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The Practice of Hope

Written by: Janet Fluker, M.Ed., M.S.
The Practice of Hope

George Washington University developed a series of “Hope Modules” that are designed to support people through severe illness. The purpose of these modules is to practice hope in concrete, intentional ways when you are in a difficult situation in your life. Instead of hope being something you feel, the belief is that hope is something you can practice.

To cultivate hope people need to activate one or more of four different types of coping skills:

1. Problem-solving – jumping to a task or action that helps you move forward tangibly. One way to think about this is to ask yourself “what CAN I do?” instead of focusing on the roadblocks in your way. Taking action not only creates hope, but it also keeps you from getting stuck in anxiety and negative thinking. During a recent family emergency, I found myself making a list of all the friends, colleagues and agencies that might be able to help. It was reassuring to “do something” and start formulating a plan.

2. Emotion regulation – reducing your in-the-moment stress level or feelings of discomfort. Deep breathing, yoga, meditation, exercise and reminding yourself “this feeling will pass” are all ways to regulate your emotions. I found myself taking more walks in nature during our family emergency.

3. Activating a core identity – this could be connecting with your faith, church group or other reminders of who you are. For me, being a part of something larger than myself is a reminder that there is a bigger picture, and I don’t have to focus on just this problem.

4. Relational coping – connecting with mentors or important people in your life. This is one of the most important coping skills – reaching out to your support system. One of the first questions I ask clients when they come for counseling is “tell me about your support system”. If it isn’t robust, then we work on building it. None of us can manage life alone, we all need others that can be there for us in our times of need. Remember that list I made of action plans? You can be sure that calling my close friends and family and letting them know what was going on was part of the list!

We can all practice hope during difficult times in our lives by intentionally taking action, finding ways to calm ourselves, remembering the bigger picture of who we are and what we believe and reaching out to others for support.

“Hope Modules: Brief Psychotherapeutic Interventions to Counter Demoralization from Daily Stressor of Chronic Illness,” Academic Psychiatry 42, no.1 (February 2018)