughts to drag us down. But for our well-being, we must remember we are not our thoughts, and they are not our reality.
If you want more information on how a therapist can help you, here's one of our articles on the topic.
2. Limit your news intake
I have to admit that I often get overwhelmed with all the negative stories in the news.
I feel myself becoming discouraged and cynical with the more news I consume. When I limit my news intake, I can generally manage my feelings of despair. It’s all about striking a balance between being informed and being consumed.
Here are our tips on how to limit the negative psychological impact of your media intake.
Alternatively, follow some happy news channels and read positive news stories after the more negative ones.
Some positive news channels include:
3. Identify your hopelessness type
In the book Hope in the Age of Anxiety, the authors suggest 9 different types of hopelessness. These are:
- Lack of inspiration.
Each one of these types of hopelessness induces different feelings of despair.
We will focus on the first 3 types of hopelessness; alienation, forsakenness, and lack of inspiration, as these are maybe the most common.
These types of hopelessness are linked with cognitive distortions. Such as:
- All or nothing thinking.
If we find ourselves succumbing to these thought processes, we can help ourselves by finding contrary evidence to the thoughts we come up with.
For instance, we may fall out with one friend and tell ourselves that no one likes us. In these circumstances, it is helpful to recount all the good people in your life and the nice things these people have done for you.
4. Recognize your achievements
Sometimes we have to take the wins where ever we can.
We may go through thought processes of feeling like everything is doomed and there is no point in us making an effort, as anything we do will fail anyway. When we experience this mindset, it’s a sign we would benefit from recognizing our wins.
Depending on how we feel, a win could simply be getting out of bed, taking a shower, or getting dressed. Don’t underestimate any of these things, as when we are in deep throws of hopelessness, sometimes these things seem impossible.
Each time we recognize our achievement, we realize our accomplishment. Tiny rays of hope start to emerge through the clouds of hopelessness.
Never underestimate your achievements, no matter how big or small. Be proud of yourself and your accomplishments!
5. Seek mental calmness
If we can quieten our minds, at least this starts closing our negative thoughts. You know all those intrusive thoughts that feed into our feelings of hopelessness; it’s time to get rid of them!
There are several ways to calm the mind. We are all different and don’t all benefit from the same techniques. If you don’t know what works for you, give some of these things a go to help clear the mind:
- Mindfulness (here's our guide if you need one!).
- Time in nature.
If we manage to clear the mind from thoughts of hopelessness, we simultaneously make space for different thoughts. This mental clarity can help us open up to different thought patterns.
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Feelings of hopelessness can create a vacuum inside of us. Not only does it leave us feeling devoid of any positive emotions toward our future, but it impacts our ability to function on a day-to-day basis. If left unchecked, hopelessness can be highly debilitating. I hope you are able to find hope again with the help of the tips in this article!
What's something that gives you hope? What is your favorite tip of this article? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!