Where do you find hope?

Ruth Griffiths

Each year during Advent, the four weeks leading up to the Christian celebration of Christmas, I challenge myself to write columns about the four themes of Advent: hope, peace, joy and love. It is a challenge to find original thoughts about these themes to share with readers. This week I take a look at “hope”.
What is hope? I thought I knew what hope is, but I decided to check out the dictionary definition. The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition is “to cherish a desire with anticipation”, in other words to want something to happen or be true. The biblical definition of hope is intertwined with a Judeo-Christian belief system. The church might define hope as “a confident expectation and desire for something good in the future.”
When people speak about hope in a spiritual context, it might mean believing good things will happen with faith in a higher power. They might direct their hopes outward in prayer. For others, it might mean always looking on the bright side and seeing challenges as opportunities.
We have faced increased challenges as a community during the past few years: the environmental crisis, a global pandemic, increased homelessness, economic uncertainty, political unrest and rumblings of nuclear war. How do we find hope when the future appears bleak?
Here are some suggestions for finding hope during this Advent season:
1) Take time to press pause. If you wish to find a spirit of hope you need to stop the busy behaviours that are drowning it out. Take 10 minutes to sit in silence. Take a walk and listen to nature. Take a “me” day and allow your body to slow down and relax. Doing “nothing” can be threatening if you are used to being on the go continuously. Be kind to yourself, take deep breaths and rest.
2) Remember what you are thankful for. No matter how hard things get there is always something to be grateful for. Creating an attitude of gratitude can be the best gift you can give your body and mind. If your mind keeps racing through your “to do” list, substitute a gratitude list. Count your blessings on your fingers as you settle down to sleep.
3) Limit your “bad news” intake. During the early days of lockdown in 2020, I was obsessed with news about the pandemic. I realized I was creating anxiety by focusing on a situation over which I had little control. I enjoy being “in the know” about local happenings but being glued to news all day was not helping me cope with the situation. Instead of watching the late news before I went to bed and then lying there unable to sleep, I recorded the news using the PVR function of my cable program. I now only watch the news the next morning when I am more rested and able to cope with the stresses of “bad news”.
4) Focus on what you can look forward to. It is good to live one day at a time, instead of trying to live the whole month all at once, like I sometimes do. But it is also good to have something to anticipate. It might be a vacation or a family gathering. Maybe it’s a concert or a sporting event. Knowing there is something exciting beyond the horizon can make it easier to put one foot in front of the other each day.
5) Talk to hopeful people. Sometimes we can bring each other down. We gripe and complain. It can be good to vent your frustrations, but if the only people you interact with are pulling you down, you need to find someone with a positive attitude. That might be the cheerful clerk in the produce department, a neighbour who is out shovelling snow, a teacher, a pastor.
The world is full of people who can help to lift your spirits and find hope.