by Kate Fitch
We hear about “hope” a lot in recovery, but it’s something that has a lot of definitions that nobody is really sure are the “right” definitions. Today I’m going to talk about what hope is, and how we can foster that sense of hope in ourselves throughout our recoveries.
Let’s look at the dictionary definition first.
Hope: a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.
Okay sure, we all hope that we will all live wonderful lives, be cured of our illnesses, and achieve everything we want to in life. But this is a hard ideal to cling to, especially when you’re having problems in your life due to your mental health or substance use disorder. I personally think that hope is more of a system of beliefs rather than a simple feeling of expectation and desire. Labeling it as a feeling of expectation or desire is ignoring the fact that we can work toward maintaining hope even when we are not feeling well.
Here’s what I think hope is.
- A belief that you have a measure of control over your own life and can play a role in shaping your own future.
- A belief that you have a purpose in life, and that you can fulfill your purpose now and in the future.
- A belief that things can be better in the future than they are now.
So how can we foster these hopeful beliefs even in times when we are not feeling so well?
- Affirmations. Many of us are familiar with the positive impact of affirmations, and these can be applied specifically to increase our feelings of hope. Here are some examples to get you started:
I have control over my future.
I am making decisions that help me fulfill my purpose.
I am working toward making a better life for myself.
- Making decisions that are in accordance with a hopeful outlook rather than based on how you feel. For example, you may feel very unmotivated to complete the tasks you need to do every day to stay well simply because you don’t feel well at all. Keeping the idea in mind that you are doing them to make the future better for yourself or to fulfill your purpose in life may help you maintain motivation.
- Taking a strengths inventory (click “VIA Survey of Character Strengths) and finding ways to use your strengths every day. Writing and reflecting on how you used these strengths can help you gain feelings of hopefulness by allowing you to feel purposeful, intentional, and in control of how you act.