Spring is the time of year when most of us begin to feel more hopeful. We’re anticipating good things – the trees budding, flowers blooming, spending time outside, and more sunshine.
Yet for some, it’s a time when you feel down even more than usual. You know you’re supposed to feel better after a long winter, but you don’t – you feel worse! It can feel like shining a light on what’s missing in your life.
How are you supposed to feel hopeful when you’re feeling anything but?
And what is hope anyway?
Hope is something we are all born with – it’s an emotion. But it gets pushed aside when you’re feeling miserable.
Hope is believing that the future will be good. It’s the ‘yes’ to life. Yes, life can still be good even when today is not the way you want it to be. Things can turn around – you don’t know how yet, but they can.
A little side story…
I learned about hope early in my career when I went to a presentation called Magnifying Hope – Shrinking Hopelessness. It was presented by Wendy Edey, Psychologist at the Hope Foundation.
What I didn’t realize going in was that Wendy was blind. I was moved and impressed by her optimism and wealth of knowledge about hope. It was an excellent presentation and a valuable learning opportunity for me. I remember that Wendy said she often worked with people who had a terminal illness. She conducted humor workshops because it increased quality of life - no matter how little life they had left.
I often share with my clients how I learned about hope from Wendy and we then have interesting conversations about how people can create their own sense of hope.
I learned from Wendy that there are common themes of hope. She asked her clients to take pictures of things that made them feel hopeful and then to bring those pictures back to the session so they could talk more about hope.
What do you think they were taking pictures of?
things in nature – you can go on a walk and look for signs of hope - sunlight, trees, flowers, rainbows, anything green, butterflies
We know it’s easy to focus on the negativity in the world - in the newspaper, TV news, politics. That's part of the picture but certainly not the whole picture.
If we look in the other direction, we’ll see what is encouraging, inspiring, and promising in the world.
When you feel hopeful, it changes how you cope with things.
Finding hope means taking action. Hope does not show up on your doorstep. You can take small steps to find little signs of hope.
Hoping is not wishing – it has to be practiced and intentional.
Hope begins with being willing to see things from a new perspective. By observing what’s going on around you. Just paying attention to any signs of hope you see. By noticing what’s encouraging in other people, your neighborhood, or in the world.
|Here's how you can generate your own hope
(submitted by Ronna Jevne and James Miller):
Make a vision board or collage of things that make you feel hopeful.
Keep a Hope journal – identify what made you feel hopeful? Who comes to mind when you think of hope? What did you do differently when you had hope? What is an act of hope?
Think of one story from your past that brings you hope?
Focus on hope and talk about hope.
Try an experiment – e.g., take 5 pictures of things that make you feel hopeful. Repeat...
Notice signs of hope – e.g., the way illness heals in a body, the way hurt heals over time, when we help each other, when someone starts over, when someone remains optimistic despite the odds.
Read inspiring stories of how others overcame difficult life events.
Listen to songs about hope.
Consider a time in your life when you faced something very tough and got through it.
Notice when things turned out better than you expected.
Laugh – humor helps you hope. Humor is a natural anti-depressant and painkiller. It releases natural feel-good hormones into your brain. It allows you to look at things differently. Read what’s funny to you. Say something funny. Watch something funny. Spend time with people who make you laugh.
Look for the meaning – Viktor Frankl was imprisoned in a WWII concentration camp. He imagined seeing his wife smiling and encouraging him (she was in another camp). After the war ended, he found out his wife had died. He held on to a sense of meaning by weaving her memories into a new hope that he could teach others to choose their own attitude toward what happens to them, just as he learned to do. His book inspires hope and I highly recommend it - “Man’s Search for Meaning.”
You can commit to hope and work towards it. Keep in mind that hope varies from day to day. It’s not realistic to expect to feel hopeful all the time. But you can get back on track when you're feeling down.
Hope will return if you know how to nurture it. “Hope can be stronger than medications.”
If you know someone who would benefit from this blog, please share it with them.
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Hi! I'm Beth Matthews. I'm a Registered Psychologist who is driven to helping people feel better about themselves. I help people who are struggling in their lives gain an awareness of how they can cope with anything that comes their way. With my easy-to-use strategies, you can feel better and be your best you!