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Re-Learning Hopefulness During the Pandemic

By Shannon M. Duffy, MFT, LCPC 

To say this past year has been challenging is an understatement. We have all been pushed and pulled past our limits, experienced emotions, thoughts, and feelings that created more distress than we are accustomed to. Not to mention the tragedies that have occurred from lives lost from Covid-19, violence, and natural disasters. What has been progressing many of us through these challenging times is having HOPE. Hope can be discovered, rediscovered, uncovered, and built up even during the darkest of times. Surviving through this pandemic has put one’s overall sense of hope to the test in needing to believe that it is still an option. I have been utilizing the book, Learned Hopefulness, The Power of Positivity to Overcome Depression, as a resource with my clients during the pandemic to aid in keeping their hope afloat.

There are a few takeaways from this book that have resonated with myself and my clients within the therapeutic environment. It has become a comfortable habit to stay focused on the negatives that have been occurring and what has been helpful is to shift that focus towards seeing the hope beyond the pain. The slightest shift can break up the negative cycles that occur as familiar thinking traps which can lead to depressive symptoms, isolation, and despair. When we encounter stress, anxiety, and fear of the unknown, our bodies will go into fight or flight and/or freeze modes. The book presented hope as the fourth modality as an action or reaction to the stressors of our daily lives. Having the counterbalance of hope to how our bodies are responding to stress can aid in utilizing hope as a coping skill to manage the stressors and find a balance of calm.

The feeling of being stuck and uncertain of the future has been a theme for many of us seeking therapy. One of the techniques from the book that we have been implementing is that shift away from focusing on what you do not have or are missing out on and noticing what you do have or get to do. When we can notice what we are noticing from our thoughts, feelings, and self-talk we can turn towards how to be more resourceful and resilient as we take on new ways to cope. These obstacles, setbacks, and disappointments hold the nutrients for growth towards obtaining a hopeful mindset in the present moment and outlook to the future.

Hopefulness is a habit formed of the mind, heart, and body. Utilizing Positive psychology within therapy can aid in promoting well-being and relieve distress which is the combo for creating sustained change. I found the notion of seeing hope from every aspect of yourself; mind, heart, and body beneficial in noting the self-care and self-compassion are consistently needed for our survival during the pandemic and in life overall. Having consistent self-compassion towards taking care of yourself can keep the focus on a hopeful mindset and combat getting stuck in negative thinking patterns.

The book also addresses how hope creates a pathway to achieve goals, channeling your agency and motivation to reach your goals. As we stay hopeful for change and a better future we can focus more on our goals and be still the hope to achieve them. In addition to setting goals, addressing one’s purpose in life can aid in creating a hopeful mindset. Highlighting your positive potential and strengths to thrive toward your best self can keep us hopeful of the future. As challenging as this past year has been there are positive takeaways to learn more about what you want your life to look like to feel your best self. Our beliefs can change our actions, and our actions can change our beliefs (Tomasulo, 2020, p 100). Let’s not give up and trust the hope within ourselves.


Learned Hopefulness; The Power of Positivity to Overcome Depression. Dan Tomasulo, PH.D.

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