Let’s be real. There are many reasons that our hope may be dissipating. From the ongoing COVID concerns and pandemic deaths among our families and friends, to the horrific war in Ukraine, it can be difficult to maintain a positive demeanor during times like these. However, there are concrete things you can do to stay hopeful.
Check in with yourself. How are you feeling? Really? Are you paying attention when you feel anxious or sad? Or are you distracting yourself with snacks, doom scrolling, and other unhelpful habits? Consider taking ten minutes to sit quietly with those thoughts instead to see if they dissipate. Your authentic feelings are important, so be mindful when you feel like covering them up.
Make small shifts. Neuroscience researchers have proven that our thoughts and emotions adapt to what we most frequently think and feel. When you’re feeling down, spend a few minutes thinking or writing about a time when you felt joyful. Ponder something that makes you feel happy and hopeful–like a conversation with a friend you love, your silly dog’s antics, or a recent success–and you’ll be exercising your “hope muscles.”
Practice intentional gratitude. Hope matters. Another way to maintain hope during challenging times is through an intentional daily gratitude practice. Write a list of ten things you’re grateful for every day before bed or start the day with a quick gratitude meditation. Gratitude is a proven attitude improver, and it’s so easy to access–take advantage of it!
Make considered media choices. If you feel the need to be informed about the happenings in the world, consider limiting your news exposure to 20 minutes a day. You’ll know what’s going on without overexposing yourself to the negative news that can adversely impact your mental health during challenging times. Consider watching optimistic programs like Ted Lasso or The Office to inject some humor into your day to break up any anxiety you may be experiencing.
Dance it out. Science has shown that dancing has a positive impact on emotions and mood. “Conscious dance,” freely moving to music in an unchoreographed way, is something we can all do–with others or alone. And–BONUS–98% of conscious dancers in one study said it improved their mood and helped them “let go of distressing thoughts.” Give it a try with your kids or by yourself! With so much music available to us online, it won’t be hard to find a tune that gets you moving. (And if dancing isn’t your thing, moving your body with a 10-minute walk or doing 25 jumping jacks works, too!)