3 Ways to Increase Hope

Hope is an important skill for getting through challenging times. Remaining hopeful can improve physical and mental health, reduce stress, and increase happiness. On the other hand, hopelessness can lead to mental health problems like anxiety and depression.

Beyond the physical and emotional benefits of hope, it can also increase the odds of bringing about change. That’s because hope motivates you to take action, making it more likely you’ll enable your wish to come true. “When we hope for something, we are motivated to bring about the object of our hope,” shares Michael Milona, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Ryerson University, in the recent white paper “Hope and Optimism.” The benefits of encouraging hope in young people extend to our communities and future.

Teens that are feeling anxious or stressed may benefit from a more hopeful outlook. Here are a few science-backed ways to increase hope in your teen. 

1) Notice and express gratitude for good things.

Recognizing how good things still happen even during difficult times can foster optimism. Talking about what we are thankful for boosts happiness and health. Commit to expressing what you’re grateful for daily. Say it out loud in the mirror or write it down in a journal. People who keep gratitude journals sleep better, have healthier hearts, and experience less pain. Make it a family affair and share something you’re grateful for over a meal or en route to school. Whatever you do, be intentional about expressing gratitude each day. Notice how it lifts your spirits and reminds you there is reason to hope. 

2) Make a contribution.

Volunteer at a local charity. Join an after-school service club or youth group. Lend a hand to a neighbor. Giving back not only helps others, but it also reminds the giver about how much they matter. This recognition can renew the human spirit and reboot your outlook for the future. Focusing on something bigger than yourself is hope-inducing. Even small gestures of kindness reinforce that your actions make a difference.

3) Laugh a little

Laughter is an under-utilized strategy for coping with stress. Humor has been shown to improve mental and physical health and increase hope. When we laugh, we release feel-good chemicals that tell our brain and body to relax a bit. So give your teen permission to watch a funny video or unwind with a sitcom. Or, write down a joke and share it with friends and family. (Just don’t use an unsharpened pencil. That would be pointless.) 

These simple strategies can help your teen thrive in good times and navigate challenging times. And that is something to be hopeful about, as we all stand to benefit when our teens flourish.

About Elyse Salek

Elyse Salek, M.S.Ed. is an Administrative Director of Research at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Her degrees are in Psychology and Human Development from Middlebury College and the University of Pennsylvania School of Education. She is the proud mother of two children.

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