“It really feels like there’s nothing but terrible things happening in the world right now, don’t you think?” A friend and I were catching up recently when he handed me his phone to share yet another eye-catching headline he discovered thanks to Facebook’s algorithm.
“I don’t feel that way at all, actually,” I responded plainly, handing his phone back to him after quickly scanning the story.
“Really?! How can you say that?” He inquired, surprised by my response.
“Your perception of reality is a reflection of your inner state of being. If you perceive the world as negative, it’s because you’re allowing your fear to guide your conscious attention to the negativity.” I explained, hoping he’d understand that we see the world as we see ourselves.
“Whoa, that’s deep, man!” He said, half jokingly. We both laughed and moved on to discuss the goings-on in our lives.
But the conversation stayed with me for weeks afterward.
Ever since the 2016 election, I’ve heard from friends, family members and colleagues on both sides of the political spectrum who are all scared and worried about the state of our country—and our planet. They’re concerned about gun control. They’re concerned about border security. They’re concerned about climate change. They’re concerned about taxes. They’re concerned about systemic racism.
What they don’t realize is that their fear is actually the very same force that sustains the dysfunction it aims to avoid.
Fear is rampant. And contagious. it’s been that way since the dawn of humanity. The human brain is wired to focus on fear and negativity in order to ensure our survival as a species—a primal instinct we can’t help but indulge. Psychologists call this phenomenon the “negativity bias,” or the natural inclination to focus on negative stimuli as perceived by the brain. You literally can’t help feeling that way as a default, especially when you’re confronted with headlines about mass shootings, terrorist attacks, political discord, violent protests, corruption and more.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Fight or flight does not have to be your de-facto state of being. You don’t have to live a life dominated by fear and surrounded by perpetual pessimism. There are simple steps you can take to realign with positivity and reduce the noise of negativity in your life.
You can open your mind up to optimism. You can open your eyes to notice the good in humanity. You can open your heart to live intently with hope. You deserve a life that’s free from fear and full of faith. And you can claim it for yourself if you’re willing to see things differently.
Below, I share six ways you can do just that. Because there is no happiness without hopefulness. There is no healing without hoping. There is no humanity without hope.
1. Recognize your fear for what it is.
We all experience fear. But not everyone recognizes it for what it is. In order to rise above the feeling of being afraid and into a higher energetic frequency like hope, you must identify and name it when it bubbles up within you. Then, instead of acting on that anxious, uncertain state, learn to simply say, “I’m feeling afraid right now, but I know it will pass.” Like any emotional state, fear is only temporary and will not last if you learn to watch it instead of wallow in it.
The most important thing you can do is not act upon your fear. Any action based in fear will always create more fear. The negativity will trigger the shadow in another and it will bring down the energetic vibration of the entire interaction.
Don’t go that route. Learning to name your fear is the first step to transcending it.
2. Return to love more quickly.
In The Universe Has Your Back, Gabby Bernstein writes, “The answer [to fear] is to lead from a place of love. Our capacity to tune in to the energy of love gives us the words we need when we’re ready to speak up, the compassion we need when it’s time to forgive and the power we need when we are lost… the greatest power we have to combat the terror of these times is our power to live in love. Love casts out all fear.”
Hope is a form of love rooted in the idea that a better future is always possible. Hope plants a seed of love in the future and works in the present to help it grow. Consciously choosing love helps to create connection, whereas unconsciously choosing fear helps to create disconnection.
In these uncertain times, it can be easy to fall into the trap that fear lays out for you. Don’t get tripped up on that. You can always return to love and compassionately connect with others if you’re willing to let go of the need to be certain and instead vulnerably communicate on a human-to-human level.
And that’s a beautiful thing.
3. Seek out positivity.
It’s one thing to stay up to date on what’s going on in the world. It’s another thing entirely to constantly check social media, read articles and stories about topics that disturb your peace and follow people who keep you stuck in the low energetic frequency of fear.
You are reading this blog post because you clearly want to lead a life filled with more hope. Now give yourself the permission to reflect this inner intention in your outer world. Follow more accounts focused on empowerment and love. Prioritize news outlets that share feel-good stories. Refrain from sharing negativity online in favor of spreading more positivity yourself.
Whatever you seek, you will find. And it will either lift you up or drag you down. You get to decide.
4. Channel your energy into productive change.
There’s a distinct difference between actions based in fear and actions based in hope. Fear tells you that you need to protect, preserve and keep things the way they are. In that regard, fear is an energetic resistance to the expansive nature of the Universe. Hope, on the other hand, tells you that better days are ahead if you trust and work hard. Thus, hope is in energetic alignment with the progressive nature of the Universe because it acknowledges the beauty that’s possible with change. You can and should put in concerted effort to bring about the change you wish to see in the world. Rather than complain and spread negativity via the Internet, invest your time and energy into making an affirming impact on the world. Hope without action is empty and meaningless in the same way that action based in fear does nothing to elevate humanity or improve our society.
Then-President Obama addressed this topic in a speech to the United Nations in September 2014. "We choose hope over fear. We see the future not as something out of our control, but as something we can shape for the better through concerted and collective effort. We reject fatalism or cynicism when it comes to human affairs; we choose to work for the world as it should be, as our children deserve it to be."
Hope is the belief that you can work to achieve something bigger, better and more beautiful than you currently have. But that belief must be supported by action. And that action must be backed by love.
5. Give what you wish to receive.
Oftentimes, you withhold from the world the very things you wish to receive. You do this because you expect to get before you give. But by not sharing authentically and out of the beauty of your own heart, you dishonor your loving essence and do an injustice to your hopeful nature. Instead of keeping your love locked away only for those people who give you what you think you want and need, give out of the pure nature of your being.
If you want to see more positivity in the world, share more positivity from your day. If you want to hear the words “I love you” more often, start speaking them into existence more often to the people you care about. If you want to build connections instead of burning bridges, talk about why you’re scared and watch as other people say, “You know what? I’m scared, too.”
I want to challenge you to give to others in this way for the next week. Think of it like a seven day Hope Challenge. Give to others without expectation over the next week and take notes on what happens. I bet you’ll be surprised to see that you have more in common than not with the same people you thought you hated.
Hope and love attract more hope and love. Remember that.
6. Practice. Practice. Practice.
Whether it’s through meditation, daily affirmations, prayer, a gratitude journal, mindfulness or other exercises, the more you practice training your mind to focus on the good, the more it will find it by default over time.
You can make progress toward being more positive. You can help reset your mind to hope instead of fear. You can live a life that’s more optimistic than pessimistic. But it won’t happen on its own. You must recondition your brain to believe in the moral decency of others and that will take time—and effort.
It all starts with you.
What are some ways you nurture hope in your daily life? Share your story in the comments—or Tweet me at @crackliffe.