The last few months have been stressful or even traumatic for all of us. We’ve had to deal with unexpected change and loss as a result of the pandemic. Some of us have lost loved ones. Some of us are struggling with the financial consequences of the pandemic. Some of us are recovering from the demands of a challenging and potentially dangerous workplace.
More recently, events in America – including the death of George Floyd at the hands of white police officers – have left some of us feeling shocked and exposed to a world that’s much less fair and just than we imagined; for some of us they’re a horrifying reminder of prejudice and persecution that occurs on a regular basis.
In times like these, it can be tempting to feel hopeless. But it’s times like these when you need hope most. Because hope is powerful. Hope will help you heal. Hope will help you succeed, and while it can’t put the world to rights, it will foster kindness and tolerance.
How does hope benefit us?
Hope isn’t the same as wishful thinking, and it doesn’t mean you have to ignore the suffering and obstacles that life can serve us. Hope is about believing a positive outcome is possible despite the suffering.
Having hope has many benefits for us:
Hope gives us the ability to achieve our goals – even when things go wrong
Research shows that if you’re hopeful, you’ll cope more effectively with obstacles and you’re more likely to achieve your goals. This is because if you believe something is possible, you’ll automatically think of strategies and take the steps needed to make it happen.
Hope is a healer
Having a sense of hope helps us recover from difficulties, because we believe that positive things will happen to us in the future. The knowledge that things will get better combats negative thinking. Research has suggested that hope can ease anxiety around death and dying, and it’s good for our physical health. There’s even evidence to suggest that hope can reduce physical pain.
Hope builds self-confidence, and inspires us to act
Because being hopeful improves your ability to achieve goals, hope has a positive impact on your confidence. It changes your perspective on life and your options in it. You can aim higher, make new choices and take on new challenges.
Hope brings people together
When we share our hope with other people, it can create a sense of unity. This is why family-run businesses can be so successful: members who have a strong connection also share the same hopes and goals.
Expressing your sense of hope can help other people find hope of their own, and, crucially, can give rise to a sense of trust in ourselves, and in others too.
How to nurture hope in difficult times
Here are some simple ways you can stay hopeful during hard times:
Look for hope in unexpected places
Have you ever spotted something during a bad day that suddenly lifted your spirits? Strangers sharing a joke at a bus stop, perhaps, or a child smiling at you. Maybe a complement or kind words from a friend. Hope can be shared, and sometimes small and unexpected things can trigger hope. Try to look for positive things as you go about your daily life, and notice how they make you feel.
Research has shown that thinking about all the things you’re grateful for makes you happier, which in turn makes you more hopeful. And if you’re grateful for the positives that are already in your life, this makes it easier to trust in the potential for even better things ahead.
A good way to get into the habit of practicing gratitude is to write down three things you’re grateful for each day.
Be kind to others
Being kind to other people is a great way to spread a sense of hope. It’s good for your own mental health, too. You might want to start volunteering or get involved in a community organisation, or your act of kindness can be something small – like reaching out to someone who’s having a bad day, paying someone a complement or sharing something uplifting on social media.
Take some time for self-care
Though it’s easy to forget to look after ourselves if we’re stressed, it’s during difficult times that self-care is most important. Give yourself time to rest and set aside time in your schedule for whatever activities give your wellbeing a boost, such as exercise, reading a good book or spending time with friends.
Set your own goals
Even if things aren’t going as planned for you at the moment, think about your future goals. It doesn’t matter if these goals are big or small – they just need to be meaningful to you. Having something to aspire to will give you a sense of purpose, and the ability to visualise a better future will give you a greater sense of hope.
If you’re struggling to find a sense of hope, you don’t have to face your problems alone. Talking about your difficulties with someone you trust can help you get a new perspective on them. People may offer unexpected solutions to your problems, or they may be going through something similar and can empathise with you.
If you don’t feel comfortable talking to people you know, you might want to talk in confidence with a counsellor instead. A counsellor will understand your situation from your point of view and offer insights to help you discover your own ways to move forward.
Do you need someone to talk to?
If you would like to talk to someone, I’m here to help you. I’m a trained and registered person-centred counsellor and hypnotherapist. I provide both telephone counselling and online counselling via Skype to people across the UK. If you want to discuss anything in confidence, you’re welcome to get in touch with me.
In these difficult times, I’m also offering emotional support free of charge remotely to anyone on a low wage, on benefits or receiving a pension. If you’d like emotional support, please contact me for more information.
NCS – the professional association for counsellors has a national directory of qualified therapists, searchable by area.
Shutterfly – has inspiring tips for making a gratitude journal.
Mind – the charity’s website has practical advice on managing stress.
The Samaritans – is a free helpline offering support to anyone in distress. It’s run by trained volunteers and it’s open 24/7.
The Association for Counselling and Therapy Online (ACTO) is an association for therapists and counsellors working online therapeutically.