Practice hope. As hopefulness becomes a habit, you can achieve a permanently happy spirit. ~Norman Vincent Peale
When life’s circumstances, drop us to our knees, we feel a loss of hope. Family and friends give words of encouragement and support, but it’s still tough to pull ourselves out of despair, anger, disappointment and frustration. However, by understanding that hope is a choice, we can cope better and keep it alive.
“Once you choose hope, anything is possible,” said Christopher Reeve, best known for his role as “Superman”. He knew the power of hope. Hope helped him to endure a devastating spinal cord injury caused by a competitive horseback riding accident in 1995. The accident left him paralyzed from the neck down and unable to breathe without a ventilator. In spite of this traumatic, life-changing event, he made a deliberate choice to be productive and not be a burden to his family, which gave him hope. He started the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation (what it’s now called today) with the goal of finding a cure and advancing the quality of life for people living with spinal cord injuries.
He also nurtured his creative side by directing a television movie that starred actor Glen Close called In the Gloaming. He starred and directed in a remake of the 1954 Hitchcock movie Rear Window playing a vent-dependent quadriplegic. Christopher Reeve chose hope and it made all the difference in his continuing to achieve great things.
We too can use hope to embrace our future. By building this inner strength with practice, it becomes innate. Here are 12 ways to practice hope, especially during hard times:
1. Express your feelings
During a setback or loss, it can be healing to express your feelings to a loved one or write them down in a journal. This helps release the negative emotions that are causing you to feel less hopeful. When you feel negative emotions arise, try not to judge them. Rather, shift your attention to the future. Can you plan a trip? Indulge in a creative hobby? Although it may not be easy to do this right away, each time you think about what’s possible, you’ll feel a rise in hope.
2. Look for hope in unexpected places
Did you ever catch a glimmer of hope from somewhere unexpected? Perhaps you were sitting in a park with your dog and saw two people laughing and then embracing. Suddenly, your singlehood felt a little brighter. Take a good look around you. Hope is in our playgrounds, at our coffee shops, in the books we read, in our friend’s voice and our mother’s caring words. Create a challenge today to look for hope in your daily routine, and notice your spirits lifting.
3. Cultivate optimism
Do you see the “glass half full” instead of “half empty”? Do you make lemonade out of the lemons life throws you? Then you’re an optimistic person. If you are, you’ll enjoy a higher quality of life and better physical and mental health according to scientific research. However, if you tend to be more pessimistic, especially during hard times, then here are some ways to cultivate optimism: Focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses, maximize your successes and minimize your failures, challenge self-sabotaging thought patterns by creating new ones that empower you, and look at all the possibilities in your life, not the limitations.
4. Practice gratitude
As cliché as practicing gratitude may sound, it can make you more hopeful. Thinking about all that you are grateful for puts things in a new and happier perspective, which naturally makes you more hopeful. You can practice gratitude by writing down daily three to five things you are grateful for in a journal. Alternatively, you can think grateful thoughts before you start or end your day.
5. Look at the possibilities in your life, not the limitations
When you feel a loss of hope, visualizing a better future can give you the will to find ways to make it so. For help with this, you can create a compelling vision, which is a clear and specific mental picture of a desired outcome. This outcome must inspire and energize you to go after it no matter what obstacles come up. For example, a compelling vision might be to live somewhere else more desirable to you, write a book on a favorite topic or start a business. Thinking about your vision inspires hope.
6. Go outside to look at nature
Have you ever looked at a flower or sunrise and felt a rise of hope? Nature has a way of doing this for us. We see that no matter what the sun and moon appear, birds sing, grass grows and the seasons change. We can also rely on a new day bringing us a fresh start, a chance to make a change, get it right and say what needs saying. What better way to practice hope, than to marvel at nature’s beauty every day.
7. Do a random act of kindness
Kindness gives hope to others. You can choose from these 100 Ways to Be Kinder to give you some ideas. For example, paying for someone behind you at a drive-thru can start your day in a more hopeful manner. You feel good and so does the person receiving your kind gesture. Any act of kindness will give a rise in hope for the receiver and the giver. Why is this? Because it helps re-instill our faith in the goodness of one another.
8. Take some time for self-care
Loving ourselves can be a challenge any time but especially during hard times. A job loss can shake our confidence. We can blame ourselves for a mistake we made that caused something unfortunate to happen. This is when we most need to practice self-love. Some ways to do this are to notice your negative self-talk and work to change it, believe in yourself and your capabilities, engage in self-care by meditating, taking a vacation and exercising and eating better. Finally, visualize the life you want and commit to making it happen, which surely increases hope.
9. Harness faith
Having faith is an inner knowing that things will work out without any evidence that it’s true. A great example of this is from the movie, Under the Tuscan Sun, based on a book by Frances Mayes. Martini (played by Vincent Riotta) is consoling actor Frances (played by Diane Lane), who is frustrated and upset over the fact that nothing seems to go her way. She is also becoming impatient that what she wanted in her life had not arrived yet. Here is what Martini said to her:
“Signora, between Austria and Italy, there is a section of the Alps called the Semmering. It is an impossibly steep, very high part of the mountains. They built a train track over these Alps to connect Vienna and Venice. They built these tracks even before there was a train in existence that could make the trip. They built it because they knew someday, the train would come.”
Faith is knowing in our hearts, after staking claim to something, that if we keep focusing on the end result, consistently taking action to make it happen, then our hope will rise.
10. Become more spiritual
Becoming more spiritual, not necessarily in the religious sense, can ignite hope within yourself. Certainly, if attending church or studying your religion feels good to you, then that helps increase hope. However, another way to add more spirituality in life is to get to know yourself better. Self-knowledge means knowing what you value, what makes you happy and what your unique talents and skills are which deepens life. You also may uncover old belief systems that are holding you back. This inner wisdom invites healing and transformation which gives you hope for a better future.
By making a choice to hope, you put yourself in control of how you react to your circumstances and how you’ll handle what comes next. Although it’s not so easy when going through bad things to maintain a hopeful disposition, always know that you can draw upon hope to see things in a new way.
Choose a practice from above and let us know how you did by commenting below. We’d love to hear from you!