Men doctors at work inside hospital during coronavirus outbreak - Medical worker on Covid-19 crisis wearing face protective mask - Focus on black guy eye

Hope exercises and strategies

In the moment

Developing hope

If there’s a specific time when you find yourself becoming less hopeful or experiencing a type of hopelessness, try the following exercise.

  1. Take a deep breath. 
  2. If you can, close your eyes for a moment.
  3. Give yourself a little time to think about how you are feeling. You can say “I feel hopeless right now, but I can hold onto hope because:
    1. “Anything is possible.”
    2. “New solutions or opportunities may come out of this really difficult situation.”
    3. “I can think of one positive solution or opportunity right now.”
  4. Give yourself time to think of that solution or opportunity.
  5. Once you have that positive thought in mind, repeat to yourself “I can hold onto hope because anything is possible.”

Reflection and growth


Reflect on these questions:

  1. What does hope mean to me? 
  2. When have I felt hopeful? What was I doing that made me feel this way?
  3. Have I been experiencing hopelessness during COVID-19?
  4. What is the impact of hopelessness on my self? My family? My colleagues? My work?
  5. What are some of the larger hopes (that may be outside of my control) that are still important to me? Why are they so important?

The Matrix


As we describe in this program’s appendix, it’s possible to get stuck in a loop on the Away side of the Matrix. This can happen when your moral pain leads you to behaviours that soothe you in the short term, but don’t move you to the Toward side in the long term.

Even if you somehow free yourself of all the difficult thoughts, feelings, and memories on the Away side of the Matrix, that doesn’t guarantee you will find yourself on the Toward side. And you should know that you can make Toward moves even in the presence of yucky internal experiences on the Away side. On the Matrix, you’re just trying to help yourself spend more time on the Toward side than you did before. We all make Away moves! 

It’s important to be kind to yourself. Rather than focusing on what not to do (“Do not make Away moves”), focus on what you can do (“Do make Toward moves”) to move yourself closer to what matters to you.

Hope is a bit like gratitude. We can see it not as something that is innate that must be spontaneously created, but as a deliberate choice to see things in an optimistic way. 

Studies show that if we can be more optimistic and hopeful it can improve our functioning. In a sense, hope is a tool for getting us to the Toward side of the Matrix.

Fill out the chart using the following prompts. Start in the lower-right quadrant and go clockwise.

  1. Lower right: Answer the question “Who or what matters to me?”
  2. Lower left: Describe and record the thoughts and feelings that show up for you when you feel hopeless. If there was a microphone in your head, what kind of thoughts appear around hopelessness? How does that feel in your body?
  3. Upper left: Trying to get away from yucky feelings is a normal human response. What do you do when you feel or think the things you just listed below? How do those thoughts and feelings impact your behaviour? How do you behave when you feel hopeless?
  4. Upper right: What behaviours can you do that would embody hopefulness? If you felt hopeful (i.e., if you believed new solutions or opportunities that you haven’t even considered might emerge), then how would you behave? How would you connect with the important people in your life? How would you engage with the world?

Remember you don’t have to decide if the thoughts and feelings on the Away side are true or false. Once you have finished the four quadrants, look to the centre of the Matrix and notice (with kindness and curiosity) how your responses show whether you are moving toward or away from what matters to you.

The Matrix
Tap and hold (or right click) the image to save and/or print it. (Alternatively, you can draw two lines on a blank journal page to make four quadrants.)