How to Find Hope—Accepting That Hard Times Are Normal

Make the abnormal normal

Give up resentment

Practice forgiveness

Life is hard.

There you go. It’s the brutally honest truth. We may not enjoy troubled times, but they are normal. It’s easy to feel that your life is hopeless when the world and your own life are so full of challenges. You lose faith that things can get better because life seems to be an endless cycle of bad news and setbacks.

When we resist this inconvenient truth and insist that things “should” be a certain way. We drain our positive energies and limit our ability to create good things in life. We give up the potential for acceptance, hope, and peace. We give up the possibility for finding happiness.

The good news is that your life, however hard, however normal, is never as hopeless as you feel it is. And, finding hope again is simpler than you might think. Here are some tools you can use TODAY to build a new sense of hope, even in the hardest of times.

Step#1 Make the abnormal normal. Make a list of things that you believe aren’t “normal.” Find three ways in which every item on your list can be viewed as normal. How are the things on your list true for others or in other countries? Where have these things happened before in history? What’s happening IS normal, just not for you at this moment in time.

Do you see how “normal” is a judgment and a mindset? When you find yourself resisting something, remember this exercise. Do a quick mental inventory and remind yourself that almost everything is normal if you look at it the right way. This doesn’t mean accepting injustice, violence, poverty, or warfare. It just means accepting that this is the way the world is, so that you can free your energy to take meaningful action and find a path to hope, peace, and happiness.

Step#2 Give up resentment. Remember, resentment is when you take the poison and hope someone else dies.You hurt yourself far more than you hurt the other person. Often, you harbor resentment and the other person isn’t even aware you’re upset. You build your own barriers to a happy life. Life isn’t fair. That’s another inconvenient truth.

Identify the one thing you resent most in life right now. Write a letter to your resentment or leave it a long voicemail. Let it rip and don’t hold back. Be specific about what is making you upset and the impact it’s having on you. Keep going until you find your negative feelings begin to diminish. Keep going until your anger, resentment, resignation, and complaints seem absurd. Keep going until you laugh or cry. Then tear up the letter or delete the voicemail. Burn it, put it down the garbage disposal. Give yourself permission to get silly. Say out loud, “I release this anger from my life.” Repeat it, or another phrase that feels right for you, until you feel the anger is gone. Now make a list of all the anger and resentment you are holding. Prioritize your list. When you have the time and energy, repeat as necessary to let go of negativity and let positive feelings fill the void.

Step#3 Practice forgiveness. Take a moment and reflect on this question: How does it serve you to be angry with and resentful towards other people? Can you find one way that you benefit from holding onto negative feelings? Let it go!

Make a list of all the people you could forgive. Don’t hold back; you don’t have to forgive them. Just put them on the list. No “crime” too big, no “crime” too small. Who can you forgive easily? Send emails, make phone calls, or write letters. Let people know that you are letting go of your frustration, hurt feelings, and disappointments. Letting go of the little things will make you feel better. And, it prepares you for the harder work of big forgiveness.

Yes, forgiveness can be hard work. That’s another inconvenient truth. Prioritize the other people on your list. Work through it as you have the time and energy. You’ll feel an infusion of positive thoughts filling in those old, negative spaces in your heart. You’ll become addicted to forgiveness because of how it makes YOU feel.

And, don’t forget yourself! Where do you need to forgive yourself?Write yourself a letter, by hand. The act of writing, pen to paper, creates an energy flow. Forgive yourself for everything you think you have done wrong. Rip up the letter or burn it while repeating to yourself, “I did my best. I cannot undo the past. I will learn from the past and move into the future, stronger and wiser. I am whole and complete. I forgive myself.” Repeat this until it feels true.

Finally, perhaps there is a door you don’t want to re-open, or someone who is no longer alive. You can write a letter that you never send. Or, hold onto it until you are ready to send it. Or bury it, so that its energy returns to the earth. Or burn it and let the forgiveness waft to the heavens in the smoke. You can talk to God or that person alone in the woods. Get creative! Just get into action, today.

Today is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life

Choose one action you can take today to begin to find acceptance about your life and the world. Start the process of finding hope, peace, and happiness, even in the hardest of times. Add another step tomorrow and a third step the following day. Practice for a week or two, until acceptance has become a part of your daily life. Then begin to work on another strategy. Make sure you take time to notice how you are reversing any negative energy into an upward spiral of hope and optimism. If you miss a day, just pick up where you left off. Every day is the first day of the rest of your life. It’s trite, but true. The magic is in not giving up. (Shazam!)

And, remember you are not in this alone.

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