Moving into a new year, we enter a natural time to reflect and take stock, to gather feeling of hope for the future. Hopefully looking to new horizons, ideas and beginnings. Sometimes after a difficult year we can restart, begin again, change our direction, as well as celebrate where we are. But sometimes we may feel hopeless about work, relationships and health. Perhaps it may be useful to understand and witness hopelessness first.
But, what is hopelessness? The Cambridge Online Dictionary defines Hope as follows with examples:
Hopelessness: the feeling or state of being without hope: I find the hopelessness of the situation very depressing. Utter hopelessness about your future is one symptom of depression
Sharing our empathy and compassion with others can help us connect with our sense of humanity to bring hope in hopelessness. However sadly not everybody has access to basic needs (safety, food, connections and purpose) and the New Year can be difficult for so many who may be feeling hopeless or lost. This factsheet from Extern is helpful which talks about Hope and Hopelessness. There are some great tips to reflect upon and share with others.
A sense of being curious, present and more open to what we don’t know or haven’t quite worked out! Open to who (the people) and what (the opportunities, the delights) which unexpectedly appear on our journey. It takes trust to take heart in the synchronicities and happenings that you could never have anticipated to meet. Whist goals and targets are helpful, they are put emphasis on passing or failing (good or bad and often measured by others). Who knows if we have even set the best or most suitable target for ourselves anyway!
Taking time to relax and reflect about what we hope for supports insightful, wiser choices; coming from a place of kindness rather than criticism (which research suggest only motivates us for so long!) And by aligning our intentions and motivations to our core values then we are more like to stay in harmony and keep energised when we run out of steam, in the ups and downs of life.
Patience is also a good quality to add to the hope mix. Patience with ourselves and with others. Take note where you are now has taken time; years of conscious and unconscious habits, patterns and conditioning. Realigning our paths and journey takes a lot of purpose effort and energy before it becomes natural and effortless. That is why change can be tricky and we can give up. Slow and purposeful application can take us to where we need to be.
Focusing on taking in the good, enable us to build positive resources for change. In his book Hardwiring Happiness Dr Rick Hanson explains how our brains are like Velcro for bad experiences and Teflon for the good. By learning to absorb and linger in the good, we can build positive neural networks in the brain for resilience through change. Being present and aware in the simple things in life such as a hearty smile, savouring the flavours of your favourite food, a lovely view of nature, contagious laughter can help to bed these sensations into our brains neural circuitry; so we can recall the good more easily and lay down new helpful habits. Find out more Dr Hanson , I recommend his down to earth practical teachings and books and blog.
“The things that matter most in our lives are not fantastic or grand. They are the moments when we touch one another.”Jack Kornfield
Remember our imagination is a powerful tool. Our mind can take us to dark places but if we ‘flip it’ we can imagine the good, relishing in the small joys as well as the big joys and bring in positive energy to help us to refuel. Perhaps notice what information (ideas, experiences) you are digesting in; is it or toxic and draining or healthy and nurturing?
Gratitude and appreciation can help to keep us motivated. It is easy to forget and undervalue what we have, the simple things from warm drinks and food, a place to live, our connections with others including pets.
Kindness and self-compassion helps is to learn to ‘mess up quicker, rest and restore” with a dose of self-compassion to avoid self-shaming and move on (see compassion training). Compassion enables us to take a gentler approach to face and to cope with life challenges which cause suffering.
Art, nature and poetry can bring space to reflect more mindfully and make sense challenges. I particularly love this poem from Emily Dickinson, I hope you do also.
Cultivating hope can touch the heart of others and bring joy and inspiration. I hope this blog brings a little hope and wellness to all in your coming year.
Warmest Wishes, Lou