Hope is an active process
What has got you through the hardest moments in your life? For me it’s hope. Hope is the trust that things will improve in time and it’s a personal commitment (and persistence) to contribute to that change. Hope is an active process! Listed below are what I’ve learned about hope from my own struggles and supporting others in my therapeutic work.
We need to first acknowledge and offer ourselves kindness for our hurts and hardships. It’s hard to be hopeful, when we dismiss or invalidate the significance of what we’re dealing with in the present moment. The pain might come from our understanding of something, from past hurts, or future worries. Create compassionate space for it.
This symbol, the ampersand, reminds me that life is full of complicated dialectics- we can feel, think, and act in a way that seems contradictory. We can feel sad about a loss & relieved that the suffering of the person we cared about has ended. We can be kind and caring towards others & set boundaries to protect our peace. We can work on accepting ourselves or our circumstances & actively seek to create change and healing. We can feel overwhelmed, anxious and depressed & still hold onto hope. We need to feel to heal. To practice, allow for the idea of ‘both/and’ to exist and replace the word ‘and’ in place of ‘but’ when describing all of what you feel or think about a situation.
We need hope the most when our suffering is the most intense and long lasting—it helps us have the ‘sticktoitiveness’ to persevere. Be patient with yourself and (as much as you can) the situation. Connect with others that can hold onto and instil hope in you. This might be a friend, family member, co-worker, or a mental health professional. If you’re feeling hopeless, there are supports available 24/7 in Canada and the United States.
Glimmers are small moments that bring unexpected feelings of contentedness, happiness, or connection. Have you ever noticed:
the smell of fragrant flowers or freshly cut grass,
the feel of the warm sun on your skin or cool rain,
the sound of a child’s laughter or the whistling of birds,
seen a rainbow on a stormy day or felt in awe of the stars in the sky,
heard the crunch of snow or dried leaves under your feet,
felt the satisfaction of getting a task done,
heard a favourite song playing on the radio or in the store,
got an encouraging text or message from a loved one,
read something in a book, online or even on a billboard that ‘spoke to you’ at just the right moment,
felt the softness of a cuddly blanket, sweater, or furry friend?
Glimmers are all around us and they can serve as reminders of hope!
Purpose is a guiding force in our life. It may be connected to our responsibilities to care for our children, pets, or plants or in our tasks at work. It can also be connected to things that you value or that bring you joy or satisfaction. Your purpose can be anything and it doesn’t need to be ‘productive’. Psychologist, Adam Grant, described how playing Mario Kart with his family was helpful in his TEDTalk on ‘How to stop languishing and start finding flow’. At different points in my life, my hope has been grounded in big things like my family, faith, and helping others, as well as small things, such as creative projects, cleaning and organizing, yoga, and making fun, informative social media posts for Instragram :)
In Atlas of the Heart, researcher Brene Brown, states “Hope is forged when our goals, pathways, and agency are tested and when change is actually possible. Unfortunately, there are times when hope isn’t sufficient to combat entrenched systemic barriers.” Hope needs to be anchored in realistic expectations for yourself and what can be changed in your life. When setting goals that are connected to your guiding purpose, acknowledge what is doable, and if there is a big change goal you’d like to achieve, break it down into manageable steps and gather support for the process.
What is hope?
To me hope is a complex emotion, mindset, and belief system that necessitates kindness and compassion towards ourselves so we can have patience and determination to see things through and do our part to actively create change and healing. I ‘hope’ that the strategies above help you connect with and nourish hope within you.