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how to control your emotions

How to cheer yourself up: 6 methods that work

There are a few time-tested ways to cheer yourself up if you’re feeling down. Here are the 5 most powerful.

Ed Latimore
Ed Latimore
Writer, retired boxer, self-improvement enthusiast

All of us have gotten into a bad mood before.

No one is always happy, and that’s ok. You’re not supposed to always be happy. It’s natural to grieve, get down, and feel bad.

It becomes a problem when you stay that way and it affects your ability to make progress in your life.

Before you rush off to see if you need drugs for depression, I recommend you try the things I present to you on this list. The best-case scenario is that you only needed to shake yourself out of a funk without resorting to medications or therapies.

The worst-case scenario is that you end up making yourself and the world a little better place in the process of attempting to get yourself right and cheer yourself up. 

Get physical

When you’re physically active, it’s hard to stay in your head. One of the best ways to improve and maintain your mental health is to regularly engage in physical activity. 

There are numerous studies that show the negative relationship between physical activity and depression, but what do we know about the effect of any type of exercise has on boosting your mood? Well, it turns out that a group of researchers decided to aggregate and analyze multiple studies for—wait for it—The Journal of Happiness Studies.

23 studies, dating all the way back to 1980, mostly observation, asking people how often they exercised and how happy they were, all came back with the same conclusion: 

“Every one of the observational studies showed a beneficial relationship between being physically active and being happy,” said Weiyun Chen, an associate professor of kinesiology at the University of Michigan who wrote the review.

While the type and duration of exercises didn’t matter, there was a positive relationship between frequency and happiness. The more you exercised, the better you felt. Also, the more intense this activity, the better it was at eliminating negative thoughts and changing your bad mood into a good one.

Part of this is likely due to the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers that are released in response to physical stress. As endorphins also provide a natural mood boost as well, this is no surprise. However, intense physical activity makes it difficult to think about whatever is causing your negative emotions.

I don’t like activities like jogging or swimming. While you can obviously make them intense, there is a lot of time to think about whatever has you down. Instead, activities that demand your total concentration and attention are best. Things like:

  • Sprinting
  • Weight lifting (Heavy lifting)
  • Rowing
  • Assault biking
  • Combat sports
  • Pick up sports (Football, basketball, ultimate frisbee, etc.)

It’s hard to focus on yourself when you’re engaged in activities like these. An added perk is that they’ll get you into shape pretty quickly as well, which is bound to make you feel better about your life. 

Even better if you can do these activities outside in natural sunlight. Getting sunlight triggers a natural dose of serotonin, which helps to uplift and stabilize your mood. 

Take a break from social media

Social media is the world of comparison and comparison is the thief of joy.

Because of the way people use social media, you’ll either see things that remind you of what you don’t have or you’ll see things that make you angry. Either way, spending time on social media does the opposite of cheering you up.

While some people doubt this, there is growing evidence to support the idea that social media use is strongly related to low self-esteem, poor mental health, depression, and anxiety. It’s a combination of many things:

  • Despite how easy social media makes it to make new friends and connect with old ones, those relationships tend to exclusively be online. Bonding on social media isn’t the same as bonding in person, and this leads to negative feelings.
  • People tend to only post the best things in their life, from the best angles, and often with artificial filters or enhancement. If you get caught up in the comparison game, which will happen without you even trying, then you’ll be comparing your normal life to a fabrication no most people’s lives can’t normally match up to. 
  • Social media also makes it easy for you to find people who are also having a bad day. Rather than provide you with constructive, uplifting advice, they will simply pile on and make it easier to indulge in your negative thoughts.
  • The time spent on social media is time not spent working out, being physical, and doing things that are proven to put you in a better mood but are also good for your health. At this point, it’s a double loss: you’re not only getting all the negative effects from spending time on social media, but you get none of the positive effects of working out.

If you’re having a hard time getting out of a bad mood, the last thing that you need is to waste your brain away on social media. You’ll find out just how accurate the saying “Misery loves company” is.

Show concern for others

It’s difficult to stay focused on what’s wrong in your life when your focus is on other people’s well-being and general welfare.

It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. Sometimes a little thing like sincerely asking a friend how their life is going can go a long way. When they give details, follow up in a natural conversation-like manner to discover more about what’s happening in their lives and how they think and feel about it.

The most important part of this is to not mention anything going on in your life unless you’re specifically pressed. When the person inquires about your life, a generally vague response is appropriate.

For example, when someone asks “How are things going for you?” just a follow-up with “Things are alright. Just busy and making move” or something generic to that effect.

If they press, it’s your responsibility to find at least one positive thing in your life. This will force you to dig deep and find something to be happy about, regardless of how mundane you might think it is.

This exercise is powerful because it gets the attention off of yourself. It also forces you to come up with a positive response about how things are going in your life.

Remember: you don’t want to spread your negative feelings. The best way to do that is to focus on other people and focus on the positive.

Volunteer, donate or give

There is nothing that boosts your mood like helping people who can do nothing for you. Even when it appears to be a costly personal sacrifice, research shows that humans derive tremendous emotional benefits from giving.

We’d rather go broke giving a gift than to make extra money receiving one.

I find that people hesitate to donate because they don’t think they’re in a financial position to donate, but there are more ways to give than just money.

You can donate your time and efforts to a variety of projects and people. They don’t have to be in any official capacity. You can give someone a ride, volunteer at a homeless shelter (Read about my experiences working at the homeless shelter), bring a homeless person a cup of coffee, help someone struggling carry their bags at the grocery store (with their permission, of course).

There are numerous ways to give of yourself and all of those ways are tremendously beneficial to your mood. 

Watch a funny movie

When you smile or laugh, your brain releases neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin. These neurotransmitters make you feel happy and put you in a better mood.

The kicker is that it doesn’t matter what your initial state is. You could be sad, angry, or frustrated. The mere act of laughing and smiling triggers neurochemical changes in your brain that will put you in a better mood. (Learn more about that here)

Any comedy, Tv show, or Netflix series that you find amusing will do great. It’s amazing what a 30-minute episode of “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” does for my mood. I’m not recommending that show to everyone. I’m just using it as an example of a show with an obvious comedy lean that I watch to inspire you to find yours.

Also, I suppose it doesn’t have to technically be a funny movie or show. Anything that gets you laughing and having a good time will work. Going to a comedy show or reading something funny works just as well. 

Practice gratitude

The easiest way to practice gratitude is to get in the habit of reminding yourself that it could always be worse.

No matter what restriction, limitation, or loss you’re dealing with, if you’re capable of reading this (or hearing this advice from someone), then you could be in a worse situation.

Also, remember that all things pass, for better or worse. No bad time has ever persisted. No good time has ever endured. Life is simply an undulating wave. If you can remind yourself of this, then it’s difficult to feel down about circumstances that you know will eventually change.

And even if the circumstances don’t outright change, then you will either get used to them or adapt to them. Otherwise, they would completely ruin you and take you out. Since that hasn’t happened yet and is unlikely to happen with anything getting you down in the future, this is simply another way that the tides and perspectives have changed. 

The hot bathtub hasn’t gotten cooer. You’ve just gotten used to it so it feels cooler. 

The wave of life may not have directly changed, but your relationship to it has.

To read more about my method for developing gratitude, check out this article here—>6 ways to be grateful.

A summary of how to cheer yourself up

  1. Get physical
  2. Take a break from social media
  3. Show concern for others
  4. Volunteer, donate or give
  5. Watch a funny movie
  6. Practice gratitude

If you do these things when you’re feeling down, it’s going to be very difficult to keep you there.

Ed Latimore
About the author

Ed Latimore

I’m a writer, competitive chess player, Army veteran, physicist, and former professional heavyweight boxer. My work focuses on self-development, realizing your potential, and sobriety—speaking from personal experience, having overcome both poverty and addiction.

Follow me on Twitter.