“If you have the power to make someone happy, do it. The world needs more of that.” Anonymous
Brightening someone up is a rewarding experience, not just for the beneficiary. Especially when the person is feeling down in the dumps.
There is this belief that you are responsible for your own happiness and you should not depend on others or expect them to make you happy. There is nothing wrong with this idea but not everyone is capable of making themselves happy. If you can, you should give them a helping hand. In the end, you, as the giver, benefit more from the act of kindness.
How to brighten someone up depends on your relationship with them and the reason for their sadness. The person may be your partner, friend, sibling, parent, or just a stranger. The reason for their unhappiness may be vast and varied – abuse, stress, ill-health, loss of job, or the death of a loved one.
When you see someone feeling low and dejected and want to help them get over the feeling, there are many things you can do. This article dives deep into the topic and offers some helpful hints and useful tactics for you.
Is it possible to alleviate sadness and make someone happy?
When you are struggling with your own mental issues and finding it hard to maintain a consistent happy outlook, it is valid to question your ability to help someone else. Moreover, there is this compelling idea that your joy comes from within and outside forces can do nothing about it.
There is some truth in the above belief but being social beings, we are also not completely unaffected by external influences, good or bad. Just like the actions or behavior of someone can make you sad, the reverse also is true. So, yes, it is possible to help others out of their mental rut and make them happy.
Oftentimes, all that is required from you is kindness, compassion, and empathy. If these are part of your natural behavior, there is nothing more required from you. Your positive attitude has a way of rubbing off on people around you without actively doing anything.
Helping others would indeed bring you pleasure and satisfaction. However, if you are doing this for selfish reasons, the effectiveness of the act is compromised. It is your genuineness that makes the difference.
Ways to make someone happy when feeling low
When you really care about someone, it would break your heart to see them sad. You would be willing to do anything to help them out of their low point and make them feel happy. At times showing them that you care or a physical gesture like a hug or even playing the clown can do wonders. It all depends on what extent you are ready to go to make another person happy.
Many of us may even be willing to put in the effort to cheer up strangers we meet by chance. Such as the waiter, the cab driver, a fellow shopper, or a fellow resident of the apartment complex. You may have met them a few times before or meeting them for the first time. There is the chance that you may not meet them ever again.
Instead of thinking “Why to bother? it is their problem. Let them deal with it in their own way”. It is commendable that you want to cheer up others. And, it is true that when you make someone happy, you get it back ten-fold. However, doing it for selfish reasons may ring hollow and may not have the desired effect. Your sincerity, genuineness, and willingness to put in the effort are the key factors to succeeding in this effort.
Though the approach may differ for different people, some steps are common for all. At times, a kind gesture from a stranger can make a difference between life and death. All the more reason for every one of us to practice compassion.
1. Ask them whether they want help
Asking for permission to help is necessary if you are planning a more intrusive and personal approach. Don’t feel surprised that many people may not welcome your intrusion, how much ever beneficial it is to them.
Some may even misconstrue your gesture. You cannot blame them for thinking that you want to help them because you feel uncomfortable with their melancholy mood and down-and-out attitude. And, you are compelling them to change their mental outlook to make you feel better.
And there may be truth in this assumption. Is that your intention while offering help? If you are trying to brighten up someone for your selfish goals or if the other person doesn’t want your help, your effort is less likely to succeed. Maybe you should stay away and mind your business.
2. Be kind and compassionate
Kindness, compassion, and empathy are an integral part of your character and behavior. These traits are not something you bring it on for a brief period, even if it is to help someone else.
When you are sad, the first person you think of to share your sorrow is someone who has shown you compassion before. For a person feeling sad, a sympathetic ear is what is most needed.
Just being there, listening patiently, offering suggestions if open to that, and cheering up – there is a lot you can do to make life easier for others. And, you feel happier to be of help and having done something.
Recent studies have proved the age-old belief that kindness and compassion can have a huge impact on others. And, it creates a virtuous cycle of happiness and selflessness.
3. Show camaraderie
Camaraderie means mutual trust and friendship. That is building relationships, connections, and communication with others. So that in times of need, they will feel comfortable approaching you – as a sounding board, for advice, or just to vent their feelings. It should work the other way round as well. You should be able to go to them with your problems.
For many people, friendship ends with being sociable. They are reluctant to let you get close to them and enter their innermost circle. Breaking the ice is not very easy.
One of the best methods to get closer to others is by asking for help when you need it. Once they have done you a good turn, they feel more comfortable asking you for help when they need it.
Developing close friendships and building relationships are long-term strategies.
4. Encourage them to talk
When someone sad is approaching you with their issues, instead of offering them advice about ways to solve them, you should encourage them to speak up. Because they may not be revealing everything at the onset. As they talk more, you will get a better idea about the issues tormenting them.
Encouraging them to speak has another advantage. “Getting it off the chest” is good therapy for someone feeling low. Talking about your problems with a trusted person has a therapeutic effect, even if you cannot do anything to resolve them. All that is required from you are good listening skills and empathy.
While these are the steps you may take to brighten someone up including strangers, there are more relation-specific ways to lift someone out of their gloom and make them happy. The tactics you adopt for your parents are not the same as what you would do for your friends. It would be still different with strangers and casual acquaintances.
Here are some ideas to help someone overcome their sadness and be happy.
How to make your friends happy?
In this context, friends mean peers. It refers to everyone in your age group. It can also include your partner, siblings, and colleagues.
1. Give emotional support
Being reassured that they are cherished and valued can go a long way in helping your friends overcome adversities. Expressing your love, appreciation, and regard for them explicitly, casually, or implicitly can act as a morale booster. Show them with actions and words that you care a lot for them and their happiness and wellbeing.
Oftentimes, this is a gesture you forget in the mad rush of everyday life. You just assume that they know how much you love and care. The truth is not everyone is that perceptible and often misses reading your cryptic or hidden gestures of love. To avoid fallouts of miscommunication, you must express your love as openly and directly as possible.
Being there for friends whether to share their sorrow, happiness, or frustration is a major aspect of friendship. The number of friends you have is less important than how many of them consider you their friend. Be a 3 a.m. friend – someone to go to with anything at any time of the day.
Being a friend is not just about agreeing or approving everything they do or going along with their demands and wishes. There are times when you are convinced that your friend is on the wrong path or being self-destructive, you should proactively step in and prevent untoward happenings. Offering your honest opinions and suggestions is also part of being a good friend. So, don’t hold back thinking it would offend them.
2. Listen to them
The most important part of being a good friend is your capacity to be a good listener. For most of us, this doesn’t come naturally. Listening to others talk without interrupting them or judging them or offering advice is a useful skill you need to work on and perfect over time. If you have that skill, it can come in handy in such situations.
Often people are sad and angry because they feel there is no one to listen to them or nobody is interested in listening to them. When you willingly allow them to talk uninterrupted, you are acknowledging their problems, treating them as important. Maybe that is all your friend wants – someone who will give them their undivided attention and treat them with the respect they deserve.
Offer advice only if you are asked for the same. Or else, you may end up spoiling the whole effort.
And, there are some basic guidelines for being a good listener. Maintain eye contact with your friend throughout the “talk”, preferably sitting face to face. Your full attention must be invested in this activity. Keep your phones away or in silent mode lest it creates a distraction.
3. Cheer them up
If they consider you their friend, this is not a hard thing to do. A smile or a hug would do the trick. In fact, this is what friendship means in the first place. You can plan fun activities if your friend finds them agreeable and ready to participate.
When choosing activities, you should remember that you are doing it to cheer up your friend and is not meant as a happy outing for yourself. Choose them based on their likes and dislikes and not what you consider they should do. All your good intentions will go to waste if you plan something your friend does not prefer, how much ever good or beneficial it is.
If you are 100% sure that your friend won’t take offense, plan childish or silly activities. Such activities can jolt them out of their current low and bring them back to their happier selves. However, be warned that this may backfire with certain friends who are averse to such activities or those who are not ready for it. It is better to get their approval beforehand and not spring it on them as a surprise.
Even if your friend does not want to carry on with the activities you planned, it may help them realize that you are willing to go to such lengths for their sake and spend time with them, just to bring a smile on their faces and make them happy.
When your friend is too sad to engage in fun activities, extend them a shoulder to cry on. Do not pressurize them or yourself when the mood or time isn’t right.
4. Offer help with mundane tasks
When people are sad, they are reluctant to do chores like walking the dog or collecting the laundry. They may be postponing many essential as well as non-essential activities because they do not feel up to it. You can offer to do some for them.
If you have the time and inclination, you can make this a regular arrangement. It allows you to spend time with your friend and get to know them better.
Most people are reluctant to ask for help even when they need it. Some hesitate to accept your offer of help. As mentioned earlier, you can draw them in by asking them to help you out with some simple tasks. When they have already done you a good turn, they will be less reluctant to accept your help.
When offering help, make sure that it is something they need. Spending some time with your friend and observing them will help.
5. Visit/call them often
Pop in daily to say hello if it is feasible. Or else at least during the weekends. In case that is also out of the question, call them or message them frequently. Make sure that your visits or calls are welcome. And that you are not interrupting or disturbing their activities.
In case they seem resistant to this idea, ask them when is the right time to call or visit. You may even mention that you are lonely and would like the company to get them to agree.
This is a long-term strategy meant to develop a stronger bond between you two. Look at it as an investment that can help both of you in the future.
6. Remember special days
Make sure you wish them on their birthdays. And, other special occasions such as university admission, graduation, job offer, or any other important days. Your friend may be sad because nobody seems to remember their special days.
You can give them meaningful gifts to take it a step further. Make sure that the gifts are not very expensive to make them feel obligated and uncomfortable. And, do not pick random things as gifts just because you like them. You need to put some effort into finding the right gift for your friend – something they would love to receive. The extra effort would be worth it.
How to make your parents happy?
Making your parents happy is a different ball game altogether. Most parents are happy to see their children happy and doing well in life. This means putting in efforts to improve your own life.
If your life is already in order and you are doing well, the reason for your parent’s sadness maybe your sibling/siblings. See if you can offer some help in this regard. Since all are adults, it is not proper to poke your nose in other’s affairs, even if they are your siblings.
In case, none of these are the reason for unhappiness, you may work on improving your relationship by keeping in touch and helping out whenever possible. Here are some suggestions.
1. Keep your promise
We often make promises to get us out of tricky situations. However, by doing this, we are making matters worse in the long run. When you do not keep your promise, it is bound to have repercussions.
Promises may be small or big. But failure to keep it is equally devastating. You cannot blame your parents for feeling let down or betrayed. You are causing a dent in their trust in you.
Your promise may be to take the trash out or mow the lawn or clean up your room. When you repeatedly break your promise, your parents start feeling that you cannot be relied upon. This can damage the relationship though most parents forgive easily if you are ready to change your ways.
Be honest. Do not make false promises that you have no intention of keeping just to escape tricky situations.
When your parents catch you lying often, they assume the worst. They worry that you are hiding things from them. They may even go to the extent of thinking that you are involved in illegal activities.
Maintain an open and honest relationship with your parents. That should make them happy.
2. Do your share of chores
If you are living with them. If not, drop in once in a while and help around the house.
Helping with housework is like telling your parents how much you appreciate their efforts. Your contribution to running the house will be appreciated and is sure to make them happy.
In your enthusiasm for making your parents happy, you need not go overboard either; it is not necessary to finish your share of work early and take up theirs as well. Though at times this is a good idea.
When your parents are having an extra hectic day or when they are not well, you can show that you care by doing extra work. Making a hot cup of tea or cooking meals can have a much bigger impact on your parents than expensive gifts.
However, one point to remember is to do the work silently and not mention it. Talking about it is bound to spoil the atmosphere. Being parents, when they find the work finished, they would feel happy and proud, even if they also do not mention it.
3. Show your love and affection
The display of love is as powerful as the emotion itself. A hug, a kiss, or a pat on the arm can make a world of difference. Physical touch is a vital part of the parental relationship.
Try to verbalize your feelings for them instead of keeping them in. Most people don’t understand the value of saying “I love you”, “thank you”, or asking questions like “how was your day?”. This seemingly meaningless talk forms the building blocks of your relationship with your parents.
If you are at an age when having good relations with your parents is considered uncool, these gestures are all the more significant.
4. Set aside time for parents
Spending quality time with your parents is a way of telling them you care and enjoy their company. Find activities that both of you enjoy whether indoors or outdoors. Fix a schedule so that you won’t forget about it and remember to keep it.
Do not act as if you are spending time with them out of obligation. Don’t underestimate their perceptibility. If you genuinely want your parents to be happy, building and maintaining an open and healthy relationship with them is crucial.
Maintain a healthy relationship with your siblings
Even if you have a perfect relationship with your parents, you may still make them unhappy if your ties with your siblings are strained. Sort out the differences with your siblings and maintain a cordial relationship with them.
This is bound to make your parents happy. From a parental point of view, bad blood among their children is unbearable. Something that can make them sad.
5. Small things matter
You may find them trivial but most probably your parents consider them important enough to feel upset about it. Remembering and wishing them on birthdays and anniversaries do matter. Giving them gifts on such occasions can make it more special.
Here are a few more gestures that showcase your love and appreciation for them.
- Visit or call as frequently as time permits.
- Take them out for weekly dinners/outings.
- Cook them a nice meal once in a while.
How to bring joy to strangers and casual acquaintances?
Unlike the case with parents and friends, making strangers or casual acquaintances happy is a selfless act. At best you can say that the voluntary act would elicit a “feel good” effect, making you feel satisfied and happy.
And, by being kind to random people, you are starting a virtuous circle that can bring so much cheer for many people.
A smile, a kind word, or a helpful act can bring cheer to people around you. Showing kindness to strangers is something you can choose to do whether it is to make yourself happy or gain good karma. The only condition is that you should not fake it; kindness should come right from your heart.
Be it your neighbors, colleagues, waiters, supermarket assistants, or the person standing next to you in the line, you can make their day and maybe cheer them up with your friendly attitude and gestures.
Here are some ways for you to cheer up strangers.
1. Jokes make the world go round
Light-hearted humor can break the ice and help you relate to people you meet during the day. After all, laughter is considered the best medicine. A bit of mirth is sure to make life easier for some of the strangers you come across.
It is not a common gesture to joke around with strangers let alone talk; everyone is busy going about their lives at a hectic pace that they don’t have time for idle chatter. Out of the blue when they meet someone like you who is willing to spend some time with them, talk to them, and laugh with them, it cheers them up naturally. It is nice to be noticed and acknowledged when you least expect it.
2. Make eye contact
How often do we look at the salesperson or the cab driver in the eye when we talk to them? Most often we treat them like robots designed to serve us rather than as human beings. Making eye contact and talking to them in a friendly manner make a difference to them on an otherwise tedious day.
Though we often “see” our neighbors, rarely do we pause to smile or say hello, let alone ask them how they are doing. Just the gesture of making eye contact and smiling can brighten up someone’s day.
Maybe they are lonely and they see the world passing by without noticing or acknowledging them. Probably you are the only person who talked to them at all. You can make a difference by giving them some attention.
3. Offer help
Help someone struggling with grocery bags or heavy parcels in carrying them or hold the door open for others. Though this is the most natural thing to do, most people don’t bother, citing lack of time as an excuse.
In reality, it doesn’t take up much time but the goodwill you get out of the act is indescribable. At the end of the day, you may be restoring their faith in the kind and caring nature of human beings.
4. Spread positivity and joy
Just by being happy and content yourself, you end up spreading it around you. You can show the world that you are happy with a smiling face, positive talk, sincere compliments, and constructive comments.
Happiness and positivity, they say, are contagious. Your upbeat attitude is bound to rub off on the people you meet, some of whom may be feeling low.
You can put on a positive attitude even if you are feeling low yourself. This can improve your mood as well as that of others.
5. Give away things you are no longer using
Donating things to charity or directly to deserving people can bring cheer to many. Things you can donate range from food to clothes and home appliances. For a person struggling to keep themselves warm, a blanket would be godsent. Or for a family finding it hard to make ends meet, clothes or essential household supplies would be most welcome.
And, remember, these are things that had been lying unused with you for some time. Instead of holding on to these things for sentimental reasons, they should be put to good use and bring cheer to someone else.
6. Spread positivity online
The Internet is notorious for trolls, naysayers, and doomsday predictions. Online platforms are bursting with rants, complaints, depressing news, and all forms of negativity. Don’t allow the negativity to get to you. Instead, try to spread some positivity and joy.
Just because of the negative atmosphere, there is no need for you to stay away from social media. You can do more good by staying on them and spreading good cheer. Such as funny stories, cute videos, hilarious anecdotes, or rib-tickling news from around the world.
Do’s and don’ts of cheering up someone
- Be kind, friendly, and helpful
- Make them laugh
- Make them feel comfortable
- Plan trips and adventures
- Reassure them that you will be there for them no matter what
- Say sorry if you have made a mistake
- Be open and honest
- Express your love and appreciation with words and actions
- Be happy yourself
- Make eye contact
- Set aside time for your loved ones
- Bring them gifts
- Keep in touch
- Spread joy and positivity
- Make sure that your help is welcome
- Give them space but let them know you are always there for them
- Don’t force them to do something they are not comfortable with
- Empathy is good, sympathy is not
- Keep pity and sarcasm out of your words
- Respect their personal space
- Avoid raising your voice even if it is to get a valid point across
- Avoid toeing their negative outlook even if it is to gain their confidence
- Don’t make others dependent on you for emotional support. Cheer them up and leave them to live their lives
- Don’t bite more than you can chew. If the person is too depressed for you to handle, help them get professional help.
“If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help someone else.” Chinese Proverb
Nowadays, being self-centered is considered the norm. Lack of time and an uncaring attitude is thought of as valid excuses for not helping out our near and dear ones. If this is how things are with your family and friends, where does that leave strangers?
When someone is sad, they spread their negativity around, making more people sad, starting a vicious chain. When you manage to make one person happy, you are breaking one of those negative chains. That means fewer sad people in the world. You may even end up starting a virtuous chain, spreading cheer far and wide.
Making others happy is the shortcut to making ourselves happy, it is a double bonanza – a win-win situation. Smile, hug, comfort, help out, tell jokes, be cheesy or silly – bring comfort and joy to people around you to make the world a better place.
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