Life can get stressful at times. When things start going downhill, it can seem impossible to turn them around.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or defeated, don’t give up hope. There are ways to cope with these feelings and get back on track.
This article will share 15 practical tips on what to do when life feels hopeless.
15 tips for what to do when life feels hopeless
1) Remember that life is constantly changing
A feeling of hopelessness means being unable to imagine that life will get better.
This crushing feeling can cast a darkness on everything.
But the truth is that life is always changing. Change is in fact inevitable.
“This too shall pass” is an old adage that seeks to highlight the impermanence of everything in life, and that includes our suffering.
It’s important to remember this because it helps us to see beyond our current situation.
At this moment you may feel hopeless. You may even struggle to imagine a time when you won’t feel this way.
But try to remember that emotions, thoughts, situations, and life conditions are in constant flux.
There is always the potential to create change in life.
2) Journal about how you are feeling
I discovered journaling about 10 years ago.
Since then it has seen me through some of the biggest struggles in my life. As well as being one of the most effective tools for coping with the general stress of daily life.
Journaling about how you are feeling helps you to dig deeper into the exact emotions and thoughts that are coming up.
Rather than go around and around in your head, you get it all out into words and it’s so therapeutic.
Journalling allows you to express yourself without judgment.
It has been shown to really help you through hard times. And has plenty of scientifically proven benefits, as highlighted in the New York Times:
“Scientific studies have shown it to be essentially a panacea for modern life. There are the obvious benefits, like a boost in mindfulness, memory and communication skills. But studies have also found that writing in a journal can lead to better sleep, a stronger immune system, more self-confidence and a higher I.Q.”
3) Play devil’s advocate with negative thoughts
Feelings of hopelessness often start out as negative thoughts.
Negative thinking is very common during difficult times. It’s easy to fall into a pattern of negative thinking.
The problem with negative thinking is that it makes us feel even worse. When we focus on the negatives, we end up getting stuck in a downward spiral.
So instead of letting ourselves sink into negativity, we need to play devil’s advocate with our negative thoughts.
Ask yourself if the negative thoughts you have are 100% irrefutably true. Our brain often lies to us and we confuse thoughts with facts.
Imagine you are in a debating contest and you need to find evidence to argue against your negative thoughts.
What is the evidence that this thought is not true?
What would you tell a friend if they had the same thoughts?
4) Find something that feels purposeful
I think sometimes when we talk about the importance of purpose it can be misleading.
There’s a lot of talk about life purpose like we all need to find some huge mission in life in order to feel purposeful.
But I would argue finding true purpose can be so much more humble than that. It’s simply about finding things in life that feel meaningful to us. And that will be different for each of us.
It is incredibly common to feel like we are lacking meaning and purpose in life, which can quickly leave us feeling hopeless.
Some practical ways to bring more purpose to your life can be:
- Helping other people through volunteering or getting involved with a cause you care about. Studies have shown that giving back is a great way to find more meaning in life.
- Nurturing your passions, hobbies, interests, and talents. Art, music, gardening, cooking, sports, and so many other creative expressions can all help you find more meaning.
- Strengthen your personal relationships. It’s not just what we do that brings us meaning, it’s who we do it with.
5) Explore breathwork
You might be surprised to hear that one of the best stress busters in life is deep breathing.
Studies have shown how breathing exercises can really impact your central nervous system leading to benefits such as:
“increased comfort, relaxation, pleasantness, vigor and alertness, and reduced symptoms of arousal, anxiety, depression, anger, and confusion.”
I’ve recently seen just how transformative breathwork can be.
After hearing about miraculous results from breathwork, I did some searching and came across a free breathwork video created by the shaman, Rudá Iandê.
It goes way beyond deep breathing. He’s basically brought together years of breathwork practice to create a powerful mood-shifting flow (which is totally free to take part in.)
It specifically aims to dissolve stress and boost inner peace, which is why it’s so effective when you are feeling hopeless in life.
After watching his free breathwork video I can personally testify to how life-changing it really is.
If you feel hopeless right now, I’d recommend checking out Rudá’s free breathwork video. It’s a really great practical tool that you can use to create an immediate shift in how you are feeling.
Click here to watch the video.
6) Take a break from social media
It’s no secret that social media can make you feel a bit shit.
The truth is that when life isn’t feeling great, social media can end up making us feel even worse.
I’m not saying it doesn’t have its plus points, but sadly research has also pointed out a lot of downsides to social media that don’t help your mental health.
As Forbes magazine explains, it can end up acting in several ways that only make you feel more hopeless:
- Triggering more sadness and less well-being
- Encouraging us to unfairly compare our lives with other people’s
- Make us feel jealous
- Make us feel more lonely
7) Get active
Physical activity is another great tool for combating feelings of hopelessness.
Research has shown that exercise can be beneficial for depression and result in a happier mood. It can also provide a positive distraction from negative thinking.
If you’re struggling to cope with your feelings of hopelessness, try taking part in physical activities.
That can be anything from working up an intense sweat to simply going for a walk in the park.
You could also take part in something you enjoy doing, whether it’s playing a sport, gardening, or dancing.
It might sound like an oversimplification, but don’t underestimate the power of moving your body to make you feel better.
Be consistent and commit to some form of physical activity every day to really feel the benefit.
8) Start meditating everyday
Meditation is one of those mindfulness practices that can transform your life if done regularly.
It helps you stay in the present and focus on the now.
The reason this is so powerful is that pretty much all of our problems exist when we are thinking about the past or the future.
When you start doing regular meditation, you’ll notice a whole host of benefits including improved focus, reduced anxiety, increased happiness, and better sleep.
These are all key factors in helping you feel more hopeful.
So if you’re looking to improve your overall well-being, meditation could be a good place to start.
If you’re new to meditation, check out this Hackspirit’s ultimate cheat sheet to meditation for beginners.
9) Talk to someone
Talking to someone about your feelings can be incredibly helpful.
Whether it’s talking to a friend, family member, or therapist, talking about your feelings can be a great way to get them off your chest.
You might find that by sharing your thoughts and feelings with someone else, they may be able to offer you a new perspective and advice on how to move forward.
But more than that, it helps you to feel less alone, which only makes life feel more hopeless.
Talking about how you feel can help you:
- Better understand your feelings
- Figure out insecurities and roadblocks in your way
- Process upsetting things that happen
- Tackle unhealthy habits
10) Start a gratitude diary
A gratitude journal is a simple but powerful tool that can help you feel happier and more hopeful.
It’s basically a list of everything you’re grateful for every day. This can include anything from your health to your friends to your job, or simply that the sun is shining.
The idea is to write down things you’re thankful for every day. I guess you could say it’s about trying to look on the bright side.
There’s an ever-growing body of research that shows how gratitude benefits us.
We’re talking about everything from lower stress, better relationships, improved sleep, and reduced symptoms of depression.
Whilst gratitude cannot make all the bad magically go away, it can give you hope.
As psychologist Laurie Santos, who teaches the science of well-being and happiness at Yale explains:
“The research shows that focusing on the positive, in addition to the negative, can boost our mood more than we expect”.
11) Take care of your body
There are undeniably strong links between our bodies and our minds. This is why taking care of your body is so important to how you feel.
That means covering the basics such as:
- Getting enough sleep
- Eating a balanced diet
- Watching what you put into your body
- Avoiding substances like alcohol that can play with your moods.
Even minor body issues like aches and pains can quickly add to your distress and affect your outlook. So try to take care of your body as best you can.
12) Learn something new
Learning new things changes the pathways in our brains. We form new connections and neurons that make our brains stronger.
Learning new things not only gives you something to focus on, but it can help bring a sense of achievement that combats feelings of hopelessness.
You might decide to read a book on something that interests you, take a course, learn a practical skill, or even start learning a language.
Feeling like we are growing and developing in life is really powerful in keeping us motivated.
13) Do some mindset work
Our mindset is essentially the beliefs we have about ourselves and our abilities. And it shapes how we think, what we feel, and how we behave.
A fixed mindset sees yourself as limited because of your past experiences. Whereas a growth mindset believes that you can improve through hard work and effort.
The mindset you have hugely influences how you cope in life and deal with challenges.
That is why it is worth the time spent cultivating a growth mindset.
14) Identify practical steps you can take
If you are facing particular problems that are making you feel hopeless, consider what practical steps you can take to improve your situation.
It’s important to recognize what you are in control of and what is out of your control.
But by identifying the areas where you can make changes, you can create momentum that will help you feel like you are moving forwards.
When you take action, no matter how small, it helps to make you feel more in control in life.
- What is one thing I would like to get done today?
- What is one thing I would like to get done by the end of the week?
- What is one thing I would like to achieve this month?
15) Remember that growth comes from pain
I know that it may feel like very little comfort right now, but it’s true that painful times in life can act as an impetus for personal development.
Painful experiences and discontentment teach us lessons and give us opportunities to grow.
The key is to see them as stepping stones rather than stumbling blocks.
So while it may seem counterintuitive, sometimes the most difficult moments in life can actually be the ones that lead us to success.