As we approach the end of what has been an incredibly difficult year for many, I got to thinking about gifts. Yes, with Christmas approaching, this is not a surprising thing to be considering, but I got to thinking about a gift that costs nothing and offers incredible benefits.
The gift I have been pondering is that of hope. It seems to have been in short supply this year. And the absence of hope can be absolutely debilitating. It can result in depression, listlessness and ill health.
For so many of my clients hope is a critical aspect of the work we do together. I can’t count the number of times a client has commented on how Cognitive Hypnotherapy has given them a sense of hope they felt was completely lost to them.
Often they have tried various things to feel better and they feel disillusioned. As if they are destined to forever cope with their psychological distress, surviving each day, with no hope of ever finding joy and learning to thrive.
But hope offers many benefits and is essential in giving us the optimism to face those difficult days. Hope is often supported by social connection and that has been a challenge for many this year. When we feel hopeful we tend to find more meaning in our lives, we are more resilient to depression and anxiety, and more likely to succeed.
When faced with challenging times, hopeful people tend to do something, while hopeless people will often withdraw and stop. And this makes perfect sense – if you have no sense of hope or optimism for the future, what use is doing something? Yet, it is. Even the smallest action can prove to be the catalyst. The difference that makes the difference.
Hope has also been linked to better health outcomes, higher academic performance and higher productivity at work.
With hope comes optimism for the future, the chance of things getting better, a way out of whatever it is you have been struggling with. So how can be manifest hope? For ourselves, or for others? Here are some simple tips to start to create a sense of hope and optimism in these times of huge uncertainty:
- Take a few minutes each day to appreciate the simple pleasures, joys and things that bring meaning to your life. Often when we think about a meaningful life, we associate it with having some big life ambition, but actually, meaning can be found in small things every day
- a kind exchange with a neighbour, a beautiful sunrise, the changing colours of the leaves with the seasons, a crisp, brisk winter morning walk with birdsong punctuating the quiet around you
- Find a small goal to help you look, and move forward. Even if that goal is to walk to the end of your garden, or your street each day, it will help
- Connect. Yes, a difficult one, but it can be done. Meeting in person is still difficult, but a phone call, a text or a video call just to check in on someone can make a huge difference
- Get creative. Creativity is a great tonic. It allows us to create something tangible, beautiful and to access a state of flow – whether it is woodwork, crochet, painting, music, tidying the flower boarders, doesn’t matter. Find something you enjoy and find a little time as often as possible to do it
- Jot down ways you can help others gain a sense of hope. Perhaps a plan to meet in the future, or a regular weekly catch up call. When we went into the last lockdown, I couldn’t meet my good friend and fellow artist, so we did a video call and painted together that way. Not the same, but something. Have something scheduled in for you and your friend to look forward to
- If you are struggling, seek help. There are reasons to be hopeful. There are things to look forward to. Sometimes we just need a little helping hand in figuring what and where they are.
And remember, whether good or bad, nothing lasts forever. This too will pass. Have hope in that. And it may be a long while yet before things return to any sort of normal, so in the meantime, find reasons to be thankful, reasons to be kind and hope will return.