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How to Cheer Yourself Up

Our moods can be so unpredictable. As the proverbial notions of “getting out the wrong side of the bed” or “walking on sunshine” show, it often seems arbitrary whether we feel grouchy or in high spirits. Of course, special occasions can put us in a good mood too. But then we usually speak of joy or happiness.

However, if you want to cheer yourself up, it can help to pay less attention to the big events that make us happy and to closely observe your mental processes. With a little practice, you can change them for the better.

What is a good mood anyway?

What’s it like to be in a good mood? Aside from a pleasant feeling, a sense of wellbeing, a good mood usually causes us to have a more positive outlook. If we’re in a good mood, our problems appear half as bad and we’re more optimistic about the future. In any case, our sense of wellbeing, our attitude to situations and our optimism all stem from our thoughts. 

Where does a good mood come from?

If you’re in a good mood, you might be having thoughts like, “What a beautiful day today, maybe I’ll go for a walk.” If you’re in a bad mood, it’s more like, “I’m not enjoying this, I just want to be left alone.”

This is self-reinforcing: a vicious or virtuous circle begins. You can think of it as your “dark” thoughts darkening your mood, whereas your “light” thoughts can lighten your mood. And of course, we are all familiar with the nuances in between, the colour palette of everyday life, we neither feel entirely content or in foul humour. But for now let’s focus on the role your thoughts can play in cheering you up.

3 ways to cheer yourself up

Here are 3 different strategies you can adopt to brighten up your mood.

1Think positively and practice gratitude

The most obvious way to cheer yourself up is to think more positively. However, we must be careful not to fall into the trap of toxic positivity, which is a kind of forced and excessively positive attitude. You aren’t doing yourself any favours with thoughts like: “I’m the happiest person in the world.” 

Instead, we recommend practising gratitude. That means reminding yourself about all the positive things in your life today. The tricky part is that grateful thoughts are unlikely to occur to you spontaneously when you’re in a bad mood. So you have to make a conscious effort to remember this strategy and then, for instance, make a list of 10 things that you are grateful for. If you’re having a bad day, try repeating this exercise every hour – and observe how it affects your mood. 

2Get active

Remember once again that thoughts can lead to a vicious circle or a virtuous circle. When you’re in a bad mood, the best way to break the vicious circle of negative thoughts and unpleasant feelings is to take action. Do something you enjoy: read a book, cook a nice meal, go shopping, meet up with a friend, take a bath, go out dancing – whatever your heart desires. This activity can disrupt the mental merry-go-round you might find yourself on and, by introducing different thoughts, rapidly lift your spirits.

No such thing as a permanent good mood

There’s nothing wrong with making an effort to cheer yourself up every day. After all, everyone wants to feel good. From a psychological point of view, however, we should be careful not to slip into “experience avoidance”. Experience avoidance means attempting to avoid unpleasant feelings and unwanted thoughts. You can think of it like taking medication whenever you’re ill to avoid the feeling of being ill. Of course, in many cases it’s advisable to take medication to treat an illness. But if we do it every time we feel a headache coming on, we may be doing our body more harm than good. 

It’s the same with our psyche: using one of the strategies above to cheer ourselves up is great – but we shouldn’t fight against every sign of a bad mood. That brings us to the third strategy:

3If you can’t be cheery, be serene

Wanting to be in a good mood and trying to cheer yourself up can get exhausting. Sometimes it’s best to just let the bad mood be. Not always feeling in good spirits is part of being human – and we should allow ourselves to be human. However, that doesn’t mean letting yourself stew in a bad mood and making it worse. It means noticing that your mood is negative or unstable and observing this as neutrally as possible. For example, you could imagine that you are experiencing this mood for the very first time: how does it actually feel? What thoughts arise? Do you feel any sensations in your body? Also acknowledge your desire to be in a good mood. 

If you can serenely allow your bad mood to be, you can slowly but surely let go of the urge to be in a good mood. 

Whichever strategy you opt for, it’s important to fully absorb the fact that, while your moods may not be predictable, you always get to decide how to respond to them.

When bad moods run rampant

Do you feel like you’ve been in a bad mood a lot lately? Do you feel dejected or even suspect you’re experiencing depression? Then our online course Depression Prevention could be right for you. This course is all about your mood and how you can lift it. For example, with the help of “power sources”, acceptance, mindfulness and targeted problem solving. Sounds interesting? Then head on over to our course page!

Get to know HelloBetter Depression Prevention: You will learn how to noticably improve your mood and deal with loss of interest and enjoyment.

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Our articles are written by psychologists and reviewed by psychotherapists.