If you're a human living on Earth, you've most likely had moments in your life where you've lost hope or belief in someone, someplace, or something. Even during periods of time when you may find yourself as hopeful as ever, those around you may find themselves going through tough times.
Perhaps you've watched a close friend or member of your family lose hope and had to help them feel hopeful again. Cambridge University defines hope as "...to want something to happen or to be true, and usually have a good reason to think that it might."
There are many ways to find hope, but the simplest method is by using the power of words. Recent scientific studies have found that the type of language we use not only shapes the ways in which we behave but the way in which we think as well.
How to Give Someone Hope
Knowing how to give people hope isn't a monolith. People are individuals, and what gives one hope may not do the same for another. Some people simply need encouraging words, while others are struggling with their mental health and may need help from a professional psychiatrist.
In this section, we will provide a comprehensive overview of how you can help give a person hope, no matter the situation.
Understanding Why People Lose Hope
Being able to give other people hope is critical, as the ability to feel hope benefits both one's physical and mental health. Studies have shown that hope is linked to a healthier immune system, as well as having a better prognosis for chronic illness. Additionally, according to research, hope even coincides with lower levels of anxiety and stress.
An integral part of learning how to give people the hope they need is to understand why they may be feeling that way so you can take the appropriate next steps. Unfortunately, there are seemingly endless reasons that people may lose hope. Some of the most common reasons stem from experiencing a type of loss, disappointment, or feeling of being helpless. More specifically, some hard times that make people lose hope are:
- The loss of a loved one is one of the most difficult times one can face in their entire life. Whether the death is sudden or unexpected makes little to no difference and is sure to bring pain and sorrow no matter what.
- Disappointment or failure is, unfortunately, a common experience throughout life. Disappointment can be experienced in a range of different severities; however, even a collection of small disappointments can lead to losing hope overall. It's easy to forget all the successes you've had previously and hard to remind yourself that failure isn't forever.
- Chronic illness or injuries are well known for the toll they may take on one's physical body, but the mental hardships that happen along with it are hard as well. Dealing with any type of chronic pain can often cause one to feel disheartened and isolated. It can be extremely difficult for those dealing with it to move forward and accept a diagnosis, especially if it alters one's day-to-day life significantly.
- Financial stress or instability is experienced all around the world and is a frequent cause of conflict in a variety of relationships, whether familial, romantic, or platonic relationship. Struggling with finances can lead people to feel ashamed and severely knock down a person's overall sense of confidence.
- Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness often happen to those who lack encouragement and faith in life. These feelings typically occur when someone has lost focus on their path to happiness and success. Because of how difficult it can be to see the light at the end of the tunnel when facing hardships, that fear of the unknown can cause one to feel helpless in the grand scheme of things.
The impact that losing hope can have on a person's life can be detrimental. Ashleigh Edelstein, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, explains that "When something seems possible, we motivate ourselves and believe we can get there. When we're hopeful, we think and act strategically, rather than becoming complacent or paralyzed by fear."
Without a sense of hope, one may not be able to move on from periods of struggle or imagine a new life for themselves. Hope is the motivating factor that drives us to succeed and not lose focus on our path. Whether it's your own children struggling or simply a random stranger, providing support and encouragement helps give them the courage they may need to overcome these negative thought patterns of hopelessness.
How To Create Hope for Others
Words of encouragement are a key aspect in helping give a person hope. Positive words have the power to help a person move forward with a more positive mindset. It's important to note that people may not want to listen to you at first, regardless of both your loving words and your encouraging words.
Unfortunately, many who lose hope end up setting up a self-fulfilling prophecy, according to Psychology Today. With no belief in therapy or any actions that may be beneficial for them, they get caught in a painful, disparaging cycle of negative events. Additionally, most people do not enjoy feeling pitied, and it's important to remind yourself that not everyone heals in the same way that you might.
You should always avoid looking down on how someone is dealing with situations as you haven't walked their exact path, so how do you know you wouldn't deal with it in the same manner? Fortunately, there are a few key tips to remind yourself of when attempting to give someone both effective and respectful encouragement.
- Positive words provide much needed hope, comfort, and support to those who are feeling hopeless.
- Some practical tips for giving words of encouragement are:
- Being genuine and sincere in your words is critical as disingenuous advice is easy to spot and could lead to the person feeling even more negatively about their lives.
- Offering specific compliments and acknowledging the person's strengths helps them focus on fixed aspects of themselves that others deem as positive and make them feel more confident in themselves.
- Focusing on the positive and highlighting what's going well in the person's life helps them put less of a magnifying glass on only their negative experiences and assists them in being able to look outward and see the bigger picture.
- Sharing your own experiences and how you've overcome challenges can help those struggling with hopelessness feel less alone and helps reassure them that if you could overcome the experience, so can they.
- Additional ideas for creating hope for others include:
- Engaging in activities together that bring joy and positivity are essential as human beings are naturally a social species. Being able to be out and do fun activities with others can make those who are feeling stagnant feel alive again.
- Offering practical support, such as helping with errands or chores can greatly help a person struggling as they are typically too overwhelmed and distracted to find motivation to do these things themselves. Lessening the amount of things someone has on their plate provides them with more free time in which they can focus on self-care.
- Encouraging the person to seek help from a professional, such as a therapist or coach can be an integral part of their healing journey. Sometimes simple encouragement and love from family and friends will not be enough to help someone and that's perfectly normal.
- Practicing mindfulness and meditation together will provide a unique space for quality time. Meditation has even been scientifically proven to help people gain new perspectives on stressful situations, which may lead to them feeling more hopeful.
While physically speaking, messaging, or writing someone encouraging words are what most people think of - there are many other different ways in which you can provide encouragement. While someone may not feel encouraged from words alone, helping them with a task they need to complete or just providing them with a meal or place to stay may help them get into a more positive headspace where they can begin to feel hope again.
Additionally, a sense of hopelessness is exceptionally isolating and even your simple presence around them might help remind them that they aren't as alone as they feel inside.
Creating Hope in Your Own Life
Creating hope in your life is equally, if not more important, than creating hope for others - and not in the selfish ways you may be thinking of. Without hope for yourself, how can you begin to help others create hope? It's impossible to pour from an empty cup, while those with an overflowing cup have the ability to help many. So how can you begin to fill your own cup?
The most important thing you can do for yourself to help cultivate hope is to practice regular self-care, gratitude, and maintain a focus on positive thoughts.
You Can Find Hope Everywhere
Hope plays a crucial role in overcoming feelings of hopelessness. One of the first things you can do is to work on identifying and reframing your negative thought patterns. Negative thought patterns can lead to repeated cycles by producing a confirmation bias. If you always feel that you'll be unlucky, those negative experiences will become your main focus. However, by reminding yourself of a success you've had or a moment where your happiness shined through in the face of hardships, you will discover finding hope is simpler than you imagined.
Key places you can find hope:
- Engaging in self-reflection and focusing on personal growth
- Seeking support from friends, family, or a support group
- Connecting with nature through outdoor activities or simply spending time in nature
- Practicing gratitude and focusing on the things you are thankful for
- Engaging in hobbies or activities that bring you joy and positivity
- Seeking help from a professional, such as a therapist or coach
Giving people hope is one of the most rewarding things you can do in life and can make a significant difference in not only the life of the person you're helping, but your life as well. According to research, altruism is hardwired into humans brains. Helping others activates the areas of our brains that are associated with feelings of social connection, trust, and pleasure. There is a quote that goes as such, "If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime." This quote helps emphasize that by simply telling someone they should have hope, while not inherently negative, doesn't achieve much in the long run. However, by providing someone with the tools and practices necessary to cultivate hope for themselves, the benefits can last a lifetime.