How do you find hope when you’re feeling depressed and are struggling to feel any positive emotions at all?
I remember just how incredibly hopeless I felt back when I was suffering from depression. Your mind completely convinces you that your life and health will never improve. That you’ll never be happy again. That life will never feel easy again.
And if you truly believe that, how can you possibly get better?
How is anyone supposed to live well and even live at all without a sense of hope?
Hope comes first
Shane Lopez, a psychologist known for his research into hope, has said the following:
hope = action + belief. Hope equals action plus belief.
You’ve got to actually believe that success is possible. This belief will then drive you to take action. Having high hope doesn’t mean you end up being unrealistic and labelled a dreamer. Instead, you’ll be able to come up with numerous ways to reach your goal and won’t give up when obstacles appear. Hopeful people don’t expect things to be easy but are able to persist and sustain their motivation to move toward their goal.
So really: Hope comes first. And the Italians are meant to say that hope is also the last thing ever lost.
But how do you find hope when you're feeling depressed?
When it’s hard to even just put your feet on the floor in the morning, life is tough. How do you keep going? How can you find hope when you’re feeling depressed? How can you start believing that things can get better for you again?
Remember that it’s just your thoughts
Remind yourself that your thoughts are nothing but just thoughts. They are not the truth. I doubt most if any of your friends and family tell you that there’s no hope for you. It’s just your thoughts doing that. But again: They are JUST thoughts. We have many thousands of them every day. Some are helpful, some are not. Practice mindfulness and don’t take your there-is-no-hope-thoughts seriously. If you haven’t yet read my post on how to stop being trapped by negative thoughts, then do so here.
Surround yourself with high-hope optimistic people
Seek out the people in your life that see the bright side of things. The ones that have a positive attitude about life, and try to soak up their optimism as much as you can.
Remind yourself of your past successes
I am absolutely sure that you will be able to think of past wins in your life. No matter what you are going through at the moment, I am sure you have already accomplished many great things in life. Perhaps it’s something relating to your education, your career, a hobby or a skill or something within your family and friendships. Why not write a list of all the past wins in your life – big and small. Remind yourself that you have overcome obstacles once before, were able to keep going and achieved something in the end. You can do this again.
Spend time in nature
Next time you’re out in nature, pay attention to the absolutely amazing creatures, colours and plants out there. The pattern of a sunflower, the roots of a tree, a spider web, a sunset. When you notice the incredible and beautiful things that are possible, you can start to realise that you too are capable of remarkable things.
Have a goal
Do you have a goal? Do you know what your best future looks like? There are exercises that I do with my clients in which we create best-life visions. What do you want your life to look like in the next 5, 10 years? What will you be doing? What will be different? Based on those, we set goals and work out ways to achieve them. They’re not airy-fairy unrealistic goals, but achievable by consistent effort and forward-planning. And because there’s now a goal and a goal map that explains how to get you there, you can then start taking the first step. Setting goals creates hope and confidence. And once you start taking those first steps, you get this feeling of “Yes, I can do this!”.
Finding a sense of hope again when you’re feeling depressed is a total game-changer. It’s the foundation of your recovery and is what will keep you going through these challenging and dark times.
Having once had zero hope myself, I totally believe that developing new hope is possible. You’re not the only one out there who is feeling like this. There are plenty of others, and plenty who once felt depressed and hopeless but no longer do. Keep going strong.