I’m not sure about you, but I’ve felt hopeless plenty of times in my life. Like really, really hopeless. Enough for a suicide attempt in my early 20’s, and enough so that I made a firm commitment to figure out what, exactly, creates a hopeful mindset, and what I can do to foster and grow it in my life and the others around me.
It is through our deepest pain we find our brightest light.
I lost my dad to suicide when I was 19, so I am no stranger to the impact, devastation, and complete despair when all hope is lost, both on the one who lost it and on those all around. The wave of grief that engulfs me, to this day, when I realize my dad is gone and that I could not save him is almost debilitating. Almost. So. Very. Thankfully. Just almost.
While I can not prove this (yet), I believe that depression and anxiety are preventable if we are taught skills young enough on how to manage emotions, and how to create a mindset for hope. Just like building a muscle. With practice. Engagement. Dedication. And commitment.
I suffered anxiety, depression, PTSD, and ADHD most of my early years, until I really figured out how to harness the power of my emotions, redirect my mind when it started ruminating, understanding that a failure does not mean I am a failure, and many other techniques. And I believe I’ve avoided some recent potential depressive episodes, learned how to more effectively manage my anxiety (in positive ways), and use techniques likes meditation, visualization, and breathing to manage my PTSD and ADHD. Practicing my skills helped me prevent the often downward cycles and negative of un-challenged automatic negative thoughts (otherwise known as ANTS), that then manifest into behaviors.
All to great success. Still, clearly, a work in progress, but much more effectively than when I was using things like the many addictions I turned to including smoking, eating, drinking, or hiding (way more accessible and celebrated in our society).
Now I celebrate these diagnoses. And in many ways, I think these ‘labels’ have now become my superpowers. As within every dark diagnosis, there is a spark of brilliance when the energy of it is harnessed for good. I’m super efficient, creative, sensitive, intuitive, focused, energetic, introspective, and empathetic in ways others aren’t. And I’m grateful for it.
And while I am not a fan of ‘If Only‘, I do wish I had been taught these skills all when I was young. Oh, how I wish. As I could have avoided a lot of pain. Yet the power in that wish is the motivation and drive to get up every day and do what I can to transform the lives of those around me. As Simon Sinek says, Start With Why. This is mine.
And giving back is one of my most cherished and rewarding forms of therapy to this day.
I am doing everything in my power to learn as much as I can about hope, to engage with those that have expertise that I don’t, to practice these skills daily myself, and to share with the world what I and we learn as a result. I’m using my company, The Mood Factory, and my skills at business (learned from dad) and launching products as a way to support the nonprofit work I do. As I believe each and every child deserves to have a hopeful mindset.
I see hope as a Human Right, available and accessible to all. So I am passionately doing what I can to teach kids around the world what Hope is, learn more about it as we go, and build an evidence-based program for all ages that teaches this critical and necessary skill to navigate the world today.
What are the hopeful actions?
- Running a Global Hope Challenge, where we are asking folks from around the world to share their #OneThing for #Hope. My company, The Mood Factory, is sponsoring the cash prize of $1,000, $500, and $250 US dollars to the favorite, voted by the community, to incentivize people to join the competition. We hope YOU join and share your #OneThing for #Hope.
- iFred joined (and I personally joined the steering committee) the Youth Mental Health Coalition, organizations from around the world joining together to amplify the voices of youth for mental health. 36% of young girls in the US are identifying with depression prior to 18 years old — over 1/3 of our girls. 1 in 4 girls experience depression prior to age 14. And a recent NY Times article showcases the scope of anxiety in kids. We’ve absolutely got to reverse this trend, and I’m fully committed to it. Are you? If so, consider joining the coalition.
- Continuing to research and grow our Schools for Hope Program, now Hopeful Minds. We’re so excited that our research out of Northern Ireland suggested a reduction in anxiety, and increase in children’s ability to regulate emotion, and an increase in Hope (via Beck Depression Inventory). I’m heading over to Malaysia at the end of November to bring there, we are expanding in Northern Ireland, and hoping to get it running in Ghana as well. Can you bring it to your school? Church group? Community Center? Or even teach a lesson to your child? It is free, and available online. While it is geared towards 8-10 year old youth, it can be used with any age group in any country. I, personally, use the lessons each and every day.
Why 195 Places?
There are 195 countries in the world today. We believe each and every country has a unique and important message to share, and a unique perspective on Hope. We want to hear from each and every one, as we value each and every culture and perspective and each and every individuals message. It shows our common thread of humanity, and allows us to learn about others. #195forMentalHealth
We love what Erna from Bosnia had to say about Hope:
What is your definition of hope? Why is it important to you? Please join us, expand the global conversation, and help us spread hope today.