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What is Hope? And How Do You Hang Onto It When Things Get Tough?

Updated on October 10, 2016
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Sadie Holloway is a workshop facilitator who teaches interpersonal communication skills to help people strengthen their relationships.

When the things that you wished for don't turn out the way you planned, how do you have faith in a brighter future? Hope can light the way forward when your life feels dark and gloomy.

Have faith that tomorrow will bring brighter days.
Have faith that tomorrow will bring brighter days.

What does it mean to have hope or to be hopeful? Hope is having a strong belief that the things we desire in life will be achieved and that things will work out for the best. For many people, hope is all they have and that’s why it's important to never rob anyone of their feelings of hope and optimism. Hope gives people courage to try new things and take risks because they have faith that everything is happening just as it is meant to.

Is hoping always a good thing? Can hope ever be harmful? Is it possible that too much hope only will lead to disappointment? Perhaps. Disappointment is a fact of life. We can’t always get what we want, but people who are eternally hopeful also tend to be eternally optimistic. That means that if things don’t go as planned, people who have a hopeful attitude will find the strength to keep moving forward.

It's important to remember that hope is not a means to an end. Hope is part of a larger set of belief patterns and habits that you carry with you your entire life. Hope is transformed into reality through action and movement.

Here are some essential attitudes and actions that will help you keep hope alive when things feel like they are falling apart.

Giving. Giving is essential for holding onto hope. Generosity really is the easiest solution to all of your problems because it take the focus off of you and your feelings of hopelessness and directs it to helping others in need. Giving produces feelings of abundance, contentment, and purpose in your life. When you give to others, you start to believe that there is more than enough in the world to go around. When you act in a generous manner, you unconsciously believe that other people will do the same. On the other hand, when you hold back, withdraw from others, and covet things, it's easy to believe that others will hold back and act selfishly around you, too.

Forgiveness. Forgiving yourself and others for mistakes made in the past is essential to encouraging hope and optimism.

Letting go. It's important to let go of needs, desires, attachments, and notions of a right way and wrong way in order to invite more hope and optimism into your life. If you have rigid expectations for how things should turn out, then you block the Universe from providing you what it knows you need. When you're constantly looking for a specific outcome, then you might miss all the blessings that the Universe is laying right at your feet!

Spending time in a tranquil garden can restore feelings of hope and optimism when you're feeling sad.
Spending time in a tranquil garden can restore feelings of hope and optimism when you're feeling sad.

How do you find your personal sources of hope and optimism? For me, when I am feeling hopeless, I think about the young people in my life and I remember how grateful I am to be alive. I read inspirational quotes and poems about hope when I'm feeling blue.

If you want to boost your feelings of hope and optimism, perhaps these places, spaces, people, and special things can help:

Pets: Our furry friends love us unconditionally and remind us that life can only be found in the present moment. Having a pet to care for and love can make it easier to set aside your feelings of sadness and direct your attention to a source of joy.

Gardens: Communing with nature in a quiet and serene space is a wonderful way to calm your nerves and relax. Spending time in a tranquil outdoor space will boost feelings of hope and optimism as you're reminded of nature's infinite beauty and abundance.

Places of Worship and Prayer: Spiritual practices such as prayer, meditation, conscious loving, and mindful living are lovely antidotes to feelings of dread and despair. Ask your Higher Power for help when you think all hope has been lost.

Family and Friends: Lean on those who love and care for you when you're feeling hopeless and down. You would do the same for them in their time of need. Let them be there for you in your time of need.

Music: The right music can be a powerful protector against sadness and gloom. Music can free long lost memories of times in your life when things might have felt happier and more joyful. Songs with inspiring lyrics, upbeat tempos and catchy rhythms can energize and awaken positive physical and emotional sensations.

Sometimes turning off the TV and and unplugging from the internet can make it easier to restore feelings of hope and optimism.
Sometimes turning off the TV and and unplugging from the internet can make it easier to restore feelings of hope and optimism.

What chases hope and optimism away? Negative people can drain your stores of hope and optimism. Too much mainstream media that focuses on bad news story after bad news story can deflate your spirit. Comparing yourself to other people and wishing you had what they had, instead of being grateful for what you have, is also a surefire way to repel feelings of contentment. Be mindful of what and whom you surround yourself with.

Hope makes you human. If you want to help yourself, or a friend, hang on to hope, listen to the wisdom of elders. Here are some gentle reminders about the role that hope and optimism plays in your life and in the lives of the people you love.

When the world says, ‘Give up,’ Hope whispers, ‘Try it one more time.’ -- Anonymous

Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today. - Thich Nhat Hanh

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. -- Helen Keller

Hope has two beautiful daughters – their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are. -- St. Augustine

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Things start out as hopes and end up as habits. -- Lillian Hellman

Do you believe in angels?
Do you believe in angels?

What are you hoping for in life right now?

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© 2013 Sadie Holloway


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