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Having hope when life seems dark

By Sylvia P. Brown

Desmond Tutu once said, “Hope is being able to see there is light despite all of the darkness.” As someone who suffers from autoimmune diseases, chronic illnesses and mental health issues and is in recovery, I can say that hope has pulled me out of some of my darkest times and helped me push through when I felt like giving up. According to several sources, “The most important facet of recovery is hope. It is the catalyst of the recovery process, and without hope, situations involving psychological distress can deteriorate rapidly.” This statement is not only true, but also hits close to home.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines hope as, “to want something to happen or to be true, and usually have a good reason to think that it might.” Hope is one of the most difficult things to hold onto, especially in times of depression, grief and crisis. Unfortunately, life does not always go as planned. Things sometimes happen that can make us feel hopeless, helpless and alone. Hope helps us be optimistic and instills trust that things will get better. As my late mother used to say, “A positive mind yields positive results.” This means that even when things are not going our way, we must change our mindset to reflect the outcome we want. We must change our “can’ts” and “wont’s” to “cans” and “wills.”

Some things that help me form a positive attitude and gain hope are being adaptable and flexible, practicing positive affirmations, clearing my negative mindset, surrounding myself with like-minded individuals and, as the prayer says, having the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Prayer and meditation have helped me hold onto hope when I’ve felt like giving up. Also, we often hear people say laughter is the best medicine. It’s true, and sometimes a good laugh is all we need to turn a frown upside down.

Like anything else in life, different things work for different people. While I may not have all the answers to instilling hope, these are just a few of the many things that have helped me the most in my life journey. All in all, I find that a positive mindset can help change the outcome of any situation. As my favorite quote by Mahatma Gandhi states, “A man is but a product of his thoughts; what he thinks, he becomes.”

Sylvia P. Brown is drop-in program manager for the Mental Health Association of South Mississippi. Reach her at

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