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How to Cultivate a Sense of Optimism When You Feel Hopeless Right Now

Feelings of hopelessness don’t just pop up when you’ve been through a traumatic event, but as you are going through it. Generally, feelings of hopelessness amount to a feeling that there is no possibility for change, regardless of one’s circumstance or condition. At this point in time, no semblance of optimism exists. This is what many individuals are facing right now in COVID-19 times. It’s normal to feel despondent, especially in our current new normal. Our world as we know it has flipped upside down. If you recognize that you’re starting to feel hopeless, try these mental health recommended solutions to cope.

These feelings don’t tend to just spring up. It’s a slow burn that develops over time, which is part of what makes this restless emotion so difficult to pin down, especially during this pandemic. The feelings tend to build upon themselves until one feels like there is nowhere else for them to go.

When people don’t know how to cope with hopeless feelings, they tend to exhibit characteristics that align with either depression or recklessness. The added bonus of uncertainty certainly doesn’t help to mitigate one’s sense of hopelessness and anxiety. Depressive types tend to have low energy and little desire to engage in activities of daily living, such as work, socialization, or even basic hygiene. Apathy is another emotion that can also crop up for many individuals, regardless of previous mental health conditions, such as anxiety.

If you have been recognizing these symptoms in yourself for quite some time, know that there are much better ways to cope. The four mental health tips below don’t have to be incorporated all at once. It’s important to start with one you can see yourself managing realistically, and work your way down the list, or develop a few of your own.

Seek Support

The first and most important thing you should do is try to work out your support system. And although it’s great to have friends and family to lean on, it’s sometimes helpful to have a third-party point of view. Therapy can be a great place to begin talking about and working through your feelings of hopelessness. It can help put things into perspective for you, which can help fade those feelings of hopelessness.

It’s important to remember that it takes a few tries before you find the perfect fit. Every therapist is different, and you might not get the right fit on the first try, so it’s important not to give up or get frustrated in that process. This isn’t a reflection on you.

Adopt a Mantra

Sometimes, the easiest way to get yourself out of a moment of hopelessness is to remind yourself that there are still reasons to be optimistic. No matter how hopeless it seems right now, it’s impossible to have tried or exhausted every potential solution. There’s something else out there yet to be explored. It’s also important to recognize that most things in life are temporary, even the most painful and unpleasant of times.

When the feelings pop up, repeat a similar phrase to yourself over and over. It can be as simple as “things will get better,” or “this will not last forever.” This gentle, but regular reminder can help put things into perspective for us. We are creatures of habit, so be mindful of how your thoughts can shape your inner core.

Bring up the Past

While bringing up the past is generally frowned upon as ineffectual, it’s equally important to remember and recognize that you’ve had good times before, since they can help point you to what exactly is triggering your present feelings. Think back to when things felt okay, or at least hopeful. Identify what was working then, and assess whether or not you may have lost it somewhere along the way.

This doesn’t mean you necessarily should regress to whatever it was that you were doing before, especially if it wasn’t really beneficial for you. That being said, identifying things that give you a boost can actually help cultivate those hopeful feelings again, while serving to abandon the things that no longer were working for you before the pandemic even began. The only upside of this dark period is the amount of introspection one can cultivate on a weekly, or even a daily basis.

Look to the Future, but on a short term basis.

Long-term planning might seem overwhelming, so adopting a more short-term outlook is the key. Keep the focus on the present and make small steps and goals. It’s easier to track progress day by day if you’re achieving shorter-term goals, as bigger things can sometimes take longer to achieve. Smaller goals tend to snowball into larger ones. A small scale is important for showing progress and building momentum that can actually be affirmed. Writing down and keeping track of small goals is a great way to see how much you’re capable of accomplishing along the way, and certainly as you reflect back.

Hope is not an easy thing to cling to, especially during these turbulent times. But sometimes, hope springs eternal, and it’s the only thing you have got in your toolbox to keep yourself sane and mentally strong, while adding a healthy dose of cautious optimism towards the future. If done correctly and consistently over time, things will begin to appear brighter for you, and luckily for those around you too. 

How to Cultivate a Sense of Optimism When You Feel Hopeless Right Now


Emily Waters

Emily Waters earned her Master's degree in industrial psychology with an emphasis in human relations. She possesses keen insight into the field of applied psychology, organizational development, motivation, and stress, the latter of which is ubiquitous in the workplace environment and in one’s personal life. One of her academic passions is the understanding of human nature and illness as it pertains to the mind and body. Prior to obtaining her degree, she worked in both the corporate and nonprofit sectors. Presently, she teaches a variety of psychology courses both in public and private universities.


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APA Reference
Waters, E. (2020). How to Cultivate a Sense of Optimism When You Feel Hopeless Right Now. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 30, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/how-to-cultivate-a-sense-of-optimism-when-you-feel-hopeless-right-now/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 1 May 2020 (Originally: 2 May 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 1 May 2020
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.