By Nikki Kontz, LMSW

We can all use more hope and happiness in our lives.

And scientists have proven the direct correlation between showing gratitude and feeling hopeful and happy. In fact, an article in the Journal of Positive Psychology says that gratitude is more important than most other traits, including forgiveness, patience and self-control, in predicting a person’s hope and happiness.

We all know it’s hard to be a teen – and sometimes it’s a challenge to stay hopeful and happy. It probably won’t surprise you that Arizona teens report some of the highest levels of feeling sad or hopeless in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If you feel sad or struggle to find hope at times, you’re not alone!

But there are proven ways to take action!

So, what can you do to increase your happiness?

Start by practicing being grateful.

A daily dose of a little gratitude can get you in a routine of expressing appreciation or thanks. This simple step can help you stay hopeful even when dealing with the challenges, obstacles and fears you’ll undoubtedly face.

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. Plus, even scientists say it’s a quick and easy way to improve your outlook.

That’s why we’re encouraging teens in Arizona to begin expressing some gratitude every day.

Start by thinking of one reason you could be grateful each day. You may want to gradually increase the number over time.

Try these 12 thought starters as you look for something to be grateful for today:

  1. Someone you’re grateful to know
  2. Something that made you smile today
  3. Someone or something that helped make life a little easier today
  4. Something you take for granted – for instance, your health or a beautiful sunny day – that you’re truly grateful for
  5. An experience that made you laugh
  6. An accomplishment you’re proud of
  7. What you like most about where you live or go to school
  8. A tradition you love
  9. A quality you like about yourself
  10. A favorite song
  11. Something, however large or small, you accomplished today
  12. Something you’re looking forward to tomorrow

Gratitude is good for more than just increasing your happiness. A researcher from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine found that gratitude can also improve your physical health.

The participants in his study who reported more gratitude slept better, had more energy and even improved their heart health.

There is Hope

If you’re struggling to feel gratitude or hope in your life, please call Teen Lifeline 24/7/365 at (602) 248-TEEN (8336) or (800) 248-TEEN. The hotline is staffed by teen peer counselors from 3 p.m. until 9 p.m. daily. Trained counselors are available at all other times.

You can also text with a teen peer counselor at (602) 248-8336 between the hours of 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. every day of the year.

For more information about Teen Lifeline, visit