Have you been adding the phrase “during a pandemic” to all of your Google searches lately?

I know I have.

Last week I Googled “How to stay optimistic during a pandemic when everything seems wrong?” Surprisingly, the results I found shared a common theme – hope.

Choosing optimism means that you give yourself permission to hope. Being hopeful about the future, even when the present seems wholly negative.

Here are 6 ways to cultivate hopeful habits that are grounded in reality, but applied with optimism from Resilience Expert, Anne Grady:

#1 – Stop listening to your negative inner-voice
We are not used to practicing kindness and grace when it comes to ourselves, but cultivating hopeful habits requires that we start. If we don’t realize our negative inner-voice is not the truth then we just start operating as if it is. Here’s the thing: You are enough. It doesn’t matter what that voice says because you have a choice of whether you listen to it or not. If we’re not careful about deciding what voice we listen to, we end up defaulting to what has become our habit. Self-compassion doesn’t mean you don’t work hard, hold yourself accountable, or challenge yourself, but it means that you do it from a place of kindness rather than criticism.

#2 – Savor “delicious moments”
Whether it’s having a belly-laugh, enjoying a hot bath, or the first sip of coffee in the morning, savor the little moments. When we take time to acknowledge them, we train our attention to look for more of them. It is important to understand that just like happiness, holding on to hope comes in the little moments. They may be short-lived, but building hopeful habits means celebrating small wins.

#3 – Find purpose and meaning
Everyone derives meaning and purpose in different ways, but it really is as simple as answering the question, ‘What is meaningful to you?’. Don’t overcomplicate it. The bottom line is that hopeful (and resilient) people possess a clear sense of meaning and purpose that enables them to stay the course even when things get tough. It’s much harder to feel defeated when you have a deep sense of meaning for what you’re working toward. What drives you? Where can you make a difference? How can you use your unique gifts to help others?

#4 – Give back and build community
Like optimism and gratitude, the hopeful boost you get from connection with others is crucial to your health and well-being. Our new “normal” has flipped the way we connect upside down, but it hasn’t changed our need to connect. You may not be able to share the same physical space, but physically distanced and/or virtual connection is the next best thing. We feed off of the body language of others, so platforms like Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype that allow us to “see” those who are most important to us provides the happiness boost from connection with others that is crucial to our health and mental well-being. Stay physically distant but socially connected. Take time to reach out to someone this week who may need a word of encouragement.

#5 – Choose optimism
This doesn’t mean you can’t grieve, feel sad, or get angry. It means after you feel those emotions, you begin to focus your energy on moving forward. When tackling the subject of optimism, Simon Sinek said it best, “Optimism is not wearing rose-colored glasses. Optimism is the belief that things will get better. That we will find a way to get out of it.” I think sometimes it is easier said than done when you’re in the middle of it, but choosing optimism means you are deliberate about the way you interpret the adversity in your life. Every situation, especially the cruddy ones, provides an opportunity to challenge our self-defeating, negative thoughts.

#6 – Take back control
Most of us are a lot better at prioritizing our schedules than scheduling our priorities. Take this advice from Michelle Obama, “We are taught to plan work, but we also need to plan joy. You might think you should not feel joy when other people are suffering, but you need to find joy or else risk burning out.” Be deliberate about where you invest the limited time and energy that you have, so you can make the most of each day.

The goal of cultivating hopeful habits is to continually bring ourselves back to what matters most in our lives. Being hopeful about the future builds resilience and gives you yet another tool for handling stress, change, and adversity.

Hope is not measured by how you are feeling during the worst of times; rather, it involves acknowledging that something good is yet to come. Build hope, share in the hope of others, and take time to celebrate the little moments of triumph.

– Amy (and Anne)

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