21 tiny ways to stop feeling hopeless


When hopelessness hits, we feel sunk. All our worst stories swirl in our head, punctuated by words like can’t, won’t, never, impossible. Life feels bleak.

If only there were a switch we could flip that would turn our thoughts and emotions around.

Until there is (we’re not holding our breath), we can take tiny steps that will gradually restore our faith in possibility. To start, summon your strength and any of the twenty-one ideas below that feels right for you. Consider the smallest sense of relief as great progress, because it is. Then engage your relief to try another.

One request: If you believe your depression is clinical, please reach out to a professional.

When you’re feeling hopeless, ask yourself:

1. “How important is this to my life overall? Does it really make everything else worthless?”

2. “What can I control?”

3. “What makes me feel worse? Should I do something other than play the same game on my phone because it’s taking me down a dark road?”

4. “Who am I blaming for this situation? Does it help or am I avoiding a truth?”

5. “What stories am I telling myself?” Say them out loud or write them on paper. Hunt for the hyperbole in your thoughts and cross it out. It’s likely not that bad.

6. “Have I looked for opportunity? How could I do that?” (Here’s one way to spot opportunity.)

7. “What could I do that would make me feel steadier?” (A few ideas: jogging, baking, getting a haircut.)

When you’re feeling hopeless, think about this:

8. There is more than one right answer.

9. Timing is about you, not other people. (More on comparing yourself to others here.)

10. You have a choice.

11. There is no magic moment. Coming out of this will be gradual.

12. Nothing stays the same.

13. You can be the hero of your own story. (Here’s a work sheet to help you do that.)

14. People want to help. (Consider these benefits of asking for help.)

When you’re feeling hopeless, try this:

15. Make a list of interesting things you haven’t tried yet. Maybe you want to try one now.

16. Have a good cry. It will release toxins and elevate mood, among other things.

17. Indulge in your go-to comfort activity (reading, a favorite movie, jigsaw puzzles) and focus on the now.

18. Don’t try to fix what’s making you hopeless right away.

19. Find some inspiration in the world. Artwork. The horizon. Store windows. (This primer on inspiration might help.)

20. Try not to fully isolate yourself. Being in the company of others can remind you that all is not lost.

21. Get up and move. Physical activity releases endorphins that make us feel better. (Here’s of story of how yoga can help release grief.)


When your motivation goes missing…
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