Eight Ways To Stop Thoughts Of Hopelessness

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry
Updated February 19, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include suicide which could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is having suicidal thoughts, contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988. Support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

You may have thoughts of hopelessness in situations that seem out of your control. However, when these thoughts appear for no apparent cause or persist long-term, they may be a symptom of an underlying condition. Some mental health conditions, like depression, can cause long-term thoughts of hopelessness, potentially leading the individual to believe their symptoms won't improve or they shouldn't remain alive. 

These thoughts can be daunting, so seeking support can be vital if you've lost hope. In addition, you can take a few steps if you no longer enjoy previously enjoyed activities or start to believe your life lacks hope. 

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What is hopelessness? 

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines hopelessness as not expecting success, despairing, not being susceptible to remedy or cure, and thoughts that one is incapable of redemption or improvement. Hopelessness may also mean difficulty believing in an optimistic future. If you don't believe in any hope and believe your situation will remain as it is forever, you may be experiencing thoughts of hopelessness. 

Eight ways to reduce thoughts of hopelessness 

The following are eight tips that may help you reduce thoughts of hopelessness and challenging emotions that can follow.  

Talk to a support provider 

Whether your hopelessness results from losing a loved one, childhood trauma, or a mood disorder, there are several support options to keep in mind. Depending on your situation, you may participate in several forms of treatment or peer support, which can take place in person or online, including but not limited to the following. 

Grief counseling 

The death of a close family, friend, or beloved pet can leave one with thoughts of hopelessness and a sense that they've lost control and power over life. Grief is a natural emotional response to loss. However, it can be one of the most painful experiences in life. Grief counseling may guide you through bereavement and show you that you're not alone in what you're experiencing. If you try a grief support group, you may find hope in the stories of others. 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a widely used therapy technique to treat hopelessness and depression. CBT can help you break down significant problems into parts and may offer practical ways to change negative thinking into hopeful thoughts. 

Other forms of support 

Several other therapy techniques can successfully manage and treat hopelessness. Having an initial chat with a therapist, counselor, or another mental health provider is the first step to finding a modality that works for you. A professional can guide you toward the types of therapy that could be most effective. 

Change how you think about happiness

When a loss occurs, you might move toward it with thoughts of hopelessness and despair. You might tell yourself you can't be happy without that person or situation in your life, believing you might never be able to move forward. However, changing how you think about happiness may change this outlook.

To start, consider where your happiness comes from. Does it come from outside sources or within? When you can build a foundation of contentment within yourself that isn't dependent on other people or situations, you may be less vulnerable to pain. While life can involve traumatic events and challenges, you may better navigate these obstacles when your happiness remains steady and your resilience is assured. 

Practice affirmations

Studies have shown the powerful impact that positive affirmations can have on the brain. Affirmations are phrases or statements that help you view yourself and your abilities more positively. Once you find a few you like, practice repeating them daily or weekly. Depending on the area you'd like to grow in, you might use a quote like "My happiness is in my own hands," "I have all that I need," or "I am capable." You can paste your affirmations somewhere you'll see them, such as the refrigerator, your bathroom mirror, or inside your car. Try to repeat them out loud whenever you look at them, even if you don't believe them at first. 

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Find one aspect of your day to appreciate daily 

When experiencing thoughts of hopelessness, you may struggle to find joy. However, you can challenge this thought by finding one aspect of each day that makes you happy or is positive. Even amidst your hopelessness, you may experience pleasure at the touch of sunshine on your face or a cup of hot chocolate on a cold day. Walking your dogs, calling an old friend, or volunteering are ways to lift your sense of despair. Over time, these efforts may show you that a different future is possible.

Challenge unhelpful thoughts

It may be vital to recognize that your thoughts and emotions are not facts. When negative, unhelpful, or hurtful thoughts arise, try challenging them by entertaining the notion that they could be wrong. 

The first step to changing your thoughts is identifying them. There are many cognitive distortions you might be prone to experiencing. When you notice you're having an unhelpful thought, begin by gathering evidence against it. Ask questions and get curious about where the thought is stemming from. You may find that the thought or feeling isn't true but rather a result of anxiety, depression, fear, shame, or another challenge. Once you've disproven the thought, replace it with a fact or a positive statement about yourself. Remind yourself that you don't have to solve every problem immediately. 

Practice optimism

Happiness is an emotion and may not be a choice. For some, thoughts of hopelessness are a symptom of an underlying condition. These thoughts may build up over time and worsen due to symptoms of conditions like depression. It can take more than waking up and "deciding to be happy" to feel happy again. 

However, you can still practice optimism. You could practice mindfulness, note what you're grateful for, and discover what gives you hope. You can incorporate optimism into your life gradually each day, slowly progressing toward a more hopeful lifestyle. Be patient with yourself, and remember that hopelessness isn't your fault. 

Change one aspect of your life each day 

If you've been experiencing long-term hopelessness, you may also be lacking motivation in your daily life. Perhaps you've been neglecting yourself and your responsibilities. To overcome this effect, attempt to change one small aspect of your life daily. 

For example, if you've been neglecting your hygiene, try to take a shower and wash your hair. If you can't remember the last time you changed the sheets, consider washing and changing them. Low self-esteem may be a product of hopelessness. Completing a quick chore can give you a sense of achievement and self-worth. It's unnecessary to overwhelm yourself by trying to do everything simultaneously to make progress. You can make progress with tiny steps, as well. 

If you need to modify activities to make them more available, that's okay. For example, if you struggle to bathe, consider wiping yourself off with a damp washcloth and soap. If you struggle to brush your teeth, swish some water and toothpaste in your mouth or use mouthwash for a day. If you aren't sure how to make a sandwich, eat each ingredient separately. It may seem strange to others, but accommodating yourself is not about being socially acceptable. Any step is brave when you're experiencing a condition like depression. 

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Find alternative support methods 

Some people living with hopelessness may struggle to leave home, which can hinder finding therapy. In these cases, online therapy platforms like BetterHelp can connect you with a therapist from anywhere at any time. 

Whether you want to talk from your couch, bed, or porch, online therapy offers availability. In addition, you can choose between phone, video, or live chat sessions, which may give you a sense of control over how you receive support from your provider. 

Studies back up the effectiveness of online therapy interventions. In a review of an internet-delivered cognitive-behavioral therapy (I-CBT) intervention, researchers found that participants with major depression showed a statistically significant improvement in symptoms compared with people on a waiting list. 

Takeaway

Helplessness can be a symptom of a more serious challenge, such as depression. While there are steps you can take on your own to reduce your helplessness, they may not offer long-term support. In some cases, speaking with a professional may be the most effective option. Consider contacting a provider online or in your area to get started. You're not alone, and hope is possible.

Understand how different outlooks can shape life

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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