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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
April showers bring May flowers. It’s a common saying that many of us have heard and repeated since childhood. It seems to be one of those expressions that’s short enough to remember and insightful enough to provide us with some amount of wisdom of life. The mantra leads us to believe that the rainstorms of April are only temporary before they leave in their wake the blossoming of new life heading into a brighter time of the year.
Perhaps more powerful when we peel back that belief is the realization that the focus isn’t on the rain or flowers, but on the enduring hope that when the rainstorms are gone, flowers will bloom. But what happens if that hope dissipates or disappears altogether? Would the old saying retain its power and would we continue to love its utterance? Or would we simply ruminate in the rain showers and resent the attempt at easing our minds with words, kind of like telling someone to simply snap out of their depression or just work harder to lose the weight?
This same saying and belief translates well to the world of mental health. Everyone at some point in their lifetime experiences periods of rainstorms in the form of trauma, grief, loss, worry or other difficulties. Whether it’s the saying above or any other common idioms — and there are many — they all assume that the individual retains hope for what lies on the other side of the storm.
In this context, hope is a force perhaps more powerful than any amount of happiness, optimism, motivation, inspiration or enthusiasm. Hope refers to the belief of one’s ability to work through a specific event toward specific goals and positive outcomes. While one might be optimistic that it will eventually stop raining or motivated by the thought of flowers blooming, hope exists when the individual believes they have the ability to work through the adversity toward achieving their goals. This, in turn, can have a symbiotic relationship with feelings of happiness, optimism and motivation.
Research has shown that hope is associated with increased resiliency, improved coping abilities, healthier lifestyle habits, lower impacts of anxiety and trauma, higher productivity and goal attainment, improved recovery from physical illnesses, greater well-being and higher overall life satisfaction.
During the rainstorms of life, and perhaps even during periods of calm, it can be difficult to find hope or feel hopeful. Thankfully, there are things that individuals can do within their control to foster hope. These include practicing mindfulness activities, practicing gratitude, limiting exposure to potentially negative social media or news, focusing on your strengths, meditating, praying, volunteering, practicing acts of kindness and surrounding yourself with positive people and environments.
At the same time, especially in the midst of challenging times, it may be difficult to take any of these steps. Particularly in those moments, it might be beneficial or even necessary to seek out help from a therapist, who may be able to offer support and guidance along your journey toward cultivating hope. Perhaps most importantly, we can have empathy and show compassion for the reality that everyone — even those we know best — faces periods of rain showers that are often invisible to the outside world.
As we celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month and hopefully April showers give way to May flowers, literally and metaphorically, I encourage you to seek ways to build hope within yourself and maybe even be a beacon of hope and positivity for those around you.
Bryan Busch is a licensed mental health counselor in Cedar Rapids. He also works at Folience, the parent company of The Gazette. He can be reached at email@example.com.