Maintaining hope during difficult times

Photo by: Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

The current state of the world is certainly grim with so many terrible things happening lately, and this not only affects society as a whole, but also individual mental well-being.

Being connected online has proved many benefits and progressed our communication in unimaginable ways, but being widely connected raises some problems as well. Hearing bad news of events happening around the globe can be overwhelming and can diminish hope in the future if we see no end to the bad things happening.

This goes back way beyond our time and every generation has lived through difficult events which makes it subjective to say which timeline has been the worst in human history. Although there could be strong arguments about this, if one thing has endured, it’s the hope for a better tomorrow.

Hope can mean different things depending on who you ask. Optimists may say that it’s what makes us human in the first place: the hope of landing a job, the hope of a new relationship working out, and the hope of achieving one’s goals. Pessimists expect the worst outcome but are different from being completely hopeless where it’s useless to look forward to things that may not even happen at all. This could stem from the fear of being let down again or from adopting a more cynical approach of being careful in one’s actions. 

Realistic optimism hits the right balance between the two. One must be careful in delving into toxic positivity and unreasonably high expectations as it could lead to being blindsided to reality and disappointed in life, which is unhealthy for oneself and those around you. Instead, we must accept things for what they are and adapt to different situations.

Realistic optimism is believing things will work out while being mindful of realistic challenges that may arise in the process. As well as keeping in mind that at the end of the day, we are responsible for starting the process ourselves. Accepting that every situation requires a different approach and that the outcome is out of our control is a healthy balance that could help ease the anxiety that comes from uncertainty.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way,” wrote Viktor Frankl in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning.

This quote shows that even in the darkest moment of a person’s life, (realistic) hope is whatever one makes of it. It’s easier said than done but changing one’s perspective while being aware of the reality of the situation could result in healthier aspects of one’s well-being.

It must be said that it’s not simple to change one’s mindset, it has to be a conscious and active process. On top of adjusting one’s internal thoughts, there are external factors that challenge this process. It may sometimes feel as if life is just a stream of bad moments after bad moments, but we forget those moments in between what we enjoy.

This overlaps with the idea that sadness is necessary to experience happiness. The subject of hope is similar as it relies on difficult moments, but just like sadness, we know that difficult moments are temporary, and accepting this helps to get through them.

Adopting a realistic optimistic approach will not only help maintain hope, but it could also help regain it when using a different lens. 

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