By Nikki Kontz, LMSW

There’s no place like hope for the holidays. That’s because studies show living in a state of hope can help increase happiness, improve academic achievement and lower rates of suicide.

The good news –hope is a skill you can learn and develop over time. This means, you can actively work to increase the amount of hope you feel for the coming New Year. This is especially important during the holiday season, when added stress from finals, family commitments, holiday events and gift giving can sometimes make hope seem elusive.

Whether you’re struggling with emotions this holiday season or you’re just wanting to add to your long-term happiness, cultivating hope can help.

Try these four simple steps to increase your hope this holiday season:

  1. Make a Gratitude List – Write a list of things for which you are thankful. Start with a list of five things and try to add at least one or two new things to the list each day. Even small things, like sunshine, a smile from a stranger or hearing a favorite song can spark gratitude. Reminding yourself of things you are grateful for can help you feel more hopeful.
  2. Change Your Narrative – Most of the time, what you say to yourself about what’s happening in your life is more important than what’s actually happening. Positive thinking takes practice. When you find yourself having negative thoughts, stop and try to rephrase the thought in a positive way. For instance, instead of telling yourself how boring the holiday party at grandma’s house will be, try telling yourself how much you’ll enjoy getting to see your family members or talk with your cousins.
  3. Create and Nurture Positive Relationships – If you have positive relationships in your life, nurture them. The holidays are a perfect excuse to text, call or arrange to spend time with people with whom you have healthy relationships. If you feel you’re lacking positive connections with other people, look for ways to develop new friendships. Plan an activity with people you would like to get to know better, join a club or sports team, reach out to family members or find a place to volunteer.
  4. Set Attainable Goals – The holiday season is a natural time to reflect on the past year and set goals for the future. Decide on a realistic goal and take concrete steps to achieve it. Is your goal to go to college? Find out what classes you need to take in high school and make sure you’re on track to complete them by the time you graduate. Do you want to learn a new skill? Research and enroll in classes near you or find a tutorial on YouTube. Then, practice, practice, practice!

If you’re struggling to feel hope in your life, remember – Teen Lifeline is available 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

Have a Happy – and Hopeful – New Year!