Keep hope alive
Life can be tough. It can sometimes feel as if everything and everyone is against you at times. So how do we get through, is there anything we can do to ride the tough times and come out the other side relatively unscathed? How do we keep hope alive?
I have put together a few ideas to help you when you feel at rock bottom that will help you to keep the faith and keep hope alive.
1) Be philosophical
Believe things are unfolding as they are meant to. There are so many things about life that we don’t understand. Learning not to believe everything you think is also a good start – we don’t experience the world directly, instead, we see it through our own biases and faulty thinking. Some say we choose our difficulties in life in order to learn and grow. Whatever the reality/truth is, try to see the hard times as something bigger than you are. When we believe that there is a higher purpose, it makes it easier to get through. We may not like it or welcome it but it can be comforting to imagine that there is some reason for it and that it will strengthen us in the long run. There concept of post-traumatic growth is relevant here – hard times can make you stronger and more resilient.
2) Believe there is light at the end of the tunnel
Remind yourself that you will deal with whatever comes your way. Try not to think about possible things that could go wrong. Poisoning the present moment with toxic thinking that might never come to be is the quickest way to feel down-trodden. Keep hope alive and hang on to the idea of better times ahead. We experience life in ‘waves’ – good times come and go but so do the bad times.
3) Accept what you cannot change
We waste a lot of mental, emotional and physical energy resisting things that we have no power to change. Understand the difference and focus on what is within your control. Refer to point number one for the things you cannot change.
4) Improve your tolerance of uncertainty
Uncertainty is here to stay so it makes sense to find a way to live with it. No one can predict the future and so uncertainty is something no one is immune to.
Make a list of ‘safety behaviours’ that you engage in, such as obsessive list making, double checking yourself constantly, seeking reassurance from others, planning ahead too much. Safety behaviours give us the feeling that we are safer and less immune to uncertainty but the reality is that uncertainty will still exist despite safety behaviours. Rate your safety behaviours in terms of the reduction in anxiety from 0 to 10.
For example – if going to see a movie without checking the reviews would give you an anxiety rating of 2/10 (0 being no anxiety, 10 being the most anxiety) rate this as a two on your list. If talking to a complete stranger makes you anxious, figure out on a scale on 0 to 10 how anxious that would make you. Start engaging in these behaviours, start with the lowest anxiety actions and work your way up to 10 on the list. Reduce safety behaviours to help you see that you can survive without double checking, obtaining reassurance, making lists etc
5) Develop a robust ‘mental filing system’
Learn to ‘shelve’ what you cannot do anything about at the present time. Do what needs to be done on the parts you can change and then mentally shelve the issue until the next action phase swings back to you. Realise that worrying about things that you cannot have an effect upon will leave you unnecessarily anxious.
6) Unhook from your thoughts
What you focus on will become your reality and because of this, it is essential to detach or unhook from your thoughts, especially the fearful, self limiting thoughts. Remind yourself that your thought are merely internal chemical interactions and they do not have a direct bearing on reality. Learn to challenge thinking and if you are engaging in “what if” thinking, black-and-white thinking, personalising (It’s all my fault), catastrophising (eg.this is the worst thing ever!), negative filtering where you only see the negatives…stop it! Easier said than done, I know, but learn to ignore those irrational thoughts.
7) Be happy rather than accurate
The main characteristic of optimists is that they know how to look for the positives in a situation. Depressed people may be more accurate in their evaluation of their experiences but they will also be a lot more miserable. I say, do what works, if you have to tell yourself something that leaves you feeling happier rather than precisely accurate – do it!
Optimists believe their good fortune is due to something they have done, pessimists believe their good fortune is due to luck or something external to themselves. Optimists believe negative outcomes are due to elements beyond their control whereas pessimists believe bad things are due to their own inadequacies. I know which thinking I would rather go with. If it makes me feel happier, why not?
There are many tools we can use to get through life and survive our individual ‘assault courses’. Manage your perceptions of the world, tweak what doesn’t work and maintain a positive internal thought system to promote and encourage a happier, more contented you.