When you’re trying to get rid of anxiety, it may be hard to when you’re not feeling hopeful or optimistic. However, studies show that having hope helps build your resilience—the ability to get through tough times and recover more quickly from setbacks. In addition, hope helps prevent or reduce anxiety, and depression.
That’s all well and good, but what if you’re not a hopeful person by nature?
There is good news for you! All of us have the ability to strengthen our “hope muscle” and therefore increase our positivity and resilience, even in the midst of difficult circumstances. As a result, you are one step closer to getting rid of anxiety.
Are you feeling hopeful or hopeless right now?
I don’t know about you, but I vacillate between feeling hopeful and hopeless. Some days I wake up feeling hopeful, positive, and energetic. While other days, there’s an imaginary dark cloud hanging over my head since I struggle with depression and anxiety.
It’s hard to feel hopeful when you’re living in a pandemic, there are stark political division and civil unrest. You may be filled with anxiety, dread, and frustration.
“Though times feel dark, and daily life feels uncertain in unprecedented ways, one psychological factor that can help us immensely is hope.”Andrea Bonior Ph.D. The Health Benefits of Hope
At the same time, it’s important to see that despite the challenges, there is still hope. Since you’re living in the 21st century, technology allows you to have a lot of freedom and connection. You can connect with your friends, and loved ones virtually and even workout from the comfort of your own home.
In addition, scientists are working diligently to find a vaccine for COVID-19, which helps boost my confidence that we will get through this.
What science says about hope
How do you define hope? Positive psychologist Charles Snyder and his colleagues formulated the “hope theory” and stated that hope gives people the will, determination, and sense of empowerment that allows them to reach their goals.
In fact, research on hope demonstrates its power to support well-being, even more so than optimism or self-efficacy (our belief in our own abilities).
Research over the past decade shows that people who are hopeful:
- Are more likely to attain their goals
- Do better academically
- Choose healthier lifestyle habits
- Cope with and recover better from illness
- Experience higher life satisfaction
- Have a stronger sense of meaning and purpose.
How does hope get rid of anxiety?
There are five major themes regarding the role hope plays in your mental health:
- Hope is associated with improved coping
- Improved well-being is also associated with hope
- Depression and negative life events are less intense for those who are more hopeful
- Having hope is a protective factor against suicide and negative, self-deprecatory thinking
- A hopeful person is more likely to engage in healthy behaviors.
5 strategies to cultivate hope and get rid of anxiety
By now you understand the benefits of having hope. The next step is to integrate these important practices to help get rid of your anxiety which will improve your mental health.
1. Focus on your strengths
Using your natural strengths cultivates a sense of hope and resilience by fostering what you are naturally good at. As a result, you feel better, less anxious, and more optimistic.
For example, if you’re naturally creative, think about how you can use that strength to overcome difficulties as you move forward in life. Perhaps you paint which helps you express your innermost feelings? Or you take photographs every day of images that inspire and move you? Whatever the creative outlet, start finding a way to engage with it.
Likewise, if you are someone who enjoys connecting with others, reach out to friends, and loved ones since this strength builds hope and positive emotions.
If you’re not sure what your strengths are, ask a close friend or family member. You can also check out this great article 3 Ways to Identify Your Strengths by career coach Adrian Klaphaak, CPCC.
Remembering and using your personal strengths creates confidence that you can get through whatever comes your way. This in turn helps bolster your wellness and get rid of anxiety.
2. Start a daily gratitude practice
Gratitude journaling is a popular practice in positive psychology and research has shown that it is more effective than self-control, patience, or forgiveness in creating hope for the future.
One of the most important practices I have is a daily gratitude journal where I write 3 things that I’m grateful for every day. I use the free Happyfeed App which stores all of my gratitude entries with photos and emojis. I love using this gratitude journal because every day it sends me a notification and I can look back at entries that I wrote in the past.
The reason practicing gratitude helps create hope and get rid of anxiety is because it trains your brain to focus on positive moments. Over time, you’ll begin to appreciate more and feel happier.
3. Reframe negative thoughts
Automatic thoughts are images, words, or other kinds of mental activity that pop into your head. These thoughts trigger a cascade of feelings. The best way to address these negative thoughts is to try to narrow in on what’s causing that unpleasant feeling and to try to look at it in a different way.
To reframe your negative thoughts, it helps to reach out to a trusted friend or family member and verbalize what you are thinking.
Sometimes just saying what you are thinking out loud helps you realize that they are just negative thoughts and nothing else. Other times, getting feedback from someone helps you shift the thought into something more realistic which helps you feel better.
“And so the next time that a thought appears before you, within your awareness, remember that it is not real in the sense that it has some solid form or exists somewhere outside of you. The thought appears in front of and within only you. Without the juice of your attention, it simply disappears without a trace.”Nancy Colier, LCSW, Rev. Why your thoughts are not real
You can also try journaling when you have a lot on your mind. When you put your thoughts down on paper, it helps since you are literally separating your thoughts from yourself. Journaling is an exercise I do regularly to get rid of my anxiety and depression.
Lastly, remember that it takes a lot of practice to reframe negative thoughts.
Like a muscle, you have to keep training to get it stronger. Over time, you become more adept at shifting and reframing your negative thoughts which help get rid of anxiety.
4. Unplug from social media and the news
As much as you want to be updated on the news and trends on social media, it’s critical for you to take a break. You’d be surprised by how your life changes when you stop social media.
Both news coverage and social media can have negative effects on hope and mental health. Since news tends to focus on the most frightening and sensational aspects of what’s happening, it is likely going to make you feel scared and worried. Although you may think that social media can help you feel more connected, it can also increase feelings of anxiety and distress.
As a result, it is important to unplug and divert that time and energy into habits that will improve your mood and get rid of anxiety. Try practicing these 5 self-care tips that will change your life.
5. Spend time with hopeful and optimistic people
Have you noticed that your mood changes depending on the type of people you’re around?
There’s actual science around that called “emotional contagion.” Therefore, if you’re around people that are negative, hostile, or angry, guess what?
You’ll probably end up feeling like that too.
Consequently, try surrounding yourself with people who are hopeful and positive, since you’re more likely to feel that way yourself. Research shows that we can “catch” both positive and negative emotions from others, so choose your friends wisely!
It’s extraordinary to know that hope and mental health are inextricably linked. Who would have guessed right?
Most importantly, you can strengthen both by taking small, daily actions that will help you thrive even in the midst of uncertainty.
Bolster your hope and resilience to get rid of anxiety. In order to do that successfully, start focusing on your strengths and practicing gratitude daily.
Next, reframe your negative thoughts and unplug from social media and the news. Lastly, spend time with hopeful and optimistic people. Remember that these behaviors take time and practice. You can strengthen your “hope muscle” and in doing so, get rid of anxiety.
Do you think that having hope makes a difference in your mental health? What practices have you employed to get rid of anxiety? What worked well and what did you find less helpful? Please share your stories and comments below.