Nurture hope to overcome challenging times
Political conflict and change are normal features of life; however, recent events have elevated that concept to new heights in modern American history. During these times of increased tension and polarization, conflict and change have caused many people to feel anxious and worried. Indeed, the more closely individuals’ political stances are tied to their core values and beliefs, the more they may worry about change, which, as we know, is inevitable.
Just prior to November’s election, Beacon Health Options posted a blog that provided tips from four Beacon clinicians on how to find balance during a particularly polarizing election. In that blog, tips ranged from restricting media exposure to coping with feelings of loss and disappointment to managing friends and family members with opposing political views.
Today, Beacon would like to take a closer look at perhaps the most important tool in the resiliency toolbox: hope. Since the beginning of time, people have recognized the important role hope plays in overcoming difficulties. Consider the myth of Pandora’s box. The curious Pandora opens a forbidden box only to release a host of evils into the world. Except one thing was left in the box – hope. In other words, with hope, all is not lost but in our grasp leading to better days. Through hope, individuals plagued by recent events can lift themselves out of difficult times.
Hope is more than aspirational
Studies show that hopeful people have better physical, mental and emotional health and that hope contributes to their overall achievement. It’s not clear whether people are born with the innate capacity for a hopeful outlook or if it is a learned behavior. Additionally, as with many aspects of personality, how people are raised can affect their ability to ignite and maintain a sense of hope.
Don’t despair if you find you fall in the more negative-thinking group. You can build hope as you would any other habit, and consequently, find a way out of the dismay that you may be feeling about recent events. Remember that, while you may not have an immediate impact on the world around you, you can take charge of your own life and how you view your larger world. For example:
- Envision the future you want for yourself and your community. Dream big but have a realistic plan of action to get there.
- Pursue and/or develop skills and talents that help you pursue your goals. Should you get more involved in your community? Should you stand up more for your point of view?
- Be creative when thinking of ways to overcome obstacles.
- Counter negative self-talk and negative talk in general.
- Read inspiring stories of how both individuals and communities have overcome setbacks.
- Be grateful for and celebrate the small pleasures and achievements of life.
- Avoid negative things—stories, news, people, movies—that lead to feelings of despair.
- Don’t rush hope. Feeling bad after an uncomfortable experience is natural and necessary. Have faith that hope will return if given room and time to expand.
Change starts with you. As your own life improves, you may find that your outlook on the current unrest isn’t one of a society doomed to fail but one that has the opportunity to learn, adjust and move forward. In the word of Euripides, Greek scholar and playwright, “Nothing is hopeless; we must hope for everything.”