By building hope and our belief in a brighter future, we can begin to transform the world for the better.
This is the second article in our Journey of Hope series. Click here to read the first article, to understand more about the dangers of hopelessness, and the power that hope can have in transforming our lives.
We must remember the reason for making this journey. By building hope and our belief in a brighter future, we can begin to transform the world for the better.
Having read the first article, we already know that we should start becoming more hopeful. The question is, how do we do it? Well, here are some practical ways to instigate hope in your life.
1. Engage in acts of kindness
Being kind to another person is a wonderful thing to do. A selfless act can make someone’s day and sometimes it can even change their life. It can be as simple as singing happy birthday to someone in the middle of a pandemic.
However, even selfless acts aren’t totally selfless. They can do wonders for your own mental health, by reducing stress, improving emotional wellbeing and helping to get rid of negative feelings (such as hopelessness).
It can even help us to live longer – studies show that those who give support to others live longer lives than those who don’t.
Focusing on contributing to others, instead of our own needs, is a useful reminder that the world exists outside of ourselves. The act of giving also provides a useful distraction from our own problems.
Amid this overwhelming pandemic, performing small acts of kindness can reinforce a sense of agency. There is at least something you can do to help, however small that the act might be. Agency, as we have learned, is a key component of hope.
Getting involved with charities is a good way to start. Who is Hussain? has been facilitating acts of kindness throughout the world for years. Since the pandemic began, the team has delivered thousands of meals, protective equipment and gifts of kindness. Find out how you can get involved here.
2. Step out of your comfort zone
By taking risks and being brave, you can also generate hope. It can generate confidence in yourself and your ideals. It often means taking control of the narrative, which we know to be an important part of the hope equation. Stepping out of your comfort zone can inspire the confidence to be brave for bigger challenges.
Bravery can take all forms. It can involve showing up when everything seems lost. It can involve taking a stand for what you believe in, despite the consequences. But courage on behalf of others is one of the best forms of bravery. A fearless but selfless act for another gives the gift of hope to someone else.
3. Stay in the present
Feelings of hopelessness are necessarily focused on the future. By focusing on the here and now, we reduce the sense of powerlessness we might feel when thinking about things which could be. There are a few methods which can help to keep us in the present.
Meditation is an excellent way to channel your thinking to your current state. Meditators are often gently encouraged to slow the mind down and focus on how the body feels at that very moment. It’s an excellent way to pull yourself out from worries about the future, and into action in the present.
Single-tasking, which is the act of doing one thing at a time, can also focus your mind on what you are doing right there and then. For example, the next time you’re watching a movie, don’t check your phone. Just take the time to enjoy the film without distracting yourself with other things. It sounds simple, but it can have a profound effect on your mental wellbeing.
4. Create new ways of thinking
A lot of the time, negative feelings, such as hopelessness, are brought about by harmful ways of thinking. Simple cognitive behavioural therapy techniques can help to realign negative mental models and can help you become more positive and hopeful.
For example, “thought stopping” can help to halt negative thoughts of hopelessness in their tracks. When a negative thought comes into your mind, say the word “STOP”, and replace it with a more positive, hopeful idea.
Another way to create hopeful thinking is to interrogate the way that you think about yourself and the world. Understanding common negative thought patterns can help you to recognise them when you fall victim to them.
For example, “black and white thinking”, where your thoughts are so polarised that they fail to see nuance in the world, can lead to unhelpful and unrealistic conclusions. Recognising this thought pattern, and stopping it before it takes over, can engender more hopeful thinking.
5. Limit your news and social media intake
Many studies have found a strong link between heavy social media usage and an increased risk of depression, anxiety and sometimes suicidal thoughts. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram can lead to unrealistic comparisons and feelings of inadequacy.
Constantly surrounding yourself with negative news, and there’s a lot of it these days, can multiply hopeless feelings. As a citizen of the world, it is important to stay in touch with world events so that you can instigate change, but you should also take breaks from the news and social media when it becomes overwhelming.
Instead, surround yourself with friends, family and loved ones, and become more present. Seeking out human contact, rather than getting lost in your phone, is a surefire way to boost your hopefulness.
6. Talking to other people
Hopelessness can germinate if our negative thoughts only stay within the confines of our own minds. Talking to someone – whether it be a friend or a professional therapist – can give you the perspective you need to feel better.
You should make sure that the people you talk to are also hopeful spirits. Surrounding yourself with positive people reflects positively onto you. By allowing others into your journey, you can benefit from contagious hopefulness.
The theory is easy – just take steps to build hope in your life, and you’ll never feel lost again, right?
However, as we all know well, life is full of setbacks and obstacles. We need to remain committed to our journey of hope, no matter what happens. The trick is to combine hopefulness with resilience – and that’s what we’ll focus in the next article.