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When You Can't Find Hope in Depression, Look for This Instead

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A common symptom of depression is a sense of hopelessness. It feeds your mind the idea that nothing has a point. Life is futile. No matter what you do, the hopelessness anchors your outlook, which only destroys any desire to make goals and pursue dreams.

So how does one find hope again? Is hope really the solution to beat the despair? As a naturally optimistic person, who does like to daydream about the possibilities of the future, I tend to gravitate toward hopefulness. It used to be the only thing keeping me afloat, but over time, I’ve noticed having hope is like dancing on glass.

Hope is a powerful attitude that can really drive people. The optimism and expectations of positive outcomes can truly push people to do amazing things and achieve their goals. So why is hope like dancing on glass? Simply put, hope involves expectations and anticipation. Hope is wishful. So when your dreams and goals bear fruit, the sensation of hope isn’t just satisfying. It is exhilarating, just like seeing through the dance floor.

What happens when your goals and dreams don’t come to fruition? You put all that energy into hope for an outcome, just to see it fail. Once that glass dance floor cracks, those cracks will propagate and with each additional let down, only become wider and longer. Eventually, the brittle floor breaks beneath you, leaving you with nothing but the fall.

That is why dancing on glass is dangerous. The best way to tackle the dread and despair isn’t by being hopeful, but rather with courage. Having the bravado to take on and push forward through the pain while knowing there is uncertainty in the outcome, provides the same motivation as hope, but without the pitfalls of failed expectations. Courage allows you to fail, and it’s totally OK to fail.

The power of courage comes from the fact that the sense of optimism isn’t dependent upon outcome but rather from the act of trying. Just by acknowledging you attempted, even though you might have failed, provides the realization that you can do it again. When you do accomplish your goal, you can take pride in knowing you had the guts to fight through the pain and overcome all those obstacles in your way.

While hope is often a talking point to combating depression and other mental illnesses, keep in mind it isn’t always hope that is actually needed. Courage is necessary to make a change, to stand up and fight back knowing adversity and pain will be there every step of the way. Even on the toughest of days when the depression looms over you and the will to get up is absent, take solace in the fact that you at least thought about getting out of bed. Eventually you will build up that courage and each failure along the way is just another small victory to overcoming that sense of hopelessness and despair.

Originally published: July 30, 2016
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