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50 Ways to Cheer Someone Up When They Need a Smile

How to boost serotonin

  1. Go on a 20-minute walk with them. Even if it’s an overcast day, the combination of fresh air, nature and sunshine will still boost vitamin D and serotonin levels.
  2. Cheer them up with word associations. Say words like “amused” or “joy” and have them say five more words that come to mind. Studies show that this use of “priming” will eventually cause the person to feel the words and emotions they are naming.
  3. Stretch it out. Whether you opt for a yoga class or your own living room, deep stretching releases the tightness in muscles that is caused by stress, and it also promotes healthy blood circulation.
  4. Blast the music and have a dance party in the car. There are some laughable videos on Youtube to inspire your own little dance party. Don’t hold back, though; challenge your loved one to bust a move wherever you are!
  5. Make them a homemade stir-fry or curry. Turmeric, a common ingredient in Indian cuisines, and the fiber from vegetables often found in those dishes both regulate serotonin.
  6. Order a surf and turf dinner. Fish have healthy Omega-3s and animal proteins are high in tryptophan, which triggers serotonin production.
  7. Have dark chocolate delivered to their house. This tasty treat reduces cortisol, releases both endorphins and serotonin and is a good source of antioxidants.
  8. Make them fresh-squeezed orange juice. The act of hand-squeezing the juice makes them feel loved, while giving them a healthy dose of vitamin B6 and folic acid.
  9. Go barefoot in the grass or on the beach. If you live near a beach or park, there are proven benefits to “grounding,” or reconnecting with the electrons in nature in order to promote better sleep and reduce anxiety.
  10. Make them a soundtrack of soothing sounds. A waterfall, ocean waves, rain on a tin roof or wind rustling leaves are all soothing sounds that can help lull even the most restless minds to sleep.
  11. Skip the carbs. While it’s tempting to take your loved one out for some good old fashioned comfort food, it will only block serotonin and make them feel more sluggish. Instead, opt for a parfait, salad or fruit basket.

How to boost dopamine

  1. Challenge them to some riddles and crossword puzzles. Our brains love solving problems. Critical thinking also boosts cognitive function and helps remove that hazy feeling that comes with sadness.
  2. Help them create a “gratitude sandwich.” Ask them to sandwich one thing that is going wrong between two things that they are grateful for. Saying it out loud helps them realize that there is always something positive to focus on.
  3. Help them clean their home. Tidying our space can help tidy our mind while creating a sense of accomplishment from finishing a task.
  4. Plant a patio herb garden or repot a houseplant. The light exercise, connection with nature and completion of a project are a perfect combination to brighten someone’s mood.
  5. Meditate with them for 15 minutes. You will both benefit from it if you set the intention of creating more quiet and encourage your mind to think about something other than what is making you sad.
  6. Go shopping, even if you don’t want to buy anything. Encourage your loved one to buy something a little bit frivolous and just for fun. It doesn’t have to be expensive, it just needs to be something that makes them feel happy!
  7. Take them to do that thing they’ve been talking about for weeks. Whether it’s a restaurant opening, new movie or museum exhibit, dedicate a day to making sure they know you listen to them and want them to be happy.
  8. Have bright flowers delivered to their home or office. Our brains connect flowers to loved ones and serve as a sign of safety, which are both comforting during a hard time.
  9. Take them to their favorite spot. Whether it’s a favorite park bench, sunset view or busy plaza, we all have somewhere we go to think. Sit with your loved one and let your quiet presence be their support.
  10. Challenge them to a fitness contest. The healthy competition will give them a mood boost. Even if they don’t “win,” it’s an opportunity to burn off stress and detoxify while increasing dopamine and endorphin levels.
  11. Take them to a painting or pottery class. Pick something that is small, so that they can feel the satisfaction of creating something in just one evening.
  12. Help them get some rest. If someone is lacking motivation and focus or seems disconnected, they are probably low on dopamine and sleep. Ask them how you can help them take a distraction-free nap.

Get Well

How to boost oxytocin

  1. Send a thoughtful text. Cheer someone up from afar by sharing a quote or gif you know will make them smile; add a simple “thinking of you” message.
  2. Give them a big bear hug. For those times where words aren’t enough, the simple act of giving someone a nice, warm hug triggers a release of oxytocin in the brain, decreasing stress through human contact.
  3. Take them to the dog park or, even better, lend them your pup for a day. Studies show that petting animals releases oxytocin, serotonin and prolactin, which is like a happiness cocktail for your brain.
  4. Fill the house with balloons while they are sleeping. The silliness of seeing balloons everywhere will make them smile. Have even more fun with it and pop them as you both walk through the house!
  5. Hide a note saying what you love about them in their purse or wallet. Knowing that you went out of your way to make them smile will flood their brain with the warm, loving effects of oxytocin.
  6. Turn off the TV and host a reading day. Studies show that happy people were 21% more likely to read a newspaper or book than watch TV.
  7. Get out and volunteer with them at a local charity. Find something that helps them connect with others,like serving food at a soup kitchen or working with senior citizens.
  8. Make them a cup of hot tea. Studies show that warm drinks mimic the warmth of human touch and promote those warm, fuzzy feelings.
  9. Ask open-ended questions. This reminds them that you genuinely care about their feelings and gives them the floor to express their emotions and work things out.  
  10. Show empathy, not sympathy. Instead of “I understand what you are going through,” try saying something that acknowledges their feelings, like, “you were let down and that really hurt, didn’t it?”
  11. Spend the day seeing who can do more random acts of kindness. Helping others is a great feeling, plus it can boost your mood as well.
  12. Give them a day of pampering all to themselves. Send them to the spa with a gift certificate and let them choose their own massage and aromatherapy.
  13. Binge on those cute cat and baby videos you have bookmarked. If you don’t have a dog or cat, just the act of seeing a cute animal or baby will cause your brain to react much the same way as if you were physically with them.
  14. Take them on a roller coaster. While most people might associate this with endorphins and adrenaline, the rush from amusement park rides also helps you create a bond with the person next to you, boosting oxytocin.  

How to boost endorphin

  1. Throw a plate-smashing party. Go to the thrift store and pick up a bunch of inexpensive plates, bowls and dishes, put down a tarp, wear some protective clothing and encourage them to throw the plates as hard as they can!
  2. Have them take 10 deep breaths. Help someone collect their thoughts, release toxins and get centered by breathing with them in five-second intervals for ten rounds.
  3. Literally let them punch it out. Sometimes the best way to release negative emotions is to just hit something. Buy them a pass to a kickboxing class for a healthy way to use physical aggression.
  4. Go out for Taco Tuesday. Spicy foods contain capsaicin, which activates pain sensory in your brain and triggers it to produce more endorphins.
  5. Surprise them with tickets to a comedy show. Laughing is one of nature’s greatest defenses and pain-coping mechanisms. Look for local venues and open mic nights for an affordable pick me up.
  6. Fake a laugh. Seriously! Just the idea of it seems silly, but many PTSD programs and therapists recommend daily laughing as ‘homework’ to feel better. We bet as soon as you ask your loved one to fake laugh, they’ll end up laughing for real!
  7. Turn the bathroom into a lavender-scented spa. A warm bath with food-grade Epsom salts and a lavender candle has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety and depression by as much as 25%.
  8. Take them to happy hour. For some of the smaller things in a life, a nice cold beer or soothing glass of wine is all it takes to change the mood. Just keep it to a one drink minimum, or the effects of alcohol can become a downer and decrease their mood even more.
  9. Buy them a session of acupuncture. When acupuncture is applied to specific trigger points on the body, endorphins are released in the area, releasing tension, pain and stress.
  10. Give them a safe space to cry, if they need to. Bottling up your feelings can lead to chronic stress and stress-related health problems. Support your friend or loved one by letting them know that they can feel comfortable in your presence.
  11. Let them get it all out. Venting is a powerful way to relieve stress and the best way to show empathy is to simply listen. Give the person a time limit, though, and encourage them to move on to more positive topics afterward.
  12. Embarass yourself a little to elicit some giggles. Don’t worry about going all out;you can read inspirational quotes in terrible accents, wear a ridiculous outfit, or just tell some jokes to help get their mind off their own troubles.
  13. Yell out some positive affirmations. Help your loved one write down five to ten things they love about themselves and have them continue to yell them out until you see a smile sneak across their face.

Whether you choose just one of these science-backed activities or try to see how many different ways you can cheer someone up, you are sure to activate your loved one’s happy hormones and put a smile on their face.

Don’t worry if they aren’t feeling better immediately. It does take time for the hormones to trigger and heal the pain or disappointment they may be feeling. However, seeing you make the extra effort to put a smile on their face will provide extra support and let them know they are loved when they are feeling down.


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