Why To Not Lose Hope & How To Find Hope In Life When Sad

How To Make Hope Work For You

What to do when you have no hope? How to find and keep hope in life?

It’s often said if you’re determined enough, you can find ways to achieve whatever you want, even if it is difficult. But what if you’re losing your hope? Here’s how you could scientifically get hope back into your life?

Defining Hope

In their 1991 paper, Snyder, Irving & Anderson defined hope as:

A positive motivational state that is based on an interactively derived sense of successful agency and pathways.

In plain-speak, hope is a desire for a thing to happen, usually positive. It is an anticipation, an aspiration, an expectation.

Hope is the feeling that things will turn out for the best. It is consistently looking forward to a positive outcome for things planned in our life.

Why You Must Not Lose Hope In Hard Times

Hope is not wishful thinking. What makes it different is that within hope lies a core of belief – that belief is the essence of hope. Psychologists prove this to be true.

But, however much strong its core of belief, the outer shell of hope is fuzzy. On the outside, hope is made of uncertainty.

What we hope for may not eventually happen, and the joys that we pegged upon those hopes may possibly come to naught.

So, if hoping means we have to desire positively while embracing uncertainty, is it not a purposeless endeavor? Should we hope at all, if to hope is to risk losing it easily?

Shane J Lopez, the late leading researcher on hopeful thinking, defined hope as,

The belief that the future will be better than the present, along with the belief that you have the power to make it so.

Using discoveries from the largest study of hopeful people ever conducted, Shane J. Lopez revealed in his book Making Hope Happen, that hope is not just an emotion but an essential life tool. You can measure your level of hope, and learn how to increase it.

Should we hope?

Yes, sure. Because if you know how to hope the right way according to scientific research, you may not have to feel risky about losing it.

The science says so. Research has found high-hope people have lower levels of depression and anxiety, and higher levels of happiness and well-being.

When there is no hope, there is risk of despair. That’s why we should never lose hope.

As Zen master, global spiritual leader, poet, and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh said,

Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.

How To Keep Hope Alive In Tough Times

Traditionally, throughout various cultures, we have been told since our childhood this cliché:

Where there is a will, there is a way.

This means if you’re determined enough, you can find ways to achieve what you want, even if it is difficult. Experiments by psychologists have taken this further and proved there is indeed a pound of truth in that aphorism.


A. The Snyder Way

Dr Charles “Rick” Snyder , the late professor of psychology at University of Kansas, who dedicated his life to researching hope, laid out a model that requires three things to come together to create hopeful thinking:

  1. Goals
  2. Pathways
  3. Agency

To find hope, and make hope work for you successfully, you’ve to know how to leverage each of these 3 elements. Here’s how:

1. Goals

Goals or Aims: While we all know what goals mean, here are a few tips for setting them:

  • You should be sure that your goal is something you want for yourself, not what others want of you.
  • Your goals should be stretching you beyond your comfort zones.
  • You must allocate time for working uninterrupted on each of your goals.

2. Pathways

Pathways or Plans: Once goals are set, it’s time to recognize that there can be several ways to reach them. Then choose the best way for each.

You may break down a long “pathway” into small steps, and start working on the first step. And prepare yourself for the situations when you may run into blockades – that is, have a Plan B in your kitty.

3. Agency

Agency or Action: Agency is the capacity to make our choices and exercise our power in the world.

Agency is of two types – involuntary and intentional. It is the second type, the intentional or the goal-directed agency that is required here.

  • We should be talking to ourselves in “can do” voices.
  • We should be viewing problems as challenges.
  • We should be reminding ourselves of our earlier successes when there are logjams.
  • And, of course, we should enjoy the journey to our goals itself!

B. The Lopez Way

Shane J. Lopez (1970-2016), who was the Research Director for The Clifton Foundation, and the world’s leading researcher on hope, in his book Making Hope Happen: Create the Future You Want for Yourself, proposed hopeful people share 4 core beliefs:

  1. The future will be better than the present.
  2. I have the power to make it so.
  3. There are many paths to my goals.
  4. None of them is free of obstacles.

How To Find Hope In Life When Sad

When we fall into adversity, imagining a hopeful future seems like a losing proposition. In such times, we can make a few efforts to keep our hopes alive. Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Learn to change your attitude and it will allow you to see the amazing things around you, not only in the world around us, but also in yourself.
  • Find a group of people to meet and interact who are naturally optimistic and see the bright side of things, and enjoy the contagion of positive emotions of these people. You will have a smile on your lips more often. You’ll start to see the optimistic side in every situation. You’ll cultivate a positive mindset and attitude to carry around.
  • For many of us, the richness of nature is a powerful source of awe-inspiring inspiration. We could also use faith as a great source of hope for a sunny tomorrow and motivation for action today.
  • We could create a positive and hopeful mood by reading a book on hope, watching an inspiring and uplifting video, or listening to a talk by people who kept hope alive when they were down and out.
  • When we make a habit of seeing the possible positive outcomes, we realize we are also capable of doing remarkable things by making our hopes stronger.
  • As human beings, the seemingly impossible often appears to be actually possible when we look back at the amazing things we have already done in our lives. We all have at least a few past miracles to remember, and looking back at them we are reminded that we are perfectly able to process them again.

To cultivate hope, it takes bravery to take that first step forward. Try one of these steps wherever you are in life right now, and see yourself gradually transform into a person ready to face and sail through your challenges.

Hope = Desire + Belief

Final Words

We must hope, especially in situations that seem insurmountable and dire.

Those of us who keep high hope, we set out on our journey with resilience and grit, we view the obstacles on the road not as barriers, but as challenges. And we always have a Plan B.

[An early version of this post originally appeared on Happify Daily, written by the same author.]

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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy – a medical doctor, psychology writer, happiness researcher. Founder of Happiness India Project, and chief editor of its blog. He writes popular-science articles on positive psychology and related medical topics.

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