press release
Published: 14 May 2024

Giving lessons to your teenage self could boost your wellbeing, say researchers

Asking young adults to advise their younger selves could have a positive impact on their self-esteem, resilience and mental health, according to a new study from the University of Surrey.  

Researchers used a unique "photograph prompted think-aloud" method on 42 people aged 20-24 years old, where they reflected aloud while looking at a photo of themselves from their mid-teens.  

Many of the participants told their younger selves to be patient and embrace change and uncertainty. Others told themselves to let go of bad relationships and set clear boundaries in future interactions. 

By reflecting on their teenage years, participants learned three key lessons: 

  • Create a safe space: Participants reflected on the importance of choosing supportive friends and letting go of harmful relationships to protect their well-being. They also highlighted the need to set clear boundaries and stand up for themselves, which is essential for maintaining mental health and self-respect. 
  • Look around and take perspective: Participants urged their younger selves to broaden their outlook, understanding that everyone faces challenges and that they are not alone in their struggles. They also discovered the importance of valuing themselves for their actions and character rather than their appearance and resisting societal labels that try to define them.  
  • Look inwards and trust yourself: Participants emphasised the importance of listening to their intuition and taking care of their emotional needs while focusing on personal growth without comparing themselves to others. They learned to see both successes and failures as opportunities for growth, persevering through challenges and embracing each experience as part of their development. 

The study has been published in Cogent Psychology


Notes to editors 

  • An image of Professor Jane Ogden can be found here.
  • Professor Ogden is available for interview upon request.
  • For more information, please contact the University of Surrey's press office via

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