This story was originally posted on the happiness blog.
How to find hope in hard times? I don’t know. We will try to answer this really hard question in this post. In fact, when things are good, and life is happening, it’s not that hard to find hope, since positive things have been happening in your life, and they are good precedents to have.
However, it is when things are really hard, and they have been hard for long, it gets tough to find sources of being and remaining hopeful. The question we are trying to answer here is how to find hope in dark times when there are no signs of hope.
The important thing to understand about life is that when we think there are no signs of hope, there are still ways to feel hope. This is sort of a framework for finding hope in hard and painful times.
Let us start with the basics.
What exactly is hope?
The immortal dialogue on hope in the movie Shawshank Redemption goes as the below:
“Remember, Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.
Yes, hope is a good thing. It took Andy Dufresne 20 years to escape the prison, where he had been falsely incarcerated. 20 years is a long time. Most people do not have the physical and the mental strength to keep going on for 20 years. But, Andy was hopeful and he kept going.
This may turn out to be the most important posts on this blog, and I am happy about it, because I promise, by the time you have finished reading this, I would have injected hope in your mind and in your heart.
As per the dictionary, hope is the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.
Why is hope important?
Hope is important for our mental and spiritual health. It is one of the finest emotions in human life. Hope is important for us because we want to know that our future would be better, happier and productive than our past and our present. We hope for a better future. Without hope, life would be meaningless and worthless. It is because of hope that we work and aim towards our goals.
How to find hope when you feel hopeless?
It is quite easy to find hope when things are going well. You feel good, and life runs smooth. However, it is when life hits you in the head with a brick, and nothing seems to work, that you find it hard to find hope.
How can we find hope? Here are 17 ways to find hope in difficult times.
1. Find hope in your past adversity
You may be facing a really hard situation right now which seems quite hopeless and you feel there is no way out. However, if you have lived a few years of adult life, you may have had situations in your life where you faced adversity and nothing seemed to work. However, no matter how things looked bad back then, you kept looking for solutions and eventually a solution emerged out of nowhere, and you managed to survive.
Look at the current situation now, and tell yourself that if you could find hope in your past when things were really hard, you can probably find hope even now, when things seem hard again. Although situations are different in every case, the fact that you have fought adversity in the past, and have emerged would give you hope, when it is quite hard to find hope.
2. Find hope in your past successes
One of the features of hopelessness is that it makes us feel worthless. When we feel hopeless, we feel that we aren’t capable of anything, while that is not the truth. You have done some amazing things in your past, and if you think about how hard they were, you would change how you feel about yourself. If you feel good about yourself, you would also begin to feel hopeful. It is extremely important to feel hopeful about future so that you can work to create the future that you deeply desire.
Focus on the amazing things you have done and this process would give you hope.
3. Focus on the unique journey of your life
One of ways to destroy hope is by constantly comparing your life to that of others, and then feeling bad about your life. You are a unique individual with a unique set of characteristics and values. You don’t want to ape other people in how to live your life. When people walk on difficult roads, there are bound to be accidents on the way.
You have had an accident and what you need to do is to recover from the accident. May be there are people on the adjacent highway living a smoother life, but their lives mean nothing to you. Focus on the unique journey of your life. It would give you hope.
4. Look at what hopelessness is doing to you
The output matters. Hopelessness never leads to a positive and healthy output. If you feel hopeless, just accept that you are in an extremely negative mental state, and you need to get out of it.
The only way to get out of hopelessness is by taking action, and keep taking action till you find your way out of the mess that you find yourself in.
I talk about happiness on this blog all the time. Happiness needs to be created every day. So does hope.
5. Experiment with multiple possible solutions
The only way to get out of your seemingly hopeless situations is by trying to find solutions and not stop till you find one. Once you find a solution, you would be fine. Therefore, make a plan to find different possible solutions to your problem, and start by working on possible solutions.
Finding hope, therefore, seems to be a process of finding solutions.
6. The tunnel is dark, but you can’t stay inside the tunnel
They say that there is light at the end of the tunnel, but what if you don’t see the light? If you don’t see the light right now, you have to keep walking till you see the light. Well, your life depends on it.
There is light at the end of the tunnel. Keep walking. Hey, your life depends on it. Keep walking. If you stop, you would die, and nobody would care. It is your life and your life depends on finding that light. Find it.
7. Find hope in stories of great people
Some of the greatest people in the world who have led extremely hard lives are examples that if they could find hope, so can we. Nelson Mandela, one of the greatest inspirations for me and for millions of other people around the world, spent 27 years in prison.
Helen Keller, was 19 months old when she contracted an illness that left her blind, deaf and dumb. She lost 3 of her senses and still continued with her life, wrote books and became an inspiration for everyone. She lived till 87 years of age while experiencing only the sense of touch and taste. What can we do with our senses?
Hiro Onoda went to Philippines as a Japanese war soldier and spent 30 years till 1974 in the misguided belief that the war wasn’t over, when the Second World War was over in 1945. He kept waiting for his boss and his orders because he had been told not to surrender. He survived for 3 decades on fruits in the jungle, animals he killed for food and water he drank from the stream in the jungle after boiling it. He survived for 30 years inside a jungle, because he believed he was fighting a just war for his country. He went on to live for 40 more years. It is an incredible story of a man’s survival amidst incredible odds.
Nick Vujicic was born with a rare disorder characterised by the absence of limbs. He continues to live a life where he doesn’t look at his disabilities but the possibilities, and continues to inspire people around the world.
These are only a few example of people who have found hope in spite of tremendous adversity that they had to face. If they could find hope, and make something meaningful of their lives, so can you and I? If they could find hope, so can we?
8. Find hope through optimism
Optimism is a way to look at life. It is an attitude. In any situation, you can either look at the positives or negatives. You may be in a difficult situation right now, but this situation may turn out to be a formative situation for your life.
Look at what are the good things about the situation right now, and how can you use what’s good? You have been looking at everything that’s negative about your situation and that is depressing you and making you feel hopeless. Take the time and make the effort to look at what’s positive about the situation and may be you would find hidden opportunities which you couldn’t see earlier.
Staying positive in life always helps than being negative.
9. Find hope through imagination
Imagine what you emerge in your situation with or without precedence. I ran a LinkedIn post around finding hope when I started writing this piece, and someone suggested that one should look for hope through imagination, adding that precedence impedes imagination. Now, that’s a great thought.
It seems hard to apply at first but it is as good as thinking out of the possibilities that you have known in the past. Think of what could be a possibility or a possible solution and something altogether new may emerge.
Find hope thorough imagination or plain old blue sky thinking.
10. Find hope in family, friends, even strangers
Ask for help! Ask around. Imagine you have fallen inside a river and are holding on to a piece of wood while the river carries you on. You are sure you would die. You try to find some rock or some land area that you could hold on to, to survive. What else you can do-you can scream for help?
When your life is at stake, scream for help.
There is hope that someone would hear you, and would come to help you and get you out of the river. There is no reason to fight your battles alone. Find hope in people around you. If they care enough, they would help you. Remember, if someone saves your life, do not forget to pay back in gratitude.
11. Find hope in God or nature, whatever you believe in
It is quite egotistical and farcical of human beings to believe that they have complete control over their lives. We are born without our consent, in families and circumstances that we don’t choose. These families and circumstances and more that we go through during our lives affect the experience of our lives, and even then we continue to believe that we control our lives.
When you feel hopeless, find hope either in God, if you are religious, or in nature. Either there is a powerful force called God who runs the world, or nature runs the world through its physical laws.
You will be guided by the supreme powers. Have hope in them.
12. Find hope in self-belief
Believe that you are capable of riding over your circumstances. If you don’t think you can, you won’t be able to do it. Our thinking guides our actions and our actions lead to how we feel. If you feel hopeless, you need to get off the bed, and start taking actions to better your situation. However, you would not be able to do it without self-belief.
Again, self-belief comes with the realization that your belief in yourself has carried through this far in life, and you would be able to ride through this period of adversity as well.
13. Remember than giving up is not an option
It is simple. You cannot give up. So, you need to find hope. The only way to find hope is by trying to find ways to solve your problems. There are problems that you face that you feel would never end.
The definition of hopelessness is the feeling that your problems are permanent and your life would never improve.
If you want to find hope, you need to attack this feeling. The only way to attack this feeling is by working on finding solutions to your problems. There have to be solutions.
14. Find hope through building a strong mind
A strong mind can go through almost anything. Hope is a feeling, an emotion. The way to feeling hopeful is to fight hopelessness. The only way you can fight hopelessness is to realize in most circumstances, besides in cases of palliative care where death is certain.
However, besides those cases, we can fight life and emerge out of difficult circumstances if we have a strong and resilient mind. So, work on creating a strong mind that will not let you give in, in trying circumstances. Build a mind of steel.
15. Just hang in there
The sun sets every night and then there is darkness. The sun rises every morning. Sometimes, the nights of your hard days may be quite long, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t be over. They will be over, and hope would simply emerge. If you stay hopeful for your future just by having faith and trust that there would be better days, then hope would emerge out of nowhere.
This thought by Thomas Fuller is one of my favorite quotes:
The darkest hour of the night comes just before the dawn.
Wait for the dawn. Life would be better. Hang in there.
16. Find hope through gratitude
Yes, you are in a hard situation where it is tough to be hopeful. However, you want to find hope so that you can carry on. It is hard to be grateful at this point. However, considering that you are reading this, you are alive. You can read, you can think, you can eat. Learn to cultivate gratitude in the hardest of times, and it will give you strength to carry on.
Gratitude makes us realize that we have been blessed with life, and no matter how hard it may seem, the entire experience of life is a blessing that we did not even earn. Think about it.
17. Find hope through action
The only real way to find hope is through action. Although it has been broken down into different parts in the points above, this is the essence of hope and happiness. If you want to find happiness, you need to first find where it lies for you, and then create it. If you need to find hope, you must find ways to create that hope for yourself.
It is not easy to find hope, especially when you are feeling hopeless or depressed. However, unless and until you get back up and start attacking your problems and try to find solutions, you won’t find any. Find hope in action. Work day and night and do not stop till you are able to find the solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems that you face.
If you can’t find a solution, invent one. Just do not give up. Find a way, or make one.
This is the end of this list. By no means, this would be an exhaustive list. However, I believe this could be a good starting point. I wrote this piece to help anyone in the world find hope in dark times, when there seems to be no hope.
In Conclusion- How to find hope
I hope this article helps you in finding hope in the hard times that you face. The purpose of writing this was to find creative ways of finding hope so that hope doesn’t become a fuzzy thing that we have no control over, but a mental framework through which we can find it, and feel it in our hearts. I hope this helps you get started on your journey of finding hope and happiness in your life.
Thank you for reading.