Cultivating hope.

By David Joel Miller.

Recovery begins with having hope.

Hope or Despair

Cultivate Hope.
Photo courtesy of

When you can’t see any way to turn you don’t make many changes. For most people, change begins with finding and holding onto hope. Look around for those who were in dire straits and who have overcome. Learn from those who surmounted difficulties. The first step on the journey of recovery is deciding that you can’t stay where you are, stuck in the past and in your suffering.

One definition of recovery is “overcoming a hopeless state of mind and body.” Recovery does not erase your past or the challenges you face. What recovery does mean is that you can learn to live with your challenges. Have you decided you want to create the best life possible? Then begin by nurturing hope.

Here are some ways you can grow more hope in your life.

Study hope, become an expert on hope cultivation.

Learn about hope. Make studying hope and recovery priorities. Ask yourself “How have others found their hope?” Read books about hope and recovery. There are a great many books, blogs and other hope-filled resources available these days.

Join groups that promote hope. Be around others who are in recovery and have overcome life’s setbacks. Hope, like light, can fade the farther you are from it. This is why it is important to have people in your closest circles who have hope and are willing to share it.

Look for others who have recovered, whatever that recovery may mean to them. Hope is one of these infinite resources, the more you give it away the more of it you have.

Everywhere around you are examples of recovery from serious, severe difficulties. Nurture connections with positive and hope-filled people.

Tell yourself that others have done it and you can too.

Self-talk creates self-destiny. Make use of positive affirmations. Learn how self-affirming thoughts can fill you with hope. Practice both hoping for a better future and doing the work needed to take you there.

Say it will never happen and you create that outcome. Say all things are possible for those who hope and you are already on the path. Affirmations are powerful forces for creating things. Negative self-talk creates pain and suffering, hopeful self-talk produces possibilities.

Let others hope for you until you can grow your own hope.

If your find yourself stuck in hopelessness seek out others, professionals or peers, who have hope for you and let them talk about those hopes for you until you are able to create that hope on your own.

Look for undeveloped strengths and improvement opportunities.

Weaknesses and failure are easy to spot in yourself and in others. Look for potential strengths you didn’t know you had. Try out new things and you are likely to find that some of those things are just the opportunity you have been looking for.

Great things can happen when someone takes a chance and tries something they have always wanted to do. You are likely to surprise yourself when you find that you have skills that are not yet developed.

This happens every semester at the community college when students who are returning after many years out of school discover they are far more capable than they had ever realized. Now that you are older and possibly wiser revisit something you have wanted to do but avoided because of a fear of failure. Wonderful things can happen when you have hope. Accomplishing the little things in life builds hope for the greater tasks.

Focus on the positive.

You find what you look for. Look for the negative and your life fills with misery. Search out the positive and it grows.

You can cry about your losses but sometimes those things need to leave your life to make room for better things.  Judith Viorst in her book Necessary Losses tells the story of how letting go of painful things can make room for a better life.

Elizabeth Lesser’s book Broken Open tells of how the pain of loss can be the catalyst to finding yourself and deeper meaning.

Give yourself a round of applause for things well done.

Don’t be shy about accepting compliments and acknowledging rounds of applause. Recognizing accomplishments builds self-esteem. I see no evidence that accepting compliments from yourself or others will make you conceited. Failure to give yourself credit where credit is due will undermine your self-confidence.

When offered a compliment do you find it hard to accept? Learn to save compliments and simply thank those who offer them. Dismissing compliments with an “it was nothing” form of comment is not modesty it is devaluing the compliments of others.

Think about the ways you will you go about cultivating hope in your life and please leave a comment to share any hope building methods that have worked for you.

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books


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