Watching Derek Hough dance is a joy trigger. The Emmy award- winner and best-selling author is a six-time champion on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.” He began dancing at age 11, moving to London a year later to train with top dance coaches, and hasn’t looked back. Now, Hough is partnering with U.S. Cellular on The Future of Good program, which recognizes young humanitarians and the work they do in their local communities.

Hough sat down with Thrive to discuss the importance of gratitude in his life, the lessons he’s learned about giving back even in challenging times, and how he manages stress.

Thrive Global: Why did you get involved with the Future of Good Program?

Derek Hough: I love the fact that they are celebrating, recognizing, and investing in young people who are tackling unfairness in the community. It’s incredibly fulfilling and very rewarding.

TG: There’s science behind giving back and how it positively impacts our health, but sometimes people don’t know where to begin. Are there little things that you have found helpful when deciding how you volunteer?

DH: If you focus on what’s wrong in the world, you’re not going to feel good. But if you focus on a positive solution, you can make an impact. 

There’s this one girl, Mackenzie from Mount Olive, who started this food pantry. She started when she was 10 years old, which is already incredible, and she’s now 15 years old, and her nonprofit has provided two million meals, which is just extraordinary. The fact that this young girl has done this already in her life shows that if you ask the right questions and find solutions, you can really do something. 

So when you are thinking about giving back, think about what you are passionate about, and then  focus on solutions and how to create that solution. When you feel gratitude, that is a powerful thing. 

TG: As somebody who juggles many projects at once, how do you organize your day? 

DH: I think it depends what type of project I’m working on at that moment. I try to just stay in the moment. The most important part, as far as managing my time, is managing my state. That’s actually more important — managing where I am emotionally, where I feel physically. If I feel like if I’m in a positive state, a grateful state, then I’m able to tackle all things and come up with solutions, be creative, and communicate effectively. So it’s not managing my time that I focus on, it’s more about managing my state and how I’m feeling within myself. And I think that when you’re feeling good, you maximize your time and you maximize your day and your schedule and what you need to accomplish. 

TG: What are some of the small things you do to keep stress at bay?

DH: I take care of myself. There’s a lot of self-care. Being a dancer, being an athlete, it’s important to see my body in shape. But as far as stress, I think it’s just letting myself relax, allowing myself to switch off. Because I think a lot of stress is really just all rooted in fear. So I switch fear to gratitude. That eliminates stress for me.

TG: What are some of your tips to incorporate more movement into the day?

DH: I think sometimes we get intimidated by the word dance. Put some music on — blast it, turn it on loud, and just start dancing, start moving. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t have to be professional.

One of the fastest ways to change the way you feel and stress less is to change the way you move. Change the wave of your body, the way you hold yourself — even if it’s just your posture.

Now through April 15, 2020, anyone over the age of 18 is encouraged to go to to nominate those who are making a positive impact in their communities. To read more about The Future of Good winners or for more information about the 2020 program, go to

Follow us here and subscribe here for all the latest news on how you can keep Thriving.

Stay up to date or catch-up on all our podcasts with Arianna Huffington here.


  • Lindsey Benoit O'Connell

    Deputy Editor, Entertainment + Partnerships at Thrive

    Lindsey Benoit O'Connell is Thrive's Deputy Editor, Entertainment + Partnerships. Prior to working at Thrive, she was the Entertainment + Special Projects Director for Good Housekeeping, Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, Redbook and Woman's Day booking the talent for covers and inside features. O'Connell currently lives in Astoria, NY with her husband Brian and adorable son, Hunter Fitz.