Maintaining Hope in Difficult Times
(Published by Natural Awakenings Hawai'i October 2018)
by Lani Kwon, MA, RYT
We are a world in crisis. In America, many people are anxious and afraid of the political, religious, racial, economic, environmental and social divisions we are experiencing. On a personal scale, there are also some that feel trapped in dead-end jobs, unhappy marriages and/or dysfunctional families.
However, there is hope. Many find support in their partners, relatives, friends and communities. Many are connecting with aligned individuals, companies and organizations to make a difference in the world. Many have learned how to use body-mind-spirit practices to cope and find center. Hope resides inside each of us and we can tap into that enduring source during difficult times.
Hope begins with the willingness to consciously choose to view the world through love and not fear, through the present and not the past, and through the possibility for something better and not despair. Depending upon our upbringing, life experiences, and family and cultural programming, we have a particular mindset in which we experience reality. Yet, we can learn to choose language, thoughts and feelings that will support us in being more loving and optimistic, even when exterior events seem dire and depressing. We can also choose to take promising actions.
Rebecca Solnit, in her book Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities, writes:
“It’s important to say what hope is not: it is not the belief that everything was, is, or will be fine. The evidence is all around us of tremendous suffering and tremendous destruction. The hope I’m interested in is about broad perspectives with specific possibilities, ones that invite or demand that we act. It’s also not a sunny everything-is-getting-better narrative, though it may be a counter to the everything-is-getting-worse narrative. You could call it an account of complexities and uncertainties, with openings.”
Hope is being realistic about the challenges we face. It’s about engagement and action, practical activism rather than new-agey “sending love and light” or passive “thoughts and prayers” platitudes. In other words, hope starts when we know we can make a significant difference in our own lives and the lives of others, and when we take steps to make that happen.
Here is a list of hopeful action steps to try out:
Breathe: Notice your in-breath and out-breath. To calm yourself, breathe out slowly one or two counts longer than inhaling.
Notice Your Thoughts: Are they peaceful or anxious? Are you present in this moment or wandering in the past or future? Are your thoughts realistic or catastrophizing? If you find your thoughts are repetitively negative and/or obsessive, you may wish to seek counseling or hypnotherapy to “rewire” your brain and take charge of your thinking.
Read a Good Book (or a Few): According to decades of positive psychology scientific research, most notably by Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman (Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being) and Caroline Adams Miller (Creating Your Best Life and Getting Grit: The Evidence-Based Approach to Cultivating Passion, Perseverance and Purpose), you can modify behaviors to become more optimistic, more successful and more perseverant.
Self-Care: Eat and drink well, exercise regularly, go out in nature and make sure to connect with loved ones that care about you.
Rest: If you feel you’re not sleeping well at night, ask your doctor about doing a sleep study to be sure you’re sleeping properly. Also, try a quick 10-15-minute nap, if possible, during the day, or try a yoga nidra “yogic sleep” meditation — it’s free online.
Monitor and Be Selective about Your Intake of News, Music, and/or Social Media: Choose to limit bad news and subscribe to inspiring media and uplifting music.
Connect with and Care for Others: Find aligned communities — church, civic and service groups offer opportunities for collaboration and interconnection. Volunteer and/or donate money to causes in which you believe.
Practice Gratitude: Notice what is going well each day and write it down. Focus on being grateful for people, situations and things that work out.
By choosing several of these action steps, you can stay afloat and maintain hope in difficult times.
Lani Kwon, MA, founder of Creating YOUR Calling LLC, provides clients with step-by-step tools and resources for life redesign. She has over two decades of experience in crisis counseling, teaching, public speaking and writing. Lani is also the author of The Creating CoPOWERment Workbook. She is currently working on Creating YOUR Calling®: How to Discover Your Authentic Life Mission©, due to be published in 2021.
Popova, Maria. “Rebecca Solnit on Hope in Dark Times, Resisting the Defeatism of Easy Despair, and What Victory Really Means for Movements of Social Change.” BrainPickings.org. 22 August 2018. https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/03/16/rebecca-solnit-hope-in-the-dark-2/
For more information, email lani@coPOWERment.com or visit CoPOWERment.com.