The Relationship Centre

Cultivating Hope in Difficult Times

Hope is an emotional state that promotes the belief in a positive outcome. Clearly, we need hope, especially in our current world. Can hope really make a difference? The answer is YES.

There is increasing evidence that hope changes us psychologically and physiologically. Hope helps us manage anxiety, stress, and cope with adversity. It contributes to our well-being and happiness.

Hope is not a passive exercise in wishing, but an active approach to life.

And it motivates positive action. Hopeful people believe their efforts can have a positive impact. And they make choices that promote health and moving forward towards goals or better outcomes.

Hopeful people tend to share some common characteristics.

How Hopeful Are You?

  • In the face of adversity, you become a problem solver
  • You are able to turn dreams into concrete goals and execute a plan to meet them
  • You are grateful for what you have but you strive to improve yourself
  • You are open-minded and seek information to continue to grow and learn
  • You remain optimistic even when things do not work out
  • You experience failure as an important learning tool
  • You are able to live in the present

If you do not possess these qualities, or only have a few of them – it is possible to cultivate a more hopeful outlook.

6 Steps to Become More Hopeful

  1. Try to surround yourself with positive people. Being with positive people breeds positivity. Consider your family and friends who tend to look at life through a more positive lens. Make a point to be in contact with them more often.
  2. Manage negative thoughts. It is easy to become swept away in a cycle of negative thoughts, especially during challenging times. Be aware of negative thoughts and make a point to interrupt them. Saying “STOP” out loud at least identifies the negative loop you are caught in and gives you a chance to redirect your thoughts. Challenge yourself to shift your negative thoughts to something more positive, or at least neutral. Our thoughts have a powerful impact on how we feel, and it is impossible to cultivate feelings of hope if we are consumed by negative thoughts.
  3. Learn to focus on solutions to problems you can control. To cultivate hope, it is important to focus on issues within your control. This is particularly relevant during this time of the pandemic when so many forces are beyond our control. To build and sustain a sense of hope, focus on goals that are achievable, perhaps related to work, hobbies, home improvements, or a personal project. Setting a goal and problem solving the steps necessary to achieve that goal feels empowering.
  4. Contribute positively to someone’s life. Doing for others shifts your perspective outside of yourself and allows you to focus on the needs of someone else. It also gives you that “feel-good feeling” that comes from making a positive difference in someone else’s life. Some people will record positive acts in a journal so they can reflect upon them to keep the momentum of positive action moving forward.
  5. Learn to cope with challenges. Practice improving your frustration tolerance and patience. When challenges occur, develop the habit of waiting to respond to allow you the chance to calm down. This gives you the opportunity to respond assertively and appropriately, rather than out of anger. Improving how you cope with challenges increases your confidence in your ability to manage your emotions in healthy ways.
  6. Focus on what is working in your life. Concentrating on the positive gives you a stronger sense of motivation, purpose, and confidence. Make a point to reflect on the positive events in your life on a daily or weekly basis. A gratitude journal is a helpful strategy in maintaining this positive focus.

Manifesting more hope in your life is possible. It may take work and persistence, but it will be worth the effort.

by: Mary Joan Brinson MSW, RSW