Feeling Down: 7 Ways to Restore Hope

When you feel depressed, you may despair that your life will never get better. Rather than telling yourself how terrible you feel or how hopeless your situation is and finding escapes such as food, internet surfing, television, or alcohol, remember that challenges are a normal part of life, and that there is something you can do.

There are concrete actions you can take to restore hope and get rolling. I know this because I've worked with people who believed their downer feelings would never end, and I've seen them take action to turn the corner and find the peace, love, and joy they'd been yearning for.

Hope is real. You can dig yourself out of an attitude of feeling depressed, restore hope and start living. Here are seven ways to do it.

1. Reach out to someone safe for support. 

There's always someone out there--a family member, friend, hotline, counselor, or support group--ready to listen. Don't be alone with your feelings. Sometimes it's easier to seek support from a stranger, and that's exactly what community hotlines are good for.

While you need to vocalize and honor your feelings, spend less time talking “pity-party” and more time focusing on the good and figuring out little steps you can take.

2. Medication may help at times like this. 

When you're feeling really depressed and hopeless, it's good to consult a doctor to determine if medication might help you manage these intense, down feelings that don't seem to lift. Medication can enable you regain the energy needed to re-engage and take constructive action.

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3. Focus in on specifics. 

When we feel depressed, we have a tendency to lump all our woes together and feel like what we are feeling will never end. It’s super important to interrupt those overwhelming generalities and stay specific.

Write down specific issues you're bummed about: relationship, job, death, made a mistake, health, not having friends, having no money, etc. Then pick one and address that. Deal with one loss, hurt, regret, injustice, violation, or threat at a time.

Sorting out one issue at a time make things manageable. The progress you make in one area will breathe life into others.

4. Express your emotions physically and constructively.

Feeling depressed lingers because emotions of sadness, fear, and anger go unexpressed. In a safe place, let that trapped emotional energy out of your body (even if it feels like the last thing you want to do). With a specific unresolved issue in mind, emote. If you're crying about a loss, only say "Good-bye!" to what you lost while you cry or just say "I feel sad.

For feelings of anxiety – fear – shiver, tremble, and shudder all throughout your body and out your limbs, like a dog at the vet, while saying, "I'm feeling scared." 

To acknowledge your rightful anger pound the heck out of something inanimate, like a mattress, while just making sounds (like growling, for example) or yell into a pillow "I feel soooo angry!" It feels great.

It's crucial to mobilize the energy rather than keeping it bottled up and letting it clog up your body and mind. There's nothing to lose and a lot to gain!

5. Wage battle against downer thoughts. 

Take control over downer thoughts, such as "There's no hope" or "Life is bleak" or “I’ll feel like this forever” by substituting constructive thoughts that are true, especially while expressing your emotions physically. They can seem so dominant but you can wage a war with your old thoughts, one second at a time.

Interrupt and replace future-oriented thoughts by repeating a statement such as, "Be here now. I don't know the future. What's one positive thing I can do for myself today/right now?" 

Stop comparing yourself with others. Instead, say to yourself "That's their life. I’ll never know what trials others face. What do I need to do to honor myself?" 

Interrupt thoughts about what a worthless failure you are. Self-critical thoughts indicate you need to do more crying. Replace them with thoughts such as "I'm doing the best I can. I'm a good person. I'm whole and completeMy job is to take care of myself." Practice interrupting the negative spin and stretch your brain to find a little something positive you did in every interaction.

6. Abandon "what ifs." 

Abandon unfounded hopes, waiting for others to change, or wishing someone would save you. Look reality in the face, write down everything you wish were different, then take the first item and put before it, "I give up all hope that…"

For example, "I give up all hope that my parents will ever understand me," or "I give up all hope that my boyfriend will be faithful." Keep repeating the statement, constructively express any anger, fear, or sadness that arises, interrupt destructive thinking, and focus on what you are saying. Soon you'll be able to see what's true for you and what's in your control to do right now about each item.

7. Refocus on connecting to yourself. 

Now that you're dealing with issues that have plagued you, ask yourself "What's my purpose? What are my goals?" Keep asking daily. Write your answers. Persist until you come up with ones that resonate as true. Then remind yourself of your goals and purpose daily.

Make explicit goals, set specific, reasonable deadlines and boundaries, and announce well-thought-out consequences. Set out a series of small steps today to get to your goal. Little steps are essential.

Just focus on taking little doable steps and celebrate each tiny victory. And keep in touch with your support person or team regularly. They can help with guidance and celebration. Hope is not out of your reach once you learn how to channel your energy into what you want deep down, in your heart of hearts, instead of dwelling on how bad you feel.

Want to find out more about the attitudes and emotions that dominate your character and may be sabotaging your personal happiness? Take a quick self-quiz here, and then try the coping strategies designed to address them.

©2011, 2016 by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.
All Rights Reserved.

Book by the Author

Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life
by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.

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About the Author

Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T., author of: Attitude ReconstructionJude Bijou is a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFT), an educator in Santa Barbara, California and the author of Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life. In 1982, Jude launched a private psychotherapy practice and started working with individuals, couples, and groups. She also began teaching communication courses through Santa Barbara City College Adult Education. Word spread about the success of Attitude Reconstruction, and it wasn’t long before Jude became a sought-after workshop and seminar leader, teaching her approach to organizations and groups. Visit her website at AttitudeReconstruction.com/

* Watch an interview with Jude Bijou: How to Experience More Joy, Love and Peace

* Click here for a video demonstration of the Shiver and Shake Process.