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All adolescents can benefit greatly from optimism and reinforcing positive thinking.  Consider the following therapeutic activities that can help a teen bolster their optimistic thought patterns, increase positive thinking, and enhance overall mental wellness, provided by Positive Psychology:

  1. Go on a nature walk: Take the time to explore and notice your surroundings; try playing a game of “I Spy.” Encourage the teen to focus on how the outside world sounds and smells, as well as on how his or her body feels outdoors, help them notice the movements of their legs, and areas of their body needed to continue the walk, draw attention to the lifting and falling of their feet, to the pace of their stride…etc. According to research, spending time in nature can help relieve stress, improve focus, boost the immune system, increase energy levels, and even improve sleep.
  2. Practice breathing exercises: Focusing on your breath can help you find respite from feelings of overwhelm, while simultaneously unwinding, and resetting. There are many simple breathing exercise that can help get you started. 
  3. Create a sensory surprise bag: Encourage your child to explore through touch by collecting different items with varying textures and placing them in a bag. Ask questions to prompt mindfulness such as: Is it sharp or smooth? Big or small? Can you describe what you are feeling?
  4. Focus on the five senses: An effective grounding technique and a quick way to bring one’s attention to the present moment is to actively engage all five senses. Try this by naming 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
  5. Keep a diary of positive goals: Setting goals and creating plans to achieve these goals often elicits feelings of purpose which can boost positivity and reduce the fear of failure.
  6. Play charades with emotions: Have your teen pick the name of an emotion out of a hat or basket, then see if you can guess what emotion they are acting out.
  7. Exercise or engage in movement regularly: The Academy of Neurological Therapy asserts that “exercise has been shown to help improve and prevent many conditions, including: weight management, stress levels, emotional regulation/ mood, memory, attention, strength, endurance, balance, flexibility, and blood pressure regulation.” 
  8. Give back to the community: Dedicating oneself to others through activities such as volunteering produce greater joy which can be directly linked to one’s positive psyche. 
  9. Try something new: Humans are hard-wired to experience joy when experiencing novelty, so try learning a new skill, do a challenging puzzle, tackle a difficult recipe, etc. to build self-confidence.
  10. Shift your internal dialogue: Create a positive mantra to reframe your thoughts and counter pessimism. 
  11. Flow with your feelings: Avoiding negative emotions when they present can disrupt the process of learning from and moving past them; by acknowledging, naming, and allowing yourself to feel them, you can help begin to release them and let go of the negativity.
  12. Get creative: According to research, creative activities can positively affect adolescents’ behavioral changes, self-confidence, and self-esteem.
  13. Go on a gratitude scavenger hunt: According to research from Harvard Medical School, expressing gratitude is strongly correlated with greater happiness.
  14. Create a music mental health playlist: Clinical experts report that music can help with stress relief, emotional well-being, and even identify formation in adolescents.
  15. Try yoga: Several studies have confirmed that practicing yoga can have positive effects on adolescents and teenagers who have anxiety disorders and stress.
  16. Make a self-esteem mirror: Mental health therapists who work with adolescents and teens understand the urgency of helping a young person develop a healthy sense of self-esteem.
  17. Facilitate a full body scan: This activity involves a teen sitting or standing still and closing their eyes. Then, starting with the tip of their head, ask them to pay attention to any sensations they are experiencing. If their head feels normal, move on, and ask them to draw their attention to their face, neck, shoulders, arms, chest, hands, etc. and all the way down to their toes. Studies show that this kind of activity can provide teenagers with an immediate, temporary sense of calm and balance.
  18. Play a boardgame: Games (e.g., chess, checkers, monopoly, etc.) that require strategy, help develop impulse control, improve social skills, and boost critical thinking as the teen must consider their opponent’s point of view to win the game.
  19. A letter from my future self: Encourage your teenager to to imagine the traits they would like to have and the goals they hope to accomplish in the future. Next, have him or her picture what advice their future self might give their current self. This activity can help an adolescent gain a better perspective of their emotions while also building confidence and self-esteem.
  20. Take a self-compassion pause: Practicing self-compassion allows teens to access positive emotions more easily and clinical evidence suggests this improves measures of life satisfaction, social connectedness, and subjective wellbeing. 

Further Information and Support

For most of us, life can be very stressful, leading us to feel emotionally charged, which can cause anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and getting stuck in a cycle of being burdened with negative thoughts. Navigating through the challenges and emotional turmoil of life can be overwhelming, but you do not have to go through it alone. Engage Treatment is a Joint Commission Accredited professional psychological practice. We specialize in treating children, teens, and young adults struggling with depression and anxiety through community-focused treatment plans that incorporate a carefully selected combination of therapeutic interventions. Our compassionate, multidisciplinary practitioners are devoted to providing the highest quality of care that helps ignite positive change and enables clients to reach optimal health and well-being. Please do not hesitate to reach out for guidance. We are happy to answer questions and provide you with any additional information. Feel free to call us at 805-497-0605 or email us at [email protected]. You are also welcomed to get in touch by filling out our contact form. We look forward to connecting and having the opportunity to discuss how we might best be able to support you.

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