By Nikki Kontz, LMSW

Raise your hand if you’re ready for 2020 to end!

It’s been a tough year for many of us as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced changes in how we learn, work and interact with each other.

For many, these changes continue to cause increased anxiety and stress. That’s on top of the regular seasonal surge of stress you might feel in December due to finals and the family commitments and gift giving associated with the holidays.

Luckily, research shows there’s a simple way to decrease stress any time of year: expressing gratitude.

Gratitude leads to a better sense of well-being and a less depressed mood according to research from the University of California San Diego.

And researchers at the University of California Davis say stress hormones, like cortisol, are 23 percent lower in grateful people.

The great thing about gratitude is it can impact more than just your mental health. Research also shows gratitude helps improve your sleep and your immune system – something we can all benefit from right now.

While expressing hope and happiness may sometimes seem hard to do, gratitude is similar to a muscle. The more you practice and use it, the more it will strengthen and grow.

That’s why we’re encouraging teens throughout Arizona to take the Think of Three Challenge.

The challenge is simple — think of three things you are grateful for every day.

If you want to take the challenge further, write down the things you’re grateful for in a gratitude journal or post about them on social media with the hashtag #TO3.

Not sure what you’re grateful for? That’s okay, too. Try some of these thought starters to get your gratitude juices flowing:

  • Something that made you smile today
  • Spending time with a friend
  • A beautiful sunny day
  • A quality you like about yourself
  • A pet
  • Someone who was kind to you
  • Someone who made life a little easier today
  • A favorite memory
  • Trying something new
  • An accomplishment you’re proud of
  • Someone you’re glad you know
  • Wearing a favorite shirt or outfit
  • What you like most about your school
  • Hearing your favorite song
  • Something you’re looking forward to tomorrow

At Teen Lifeline this year. we have had more calls and texts on the hotline than any year before. Most of them are coming from teens looking for help coping with thoughts of suicide, family problems, depression and anxiety.

It might surprise you to know I’m grateful for the increase in calls Teen Lifeline has received. It means teens are reaching out for help when they need it. And that is always a good thing.

If you need help, we’re here for you, too!

When sadness, anxiety, family problems or stress start to feel overwhelming, please call Teen Lifeline 24/7/365 at (602) 248-TEEN (8336) or (800) 248-TEEN. We can help.

You can also text the hotline at (602) 248-8336 between the hours of noon and 9 p.m. on weekdays and 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. on weekends.

The hotline is staffed by teen peer counselors from 3 p.m. until 9 p.m. daily, including holidays. Trained counselors are available at all other times.

For more information about Teen Lifeline, visit


Nikki Kontz, LMSW is a Clinical Director at Teen Lifeline