7 Ways to Summon Hope — Even When All Hopefulness Is Lost
Sometimes, losing all hope is the first step to finding it again.
To have hope is to have a reasonable expectation that good things will happen — or that bad things will not.
That is, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), who claim that we can all harness hope in a number of ways: as an emotion, a motivating call to action, a coping mechanism that helps you navigate grief and loss—or, all of the above.
A far cry from the trappings of false or toxic positivity, genuine hopefulness grounds us in an authentically positive outlook, helping to build resilience in the face of events that can be challenging or traumatic.
In other words, having hope helps us get through hard times relatively unscathed.
No One Is Exempt From Losing Hope
As integral as hope is to our lives, everybody has moments when they feel totally hopeless.
Often triggered by stress, trauma, or repeated failures, hopelessness can become so severe that your will to carry on is compromised.
Simply getting out of bed can be a challenge at times like these. Activities that once brought you joy may fail to elicit any reaction whatsoever. You may gravitate toward self-isolation rather than engage with people who seem to inhabit a different planet: one where hope still exists.
You may feel like a shell of your former self, lacking energy, and merely going through the motions while hardly being present. Under such circumstances, an inability to plan or work towards goals is commonplace.
It’s worth mentioning that for those who tend to suffer from depression or anxiety (even on a good day), cultivating hope can be crucial to symptom management. Persistent feelings of hopelessness so often characterize depression, and in the case of anxiety, fear is often a core factor. In both instances, a perceived lack of control so often accompanies the feeling that things just aren’t going to work out.
Figuring out how to summon hope— particularly when circumstances are extremely difficult—is an integral step toward getting your life back.
Consider These 7 Strategies for Rekindling Hope Against All Odds
1. See the Silver Lining in Losing All Hope
While there is no shortage of advice out there about holding onto hope, it can be helpful to acknowledge that, ironically, hope can hinder us at times.
While hope can act as a powerful motivator, it can sometimes morph into something like intense yearning.
Whether you’re hoping to conquer anxiety, land your dream job, find love, make more money, or achieve that perfect beach bod, disappointment is hope’s dark side.
The good news? Lost hope offers a silver lining, should you choose to accept it. When you lose hope, you may also lose your grip on damaging expectations you’ve placed on yourself (or on others).
This, in turn, can offer a sense of freedom from the pressures of meeting these expectations. Indeed, sometimes, losing all hope can be the first step toward accepting that certain things may simply not be possible right now. In turn, this can help you to move on and refocus your energies.
2. Acknowledge How Difficult it is to Feel Hopeful
Looking for a silver lining at the worst of times may feel downright ridiculous.
And if your hope isn’t genuine, it won’t be much of a help to you.
But acknowledging how hard it is to feel hopeful is an important step in the process of working through your emotions. It can help you validate your feelings, accept them, and finally begin to move forward.
Friendly reminder: having hope doesn’t have to be about always keeping on the proverbial sunny side. Hope is a reasonable (realistic) expectation that something positive may happen—and that you have some measure of control over how things turn out.
If you’re really at a loss, it might be helpful to “borrow” sources of hope from others: sometimes, reflecting on what brings your friends or family hope can start to transform your own outlook— a positive contagion.
3. Don’t Forget About Self-Care
Cultivating hope in your life begins with developing a stronger awareness of your emotions, as well as the triggers that launch you into different states of mind.
Once you have a better baseline understanding of your emotional landscape, acts of self-care become much more intuitive because you know what authentic comfort consists of for you personally.
This might include a range of different activities, be it working out, working on a creative project, watching favorite movies or TV shows, or taking the time to cook delicious meals for yourself.
Though they may seem minor, small acts that bring you some measure of comfort, joy, or mental wellbeing are your foundation for hope: they provide moments to look forward to, even when things feel beyond your control.
4. Reframe From Negative Self-Talk
Trying to reframe negative thought patterns is everything — of course, it’s no easy feat.
Even if we understand that the things we instinctively tell ourselves are not entirely true, the habit of saying them is the problem.
Whether it’s assigning persecutory meaning to the actions of others; immediately catastrophizing when things go wrong in small or temporary ways; or filtering out the positive and only absorbing the negative aspects of a given situation, negative self-talk is not easy to unravel, but rerouting your narrative is entirely possible when you commit to working at it.
For instance, if you’re mired in negative narratives around never finding love, you may need to consciously interject each time your mind tells you “it’s bound to go wrong,” offering yourself an amended version instead: “there’s really no reason this won’t go right.” While it may feel fake at first, you may be surprised how quickly the switch-up begins to ring true.
5. Remember That You do Have Some Agency.
Being hopeful relies in part on having a sense of control or influence on events in your life.
Since there are surely situations beyond your control (such as the death of a loved one), there are times when you’ll need to exercise your agency by finding ways to relieve unpleasant emotions, rather than grasping for control over the uncontrollable.
Harnessing your agency might include elements of your self-care routine, and/or it may be extended outwards, to finding ways to help others (i.e., volunteering at a local community organization close to your heart). Sometimes, being reminded that you do still have the ability to make some impact, however small, is just what you need to reignite a hopeful heart.
6. Cultivate Close Connection
Being able to acknowledge the awfulness of a given situation with others—good listeners, at that—can make all the difference in the world.
Sometimes, reflecting with engaged and empathetic others can improve your own capacity to cope.
Being able to have open, vulnerable conversations, thereby working through your feelings without totally isolating yourself, is key. If you already have people you can open up to, make it a point to have regular check-ins. And never underestimate the power of reciprocity: listening to your friends and helping them through their own issues will likely benefit you as well.
And if you don’t have close relationships, there are ways to build them. For instance, if you know people you’d like to be closer to, you might try initiating a support group with them (be it via Zoom or in person). You might just be surprised how many people are going through parallel struggles and are 100% interested in mutual support.
7. Work With a Therapist
If none of the above ideas have any traction for you, and help continues to elude you at every turn, you might consider working with a qualified therapist.
Sometimes, what we need most of all is someone who offers us the space to voice our worries and weaknesses alike and help us uncover meaningful ways of working through them.
Can’t afford therapy? Consider the following tips for finding an affordable and accessible therapist.
While many of us are finding it challenging to stay positive given the current state of the world, genuine hope begins small—with you and your feelings.
When cultivated with commitment, hope slowly extends outward—to the events in your life, and how you react to them. While at the worst of times, hope may seem laughable, it’s also the key to surviving (nay, thriving) in the face of it all.