National Month of Hope
At the time of this writing, most of the country has been instructed to follow physical distancing guidelines and/or an order to “stay-at-home” to battle the unprecedented spread of the COVID-19 virus. Although such mandated imposed physical isolation guidelines may be critical to the physical safety and health of many during such a pandemic, it is wrecking havoc on the mental health and well-being of all of us.As humans, we all have a basic need for connection, as connections have been essential for survival historically. We also have a need for meaning in our lives, having a purpose or reason to get us up in the morning and move us forward, no matter what chaos may be swirling around us. Some of these basic human needs are being challenged right now.
So, I thought it might be helpful at this time to highlight the fact that April is the National Month of Hope and offer some intention-setting ideas to spread hope. At some level, I don’t think the timing of these two events is ironic. Mother Nature has always been the great equalizer and demands our respect. It seems that when there is an extended period of a lack of respect, she stirs something up to create a global shift to wake us all up!
Now, more than ever, might be a time to re-invite such respect into our lives as it can be a powerful guide to our ever evolving purpose and subsequent behaviors. Perhaps we might recommit ourselves to such purposes as a healthier world, a more diverse, interconnected community, or a more just society that works towards reducing the suffering of others. When we are able to clearly define our purpose, it brings hope as it can anchor and steer us in establishing and working toward goals that bring more meaning to our lives.
In addition, there has been much research on the impact of connection, purpose, meaning and hope on our health and well-being. Hope is the spark that ignites our internal fire, while having a purpose that brings deeper connection and meaning is the gentle breeze that fans the flames of that fire, keeping our light vibrant and bright. Hope keeps the collective light on during the dark times of such a global shift. So, what can we do to spread hope now to increase the current of connective energy needed to move us through these dark moments in time? Below are some intention-setting ideas to try this month:
- Use Social Media. Consider setting an intention to post words of hope on your social media outlet of choice. Perhaps challenge yourself to see if you can do so for the next 30 days. Or you might share a personal story when you overcame a difficult time, providing a source of inspiration to others that might be experiencing an increased sense of fear and anxiety at this time.
- Write Cards or Letters to Loved Ones. If you are not a big social media user (like me!), perhaps set an intention to write a card or letter containing words of hope to someone you care about that you are unable to see in person at this time. Personal, heart-felt written words may provide a longer-lasting effect, as they are a more tangible representation of your connection, that is available to be read again anytime that person might need a reminder that they are not alone.
- Reach Out to Keep Others Informed. Stress can tend to make us focus on the negative and fear can make us withdraw even more from the world. The simple act of reaching out to someone to keep them informed signals to them that they are important to you, that they are not alone, and provides you with an opportunity to express your concern for their well-being. Even if the information may be considered negative, the act of sharing it demonstrates that you are not only thinking about yourself, but are thinking of them. During this time, if you come across some news that brought you a sense of hope, consider sharing it with others in order to remind them that not all hope is lost and this too shall pass.
- Contribute Kindness and Encouragement. Say “thank you” often. We are being asked to rely more on virtual communication at this time to stay connected, so consider setting an intention to demonstrate the power of a sincere ‘thank you’ in each connection you make. Feeling heard and valued by others can bring comfort when we are feeling unsettled, lonely or scared. Hearing words of appreciation encourages us to continue what we are doing and reinforces our sense of purpose, inviting hope (Helping Others by Providing Encouragement), acceptance and meaning.
- Take Care of Yourself. The world needs us at our best right now, which demands us to step up our self-care efforts. Taking care of ourselves empowers others to do the same. Because many of our sources for connection and well-being are closed right now, consider returning to the basics of health and well-being, which includes sleep, eating healthy, exercising the body and mind, and deep breathing. When you take deep breaths, it facilitates the reduction of negative stress chemicals in the body and supports an increase in the positive ones the invite calmness into your entire system. From the emotional shift that is a result of your own deep breathing, you are in a better position to help others who might need some support in making that same emotional shift. So, if you are one of the many of us that struggle to prioritize our self-care, perhaps set an intention to spend some time reflecting on what self-care means to you. Unfortunately, many of us were taught to think that self-care is selfish. However, as the airlines inform us during each flight’s physical safety instructions, we must put on our own oxygen mask first, before helping others to ensure we are available to help others. So, when you are able to maintain your own health (emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical), it is much easier to support and spread hope to others!
As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you. Please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to share!