Cheering up a friend

10 Ways to Cheer Someone Up Right Now

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May 04, 2020

By Emily Skehill, Manager of Peer Advocacy, Supports, and Services at Mental Health America

It’s safe to say that most people are having a tough time right now. Talking through your feelings can be helpful, but it’s also important to spend some time in a more positive headspace too. We could all use some cheering up - here are some ways to brighten your friends’ days!

  1. Send a cute animal photo.
    What’s better than looking at cute (or funny) animal pictures? Make someone’s day by sending a random text with a photo that will put a smile on their face. Bonus: while searching for the perfect one to send to your friend, you can look at as many as you want!
  2. Plan a game night with a group.
    It’s tough to cheer someone up when you’re limited to the virtual world. Luckily, some classic feel-good activities can be transferred online. Round up a crew for game night – you can find classics like Scattergories, Bingo, trivia, and so much more available to play with friends via video call.
  3. Reach out first.
    When we aren’t feeling our best, reaching out can be daunting. If you know your friend is having a tough time – or even if you don’t but are having a good day yourself – start the conversation! Sometimes just knowing that someone wants to talk to you can lift our spirits.
  4. Do an extra chore.
    If you aren’t living alone right now, pick up an extra task around your home! One less thing on your roommate or family members’ plate will go a long way in making them feel supported.
  5. Send a motivational text.
    It’s always nice to know someone is rooting for you. Whether you send a simple “thinking of you – hang in there!” or scour Pinterest for your favorite quote/graphic combo, a little bit of inspiration will be appreciated.
  6. Watch a movie together.
    Watching a movie alone isn’t always as entertaining as watching with a friend. Find something on Netflix (light-hearted comedies are a good choice), make some popcorn, and watch it from your own homes. You can count down and press play at the same time or download Netflix Party to sync up and have a chat box on the side.
  7. If you live near them, plan a socially distant outing!
    Grab some snacks and head to an empty parking lot. You may have to shout to each other from your cars, but just seeing each other – without screens involved – can help you both feel more connected.
  8. Send a letter.
    It’s always exciting to receive snail mail! Make some cards or buy printable ones online (ideally from a small business or Etsy shop). Write about your favorite memories together, draw a picture, or tell them what they mean to you.
  9. Have a few dollars to spare? Venmo someone for coffee on you!
    Money is tight for most of us right now. If you have some extra cash, pass it on to a friend for a drink - their local coffee shop may offer curbside pick-up or they can get a virtual gift card and save it for a treat once places reopen. They’ll feel loved and have a reason to get out of the house, and a small business will benefit too – everyone wins!
  10. Send a story of kindness.
    There’s a lot of scary stuff happening right now, but there are so many people rising up to help each other. If you see a story that gives you some hope, send it to others to pass that feeling along. Need some ideas to get started? This article includes a bunch of feel-good stories from around the world. 





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How to Cheer Someone Up: 51 Ways to Make a Friend Smile

Mental Health

Here's exactly how to make someone feel better. 

Colleen Hayes/NBC

When your bestie is down in the dumps, all you want to do is lift their spirits. We've got tons of ideas for how to cheer someone up, no matter the situation, with tips from doctors, therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, life coaches and more! There's no one-size-fits-all solution. If your pal is stressed about finals, you might take one approach, while you'd go a totally different route if they're upset over a breakup. There are obviously some tried and true methods (ice cream is a pretty universal pick-me-up), but because you might need to dig deep in your well of ideas to get your friend happy again, we're here to help. Yeah, some of the ideas here might be cheesy or feel silly, but didn't you say you'd do anything to lift your pal up? There is sure to be something on this list that can turn any frown upside down.

1. Ask Them If They

Want Help

First off, find out if the person you’re trying to cheer up actually wants your help! Dr. Susan Edelman, who has spent 30 years as a practicing therapist in Palo Alto, California specializing in women’s issues, says, “it's important to get someone's permission to cheer them up. Otherwise it might feel to them like you're uncomfortable with how they feel and just want to make it go away. That isn't as likely to work to cheer them up.

2. Simply Be There for Them

To get over breakups, a death in the family, or other serious incidents, people need time. "The best thing you can do to help them heal is to be there. Connect with them, give your time and energy without expecting anything in return. Patience is a virtue when it comes to grief," says Kelly Morrow-Baez, a licensed professional counselor.

3. Take On a Creative Project Together

Whether you plan some elaborate project on Pinterest, or you grab some paint to sling at a piece of cardboard Pollock-style, doing something artistic (collages, painting, drawing, making music, etc.) could help get your friend smiling again.

4. Leave Your Friend a Handwritten Note

Notes are always a great way to let that friend, who maybe gets a little uncomfortable when it comes to the emotional stuff, know you still care. “It makes people feel thought of and you can provide words of affirmation. Alternatively, you could give them words or mantras to cheer them up and replace their automatic negative thought,” says Chicago-based psychotherapist Kelley Kitley. Write something cute, fold it up, and slip it somewhere not-so-obvious for them to find later.

5. Swing the Blues Away

Even if you’re not lucky enough to live by this terrifying/ridiculous swingset at the end of the world, chances are you still have a pretty awesome playground somewhere close by. “Swinging is a great form of exercise,” says Dr. Nesochi Igbokwe, a physician and health writer based in New York City. “There are many added benefits to routine physical activity and exercise such as increased energy levels and improved mood. Endorphins released when you exercise may help combat feelings of depression.”

6. Go Get Some Ice Cream

Ice cream can always brighten someone’s day. Seriously, maybe a double scoop of rocky road is all they need. Or mint chip. Or chocolate brownie. Or butter pecan. (Now we want ice cream!)

7. Do Whatever They Want to Do

"Taking out at least an hour or two every week for an activity you enjoy can help you relax and de-stress. Coping mechanisms to deal with life stressors are crucial since chronic stress may make one susceptible to depression," says Dr. Igbokwe. Help your friend feel better by taking the time to do something they like to do, even if it’s playing video games.

8. Volunteer Together

"Research indicates that volunteering for others can build self-esteem. If your friend needs cheering up, volunteering for others can be both rewarding as well as a positive distraction from their emotional distress," says Denise Limongello, a New York State-licensed master social worker. Your school probably has several opportunities for students looking to volunteer—just check with the guidance office.

9. Give Lots of Positive Reinforcement

"Science has shown that for every negative thought, we need three positive ones to counteract the negative one. That means negativity impacts us more than positivity, it sidelines us and makes us unhappy," says Dr. Erin Stair, a physician and health consultant who runs Blooming Wellness in New York. It might not have been you who put those negative thoughts into your friend's head, but you can totally help negate them — three positive statements at a time!

10. Bake Together

"Baking has been found to have a therapeutic effect which eases depression and anxiety. Because the act of measuring, mixing and paying attention to a recipe often takes your whole attention, you actually create 'peace' in your mind, which pushes away many negative thoughts and emotions. The delicious smells also produce happy feelings and if calories are of any concern, share them with a friend or donate them to a charity or local firehouse," says family coach Erica McCurdy.

11. Take a Tech Break

Psychotherapist and life coach Dr. Kelley Watts suggests you get them out of their bedroom and off electronics. "It can get more difficult to motivate [them] if [they] hole up in a cave in [their] pajamas binge watching Netflix."

12. Spend Quality Time Together

Turn off the TV, put your phone on silent, and just focus on being present and ready to listen. "Conversation will most likely take place, as well as just the enjoyment that comes out of receiving focused, quality time with someone that we care about. Anything that will enhance someone’s self-image and bring them out of their circling thoughts are all effective coping strategies within the world of mental health," says family therapist Crystal Rodenbaugh, who owns Tenfold Counseling in Kansas City.

13. Practice Compassion Meditation

Compassion meditation is something typically done alone, but everything is always more fun with a friend! Help your friend think of someone who has caused them harm and then “work on sending them good wishes, thoughts and vibes,” says Dr. Stair. "Wish them good health, good fortune, etc., and even forgive those who have mistreated you. There is a lot of power and positiveness in forgiveness."

14. Offer Them Flowers

Go to the florist, raid your dad’s garden, "borrow" from a park, or get your origami on, and make your friend a bouquet. If you want to step your game up, you could even send them a secret message with the flowers you choose.

15. Practice Yoga Together

Whether you guys sign up for a class or find a tutorial on YouTube, yoga is a great way to find your way back to happiness.

"Yoga carries a multitude of benefits for mental health. In addition to helping individuals get outside of their comfort zone in a safe, therapeutic way, yoga also lowers physiological arousal in the body — things like heart rate, respiration and cortisol production are all decreased through practicing yoga. By lowering these physical stress markers, yoga helps to decrease anxiety while simultaneously stimulating serotonin production. So the benefit is twofold, helping to relieve stress and boost positive emotions at the same time," says Mike Joly, executive director of Clear Recovery Center.

16. Play a Prank on Them

Sometimes laughter is the best medicine. A quick search for pranks on Pinterest will help you find some really clever pranks, including dipping cheese puff balls in chocolate and then passing them off as Whoppers . .. drawing a spider on toilet paper ... etc. Just make sure they'll find whatever you choose funny (the goal is go get them to laugh, not just you!).

17. Remind Them to Take a (Mindful) Breath

“Meditation is proven to be very effective in helping to reduce stress. There are cool apps like Stop, Breathe, and Think that make meditation fun and easy to do," says Dr. Jackie Kibler, a mental health expert based in in Kansas City.

18. Skip (Yes, That's Right, Skip)

Find your yellow brick road and get a move on. "Exercise is a fun way to build endorphins, increase oxygen, get you moving and distract you from a bad mood. You can do whatever exercise you want, but if you want to be extra silly, try skipping. It's extremely hard to stay glum while you skip,” says Dr. Stair.

19. Tag Them in a Million Funny Instagram Posts

Sometimes being annoying can be endearing, too. If it gives them a smile, it'll be worth it. Find all the silly videos of babies dancing, clumsy moments, and dogs being dogs. Tag them in any and every thing that might give them a laugh.

20. Do Something Outside

"Nature therapy is a big thing for improving mood," says Dr. Stair. "Science has shown that just being in nature (or even just looking at photos of nature) naturally improves one's mood." So, whether you’re in the middle of a metropolis, or you're lucky enough to live a stone’s throw from a national park, find something to do outside. Even if it’s just 15 minutes of fresh air outside, it can really boost your friend or loved one’s spirit.

21. Find (or Fake) Some Luck

Maybe all your friend needs is a little extra confidence. Maybe scouring the street for a lucky penny, or combing through a field to find a four-leaf clover is the antidote to their doldrums. Maybe they don’t find one so you surreptitiously drop a penny of your own and let them pick it up, 'cause you read Harry Potter and remember the ole’ Felix Felicis switcheroo that worked on Ron.

22. Encourage Them to Talk It Out

Talking is one of the most effective ways to cheer someone up. Encourage your friend to share their feelings! "Teenagers (especially girls) often say that when they are stressed that they want someone to talk to about things. Be there for them, listen to them. If they aren’t interested in talking, invite them to do an activity with you and more than likely, they will start talking," says Kibler.

23. Choreograph a Dance to Their Favorite Song

Want a fun activity that's sure to take anyone's mind of their woes? Make up a dance to your friend's favorite song, or try to copy the existing choreography.

24. Cook Them a Meal

"Cooking and eating with family and friends promotes bonding and studies show, also, overall happiness," says Danielle Hamo, a registered dietician and licensed nutritionist. If you can, go for a healthy meal full of nutrients to help nourish your friend.

"When most people are down, the low energy that impacts their body has them reaching for quick energy. This often equals lots of sugar and junk food," says Dr. Watts. Why not try a roast chicken? It’s way easier than it sounds, and you both will feel a great sense of accomplishment when that gorgeous golden bird comes out of the oven. Add brown rice and farm-fresh veggies to the mix and you'll have one satisfying and healthy meal!

25. Do a Random Act of Kindness Together

"Do a random act of kindness together — oftentimes when we do things for other people, we are the ones that benefit. Go out and do things, even small things (e.g., opening a door for someone, paying for someone’s drink at a restaurant, smiling and saying 'good morning' to a stranger, etc.), for others and see how your day changes," says Kibler.

26. Visualize the Future

Helping people think about how they’re a product of their past, present and the future, with a special emphasis on the future, can help you see where they’re going."

If your pal is particularly upset about a recent test score, remind him that, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not going to keep him from getting that yacht in Ibiza he always dreamed about.

27. Build a Fort

This is pretty much a no-brainer — everybody loves a good fort. It'll make you feel like a kid again!

28. Help Your Friend Embrace Her Inner Light

Life coach Joan Marie Whelan believes that everyone has hidden untapped potential. "Girls are incredibly intuitive and it seems like sometimes they’re almost afraid of their own intuition, when they finally feel and embrace that light inside of them, they’re unstoppable." She urges young women to grab a friend and practice embracing their inner light together: "Look in the mirror and just smile, take three deep breaths from your core, and feel your heart expanding with a waterfall of love for your own body, nourishing your body, and see that and say to yourself ‘I am a rockstar.'"

29. Smash Some Plates

Some people just need to find a way to get out their aggression, right? Well, now there is a way. "They have some places now where you can actually pay to break plates as a stress reliever! Date nights, friend parties, and the like are welcomed to indulge which indicates that plate breaking anger expression has become a popular way to encourage stress release — when done in a safe, nonviolent, and controlled setting of course!" says Dr. Eliza Belle, the director of psychology and behavior service for Alabama’s Department of Mental Health.

30. Make Them Laugh

Make them laugh! "You know your friend best, so use this knowledge and experience to tailor your approach to their sense of humor," says Dr. Watts. "Remember, they might be a tough audience at first, but once you crack the shell it might be the best giggle either of you has had in a long time. This might mean loading them up in your car to drive around listening to their favorite music doing some soul soothing car dancing, watching a film that you know makes them laugh until they almost wet themselves, telling stories about funny memories you share or, for the more dark humored pals, devising a plan to play a prank on a mutual friend."

31. Try New Things Together

"Staying active in general can help stave off depression, as you are more likely to engage with friends and have more social networks the more active you are. As a friend, a good cheer up method would be to invite the person to join you in a dance class, rock climbing wall, or anything they may have mentioned before that they wanted to try out but never have," says Dr. Belle.

32. Challenge Your Friend to a Noodle Fight

Grab some pool noodles and have at it. Try to avoid getting hit by dodging, ducking, weaving, and any other means necessary. Remember — the more endorphins you release, and the happier you BOTH will be. (This is one of our favorite things to cheer someone up with!)

33. Help Your Friend Eat Well and Get Some Rest

"When people are going through a tough time, they don’t have much of an appetite, and get less sleep. All this can cause irritability, depression, and make you more prone to anxiety, so anything that is good for your physical body is typically great for enhancing mental health," says Marissa Nelson, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Washington, D.C. Help balance out your buddy’s mental and physical health by grabbing some smoothies, making a huge salad of leafy greens, or even telling them to make time for a nap.

34. Give Them a Cute Nickname

Come up with a nickname. The more ludicrous it is the better. It’s not only a great way to get them laughing right now, but it will be your secret weapon to getting them chuckling in the future, too.

35. Make Friendship Bracelets

This throwback activity is sure to bring a smile to your friend's face while they're making it and whenever they look at it. Here are 15 easy patterns to start.

36. Exercise (Anyway You Want!)

"Studies show just one in four teen girls get enough exercise. Scientists estimate that every 60 seconds of exercise adds a whopping seven minutes to our total lifespan," says Joshua Duvauchelle, a health writer and certified personal trainer based in British Columbia. There is a lot of information out there on how exercise makes us happier but Duvauchelle says that the "anti-stress, mood-boosting effects kick in after just the first five minutes of exercise." So, get up and shake something!

37. Go On a Text Scavenger Hunt

Licensed clinical psychologist Stephanie King suggests taking your friend on a text scavenger hunt, "send a list of things they have to spot throughout their day. Make sure they are doable but also fun and playful. For example, have them find a pair of yellow shoes, a palm tree, a car older than you." They can send you back pics as they find each thing.

Dr. King says that it’s a "great way to get someone out of a funk and offer up a healthy challenge. A completed challenge will help people feel uplifted, hopeful and capable. This is the idea behind reciprocal inhibition: Two incongruent feelings cannot happen at the same time, so the stronger feeling, i.e. accomplishment, beats out the anxiety."

38. Share Your Perspective on Whatever's Going On

Sometimes, all a friend needs is for you to tell them how you see it, in a kind and gentle manner. It can be hard to see the forest through the trees, so sharing your point of view could help your pal shift their mood.

39. Play Dress Up

Get dolled up. Whether it’s in costumes, your mom’s clothes from the '80s, or some cute outfits you bought especially for the occasion, you’re not allowed to be glum in heels and a smoky eye. You're just not.

40. Braid Their Hair

You can do it up in a fancy French braid, or just give them some flower child side braid. Maybe you’re a straight boss who knows how to work a fishtail braid. Regardless, braiding someone’s hair is a great way to show you care (and it feels AMAZING.)

41. Plan a Sleepover

You've probably been doing this for years, but grab some rom-coms, pizza, magazines, and ingredients to bake some cookies, and your night is guaranteed to be fun.

42. Compliment Them

"Reflect to them the positive things that you love about them. Even if they aren't able to take the compliment gracefully at this time, it will matter that someone sees the good in them. Follow up with messages reminding them that you care and have their back. If you can get them to identify the positive elements of their life, then you will be on the road to success," suggests Dr. Watts.

43. Practice Saying Empowerment Statements

Joan Marie believes that young people need to give each other empowerment statements more frequently. "Friends need to say ‘what do you need to hear from me right now, do you need to feel pretty, smart, confident?’ It’s like a B-12 shot — a power boost."

44. Have a Smiling Contest

Tell each other jokes, make funny noises, do your best impression, etc — the only catch is you have to keep your face as straight as possible, the first person to crack a smile, loses. Or, try out a compliment battle.

45. Run Errands Together

"Studies show that people report difficulty with daily responsibilities when depressed or anxious. Many individuals often report having trouble asking for help when depressed. Making the decision to surprise your friend with a favor can be a great way to provide help without your friend having to make the effort to ask," says Denise.

46. Go On a Walking Tour of Your Town

Download one of these audio tours to your phone, lace up your tennis shoes and grab your friend. It’ll get those endorphins flowing, plus, you might be surprised by how cool your hometown is. If you can’t find an audio tour, make your own! There’s an app for that.

47. Netflix and Chill

Another idea for how to cheer someone up? Watch movies together! This is especially a good idea if your friend doesn't feel like talking just yet. You can lend support just by sharing your presence. Grab some popcorn and watch one of the best feel-good movies on Netflix.

48. Practice Gratitude

Identifying and focusing on the good things in your life can do wonders for lifting your spirits. Help your friend channel her energy and attention into those things. Together, you can each make a list of all things you're grateful for.

49. Help Your Friend Clean Their Car or Room

Being surrounded by a mess doesn't do much for your mental state. Having a tidy space can help you feel more in control and calm. Offering to help your friend straighten up their room or car shows you care and gives you something productive to do together. Plus, later, when they're on their own, they can relax in a clutter-free, peaceful space.

50. Have a DIY Spa Day

Invite your friend over for an afternoon of self-care. Gather up face masks, nail polishes, and whatever else you need to create your own relaxing spa sesh at home. Sure, the pampering will be great, but the quality time you'll spend together will be even better — and just what your friend might need to start smiling again.

51. Know When to Call in Reinforcements

"Understand that if a friend goes through a dark period that lasts longer than a few weeks without having at least some good days or indicates a desire to hurt themselves, this is the time to call in a parent or trusted adult to make sure your friend gets professional help if necessary. Counseling can be incredibly effective in helping someone understand their emotions and how to cope with them. If the friend is genuinely depressed, it likely is beyond your ability to help them out of it no matter how much you try. They will be lucky to have a friend like you alerting their parents or another adult about their difficulties so that they can begin their treatment and recovery," says Dr. Watts.

    Keywords depressionfriendshipsadrelationship

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    • What caused these feelings?

    • Help me understand how you feel.

    A monologue that you help build your interlocutor can be more effective than advice. By saying everything that worries him, your loved one can find a solution himself, understand that in reality everything is not so bad. Or just feel better, because you no longer need to keep emotions in yourself. nine0003

    But don't insist if you see that the person obviously doesn't want to talk. In this case, just let him know that you are always ready to listen if he changes his mind.

    “Loneliness inflicts a deep psychological wound that distorts our perception and confuses our thinking. It makes us think that others care about us much less than they really do. It makes you afraid to turn to someone, because why subject yourself to rejection and suffering if your heart already hurts more than you can bear? There is a lot of research on loneliness, and they are all terrifying. Loneliness not only makes you unhappy, it kills. I am not kidding. Chronic loneliness increases the likelihood of early death by 14%” .

    Guy Winch

    “Your feelings are normal”

    Faced with the anxiety of another person, you involuntarily want to try to get him out of this state with smiles or jokes. It may seem that his problem is nonsense and not worth the tears. But what seems insignificant to one person is really important to another. Do not underestimate the importance of sadness, anger or resentment. For everyone, these emotions are individual.

    And while some allow themselves to surrender to grief completely, others are afraid to show their feelings. It seems to them that then they look weaklings or the subject of ridicule. Or that their problem does not deserve such violent emotions. nine0003

    Therefore, if you see that your loved one is obviously upset about something, but is trying to hide it, try to explain that their emotions are normal. You will not shame or ridicule him. Perhaps these words of support will help an upset person open up to you and ease their feelings.

    "I know that feeling."

    This phrase must be handled very carefully. Even if you think you've had a similar experience, it won't be exactly like the person who's seeking your support. Your pain is different. But you can share your story if you feel it's appropriate. nine0003

    You must not shift the focus of the conversation to yourself. Do not say that you had worse situations, do not go into details. It is better to briefly talk about how something like this went through, and then return the attention to your loved one. If he needs to, he will ask for details.

    With this phrase you tell a person that he is not alone with his pain. That there is someone nearby who has experienced similar feelings. Or maybe he will find in your story tips on how to get through his pain and overcome it. nine0003

    “After failure, the mind tries to convince you of your inability to do something. If you believe this, you will begin to feel helpless and stop trying too soon or not at all. And then you'll be even more convinced that you can't succeed. That is why so many people operate below their potential. Because somewhere along the way, a single failure convinced them that they couldn't succeed, and they believed it.

    Guy Winch

    "What can I do for you?"

    When you feel that you have the strength and desire to help a person, and not just listen, ask what you can do for him.

    If a frustrated person asks for your advice, first find out if they have any ideas to improve the situation. Reflect with him, sketch out a few options, but invite your loved one to evaluate them. Decisions are more likely to be made if a person comes to them on their own. nine0003

    If you are in the immediate vicinity of an upset person, you can also provide them with domestic care. Make tea, offer to watch a movie, or cook something together to take your mind off things. And if the conversation takes place in the evening, advise to go to bed. Many feel better in the morning.

    But sometimes an upset person is sad, not because of a particular event, but because he suffers from depression. If so, encourage him to do something other than talk, like take a walk. Overthinking can exacerbate depressive feelings. Discuss with the person his feelings, gently suggest contacting a specialist who will help alleviate his condition. nine0003

    “If we are rejected, we all start thinking about our shortcomings and shortcomings, we scold ourselves. I wonder why we do this when our self-esteem is already so hurt? Why do we want to hurt her even more? If you cut your hand, you wouldn't think, "Oh, an idea: I'll take a knife and see how much deeper I can make this wound. " But with psychological trauma, we do this all the time” .

    Guy Winch

    "What happened to you is really awful"

    One of the most difficult things is realizing that you don't know what to say. But most of the time, frustrated people are not really looking for specific words of encouragement, but for comfort. When a person is in pain, he really needs understanding and sympathy for his pain. American psychologist John Gottman called this "evidence of the plight of a loved one."

    This means that sometimes it is enough to "witness" the experiences of a person dear to you. To calm him down, describe what you see and feel. Recognize that someone close to you is going through a difficult time. That it's hard for you to see his pain.

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