Seeing someone crying or grieving, let alone someone you love, is never easy.
Most of us find ourselves tongue-tied for words for a good reason, as interacting with someone sad and hurting can be awkward.
You want to be there for them and show your empathy, but it is hard to know how to act and what to say.
Many of us sit there uncomfortably, offering awkward back pats while saying, “It’s okay.”
Why do we know how to celebrate someone’s joy but have no clue what to do when they’re hurting?
This article is for you if you can relate to not knowing what to do when someone close breaks into tears.
IN THIS ARTICLE
But, before I share the over 70 ways to comfort someone, cheer them up, and make them feel better, we must be clear on our goals.
The prime goal of comforting is to ease someone’s burden and suffering.
How do You Comfort Someone?
There are many tips online on providing emotional support and comfort to someone.
However, it is critical to note that not all comfort is similar for everyone.
What might work for you might not work for your partner.
McKay and McKay (2019) describe some of the best steps to comfort someone. For example:
You can comfort someone by letting them know you care or love them.
Another right way to comfort someone going through emotional pain is to help them understand their emotions (McKinzey, 2021). Only then you can cheer them up and make them feel better.
Words are powerful tools; when used correctly, words can effectively comfort and ease someone’s pain.
Dr. Sue Johnson, a clinical psychologist and arguably one of the best relationship experts in the world, has some excellent tips in her latest book:
Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love
For those of you with little time to read, I’ve summarised this article into two parts:
- How to Comfort Someone (10 Tips)
- How to Cheer Someone Up & Make Them Feel Better (60+ Tips)
10 Main Ways To Comfort Someone
Acknowledge Their Feelings
“I hear you…It seems like you’re upset because…I know that this is a hard time for you… I know that you’re hurting…”
To start comforting someone, acknowledge and describe what you see, hear, and feel.
By witnessing and affirming what you see and rephrasing what they say, you help them know that you are on the same page and are not misinterpreting their situation.
Affirm Their Feelings
“Of course you’re upset; I was also upset when … happened to me.”
Affirm their feelings using the same emotion-infused word they use (e.g., disappointed, heartbroken, etc.).
Sometimes, past personal experiences allow us to show that we can relate.
Be careful not to change the conversation’s focus to you, but share to show that you empathize.
Avoid comparing your experience with theirs, but focus on the other person’s story.
Draw Their Emotions Out
“Tell me what happened… How did that make you feel?”
More often than not, people want to be heard.
By asking them how something made them feel, you’ll elicit a response from them.
It is not about what they felt but how they felt so you can gain deeper meanings of their world.
By asking someone “how” instead of “what”, you avoid being caught in one-word replies.
Avoid asking ‘why’ questions, as they might come across as being critical rather than encouraging the other person to understand their suffering better.
Minimize Their Pain
People find it hard to see a better future when they’re in pain in the present time.
Try to cheer them up, and remove the emotional pain, as much as possible.
Be There For Them, Right At That Moment
When they burst into tears, if you react with: “Don’t cry…”, “You’ll feel better”, or “Cheer up”, it’ll come across as trying to trivialize what they are feeling.
Instead, be a good listener, and let them talk!
Offer Physical Affection, When Appropriate
They might not be ready to share if they don’t want to talk.
In that case, and only if appropriate, give him/her a hug.
Physical affection should match the level of love you show regularly.
If you’ve never hugged this person, perhaps a hand on their shoulder would suffice.
But if the person is your partner, a hug or a snuggle would be more appropriate.
Express Your Support
It is very important to let your friend know that you care and that you’re sorry for what they’re going through.
Even if they feel better after talking to you, keep reaffirming your support and letting them know you are there for them.
Tell Them They’re Special
We all feel good knowing we are that special person to someone.
Let your friend know how much they mean to you.
Nothing is better than a handwritten note, so write down how thankful you are to have a friend like him/her in your life.
Give Positive Reinforcement
Science has shown that we need three positive ones for every negative thought to counteract the negative one.
“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.
You might not have put those negative thoughts into your friend’s head, but they can negate them with three positive statements at a time!
Keep Things Simple
Remember, most people would not share easily, even if they need help.
However, you should at least try by asking if they want to talk.
This question alone will relieve that person’s feelings quite a lot.
60 Excellent Ways To Cheer Up Someone
Surprise Them With A Nice Dinner
“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 – with foods that relieve stress.
“When people are down, low energy impacts their body and has them reaching for backup. But, this often equals to lots of sugar and junk food,” adds Dr. Watts.
Why not try a roast chicken? It’s way easier than it sounds, and you both will feel great 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!
Or, make them a homemade stir-fried curry dish with a dash of turmeric.
Turmeric and the fiber from vegetables, often found in those dishes, regulate serotonin.
Fish have healthy Omega-3s, and animal proteins are high in tryptophan, which triggers serotonin production.
Plus, there is a bonus to sharing food with another person; it gives them a chance to relax and perhaps more comfortably share their problem.
Having a good dinner can be calming, soothing, and relaxing and help get the person’s mind off their troubles.
Start An Interesting Project Together
Starting an exciting project is the best way to keep their mind connected to something productive.
This would heal that person within and help lift their mood.
You can do many things together, but doing something that the person loves would help the most.
Organize A Movie Night
Watching a movie alone isn’t always as entertaining as watching with a friend.
Make popcorn, gather some favorite snacks, and share a movie that will tickle the funny bone.
Find something on Netflix or Amazon Prime (light-hearted comedies are the right choice), and watch it together.
Grab a tissue box and find a sad story if tears are in order.
Sometimes, tears can be as cathartic as laughter.
Or, choose a movie that is the right mix of comedy and drama.
Either way, a movie is an excellent way to help someone troubled take their mind off the problem for a while.
Take Them For A Swing Ride
It might sound weird, but this trick always works if your friend feels low.
Make them take a seat on the swing and swing them away.
Then watch all the stress go away; it works wonders.
Organize An Ice Cream Date
There is nothing that ice cream cannot solve.
It would be great if you knew about your friend’s favorite flavor of ice cream so that you can grab especially that for them.
Do What They Want to Do
Take out at least an hour weekly for an activity they enjoy.
“Coping mechanisms that deal with life stressors are crucial since chronic stress leads 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.
Arrange a Spa Day
A spa day can be a real treat for you both; above all, it is not expensive.
Treat a friend or loved one and yourself to a Spa and “stop the rat race” for a day.
Relax, unwind, talk, and enjoy one another’s company; your friend will surely feel pampered and cared for.
However, if money is an issue, invite your friend for an afternoon of self-care.
Gather up face masks, nail polishes, and whatever else you need to create your 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.
Research shows that volunteering builds confidence and 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 Helen D’Angelo, a Lost Angeles-licensed chief social worker.
Go volunteer together at a local charity.
Find something that helps them connect with others going through worse times than them.
Volunteer to serve food at a soup kitchen or work with senior citizens.
Check online; there are several opportunities for people looking to volunteer and help others in your country or abroad.
Baking has a therapeutic effect that eases depression and anxiety.
That is because the act of measuring, mixing, and paying attention to a recipe requires full attention.
Indirectly, they’ll create ‘peace’ in their mind and push away negative thoughts and emotions.
The delicious smells of baked goodies also produce happy feelings.
But, if calories are of concern, share what you’ve baked with other close friends, or donate them to a charity or local firehouse.
Take a Tech Detox
Get them out of their bedroom and off electronics for a day.
Motivating them can get more challenging if they hole up in a cave in their pajamas, binge-watch Netflix, or obsessively check on Instagram.
Send Them a Cute Animal Pic
There’s nothing more satisfying than looking at cute and 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 that perfect picture to send your friend, you can look at as many as you want!
Arrange a Group Game Night
Cheering someone up is tough when you’re limited to the virtual world.
Fortunately, some classic feel-good activities can take place online.
Round up a crew for a game night of classics such as Monopoly, Bingo, or Trivia, and play with your friends via a Zoom call.
Organize a meditation day with your friend and surprise them by asking them to think of someone who has caused them harm.
Then with their closed eyes, ask them to send them good wishes, thoughts, and vibes.
“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,” says Dr. Stair.
“If you don’t know how to meditate, there are lots of apps that make meditation fun and easy to do,” completes Dr. Jackie Kibler, a Psychiatry health expert from Kansas City.
Offer Them Flowers
Go to the florist, raid your dad’s garden, “borrow” from a park and make your friend a lovely bouquet.
If you want to step your game up, you could even send them an original bouquet of origami flowers!
Practice Yoga Together
Yoga carries a multitude of benefits for mental health.
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.
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 decreased through practicing yoga.
By lowering these physical stress markers, yoga helps to decrease anxiety while simultaneously stimulating serotonin production.
Thus, the benefit is twofold relieving stress and boosting positive emotions simultaneously.
Scare them and 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.
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.
A quick search for pranks on Instagram will help you find some genuinely creative jokes.
Here are a few pranks I’ve found in less than a minute:
- Draw a spider on the toilet paper.
- Deep cheese balls in chocolate and present them as authentic sweets.
- Get a friend dressed up as a ghost to appear in the garden while you’re having dinner.
As the goal is to get them to laugh, make sure your friends find your pranks funny.
Go Car Driving/Dancing
Load your friend up in your car and drive around listening to their favorite music.
Do some soul-soothing car dancing, or find some laughable videos on Youtube to inspire your little dance party.
Don’t hold back, though; challenge your loved one to bust a move wherever you are!
Skip Rope Together
You can do whatever exercise you want, but try skipping if you are extra silly.
Exercise is fun to build endorphins, increase oxygen, get you moving, and distract you from a bad mood.
“It’s hard to stay glum while you skip,” says Dr. Stair, so find a rope and get a move on.
Tag Them in a Hundred Funny Instagram Posts
Sometimes being annoying can be endearing, too.
If it makes them smile, it is worth it.
Find all the silly videos of babies dancing, awkward moments, crazy cats, and dogs being dogs.
Tag your friend in any post that might give them a good laugh.
Send Them A Motivational Text
It is always nice to know someone is rooting for you.
Some inspiration will be appreciated if you send a simple “thinking of you – hang in there!” or scour Pinterest for a great quote/graphic combo.
Send A Hand Written Letter/Card
It’s always exciting to receive snail mail!
Make 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 how much they mean to you.
Get Them A Gift Card
Money is tight for most of us right now.
But, if you have some extra cash, pass it on as a gift card for your friend to use as he/she likes.
Get dinner, pizza, or even a few drinks – the local coffee shop may offer pick-up.
Or, a virtual gift card to save 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, so everyone wins!
And if you want to go further, you can always gift them an anxiety ring!
Send A Story Of Kindness
There’s a lot of sad stuff happening right now, yet some people are rising to help each other.
If you see a story that gives you hope, share it with your friend and pass that feeling along.
Take A Day Trip In Nature
“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, find something to do outside, whether you’re in the middle of a metropolis or lucky enough to live a stone’s throw from a national park.
Even if it’s just 15 minutes of outdoor fresh air, it can boost your friend’s spirit.
Moreover, combining fresh air, nature, and sunshine will boost their vitamin D and serotonin levels.
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 secretly 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.
Choreograph a Dance to Their Favorite Song
Want a fun activity to take anyone’s mind off their woes?
Make a dance to your friend’s favorite song, or copy the existing choreography.
Get some of your friends to help and put up for a big musical show.
Do a Random Act of Kindness Together
Often when we do things for other people, we are the ones that benefit the most.
Do a random act of kindness together; even the smallest things count.
Start by opening the door for someone, paying for someone’s coffee or dinner at a restaurant, by smiling and saying ‘good morning’ to a stranger, and watch your days change for the better.
Visualize A Better Future
Helping people think about how they’re a product of their past, present, and future, emphasizing the future, can help them see where they’re going.
Remind your friend that, in the grand scheme of things, this little hurdle will not stop them from getting that Miami yacht they keep dreaming about.
Build a Fort or a Treehouse
This is a no-brainer — everybody loves a treehouse or a good fort.
Get together, make plans, draw schemas on paper, and enjoy as you build; it’ll make you feel like kids again!
Smash Some Plates
Some people need to find a way to eliminate their aggression, right?
After the pandemic, remember that there are dedicated places where you can pay to break plates as a stress reliever!
Plate breaking as a form of anger management and stress release has become very popular over the last few years.
“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.
Challenge Your Friend to a Noodle Fight
Grab some pool noodles and have them at it.
Avoid getting hit by dodging, ducking, weaving, or other means necessary.
Remember, the more endorphins you release, the happier you will be.
This is one of our favorite things to cheer someone up with!
Have Some Deep Rest
When people go through a tough time, they get far less sleep.
Less sleep causes irritability and depression and makes them prone to anxiety, so sleep is critical for their body and mental health.
Help balance out your buddy’s mental and physical health by telling them to make time for a nap.
Give Them A Cute Nickname
Come up with a nickname; the more ludicrous, the better.
It’s not only a great way to get them laughing right now, but it will also be your secret weapon to get them chuckling in the future.
Make Friendship Bracelets
This throwback activity will surely bring a smile to your friend’s face.
It’ll work wonders while making it and whenever they look at it.
“Research shows 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 much information on how exercise makes us happier, but the anti-stress and mood-boosting effects kick in less than the first five minutes of exercise.
So, get up and shake some!
Go on a Text Scavenger Hunt
Text scavenging hunt works like this: you send a list of things to your friend, and they have to spot them throughout their day.
Make sure it is doable but also fun and playful.
For example, have them find a pair of yellow shoes, a palm tree, and a car older than yours.
They can send you back pics as they find each things.
This is a great way to get someone out of a funk and offer a healthy challenge.
A completed challenge will help people feel uplifted, hopeful, and capable.
Play Dress Up
Get dolled up like in the good old days.
Whether in costumes, your mom’s clothes from the ’80s, or some cute outfits you bought especially for this occasion, this is an excellent opportunity to have a lot of fun.
Braid Their Hair
You can do it in a fancy French braid or 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.
If your friend is a boy, offer to give them a haircut or color their hair.
What could go wrong?
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.
Practice Positive Affirmations
Recent studies show that if young people who are not that confident repeat self-empowerment statements regularly, their brains change for good.
Ask them to 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.
Or, get them to list positive self-statements and ask them to repeat them daily: I feel pretty, smart, confident, and so on.
Even if they can’t believe these self-compliments, they will do it in time.
Make sure you follow up with messages reminding them to keep practicing.
Have A Smiling Contest
Start telling jokes, make funny noises, make your best impression, and so on.
The only catch is that you have to keep your face as straight as possible.
The first person to crack a smile loses.
Or, try out a compliment battle.
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.
Deciding 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.
Go On A Guided Walking Tour
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 also an app for that.
The best way is to create a ‘gratitude sandwich.’
Ask your friend to identify ten good things in their life right now.
Ask them to sandwich one thing going wrong between two things they are grateful for.
Saying it aloud helps them realize there is always something positive to focus on.
You can also make a list for each other of everything you think you and they should be grateful for.
Help Your Friend Clean Their Car Or Room
Being surrounded by a mess doesn’t do much for their mental state.
Having a tidy space can help them 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.
Later, when they’re on their own, they can relax in a clutter-free, peaceful space.
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 using “priming” will eventually cause the person to feel the words and emotions they are naming.
Stretch It Out
Deep stretching releases the tightness in muscles, usually caused by stress.
Stretching well also promotes healthy blood circulation.
Besides, you do not need a dedicated yoga class, just your living room and a blanket.
Make Them A Healthy Breakfast
Make some protein pancakes with dark chocolate spread and deliver them to their house.
Match it with freshly-squeezed orange juice as hand-squeezing the juice makes them feel loved while giving them a healthy dose of vitamin B6 and folic acid.
Overall, this tasty treat reduces cortisol, releases both endorphins and serotonin and is an excellent antioxidant source.
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 to promote better sleep and reduce anxiety.
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.
Challenge Them To Solve Riddles And Crossword Puzzles
Our brains love solving problems.
Critical thinking also boosts cognitive function and helps remove that hazy feeling of sadness.
Plant a tree, a patio herb garden, or repot a houseplant
The light exercise, connection with nature, and project completion are perfect combinations to brighten someone’s mood.
Moreover, you help the environment at the same time.
Challenge Them To A Fitness Contest
Any 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.
Take Them To A Painting Or Pottery Class
Pick something small so that they can feel the satisfaction of creating something in just one evening.
Fill Their 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 walk through the house!
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 oxytocin’s warm, loving effects.
Host A Reading Day
Studies show that happy people were 21% more likely to read a newspaper or book than watch TV.
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.
Fake A Laugh
Seriously! Just the idea seems silly, but many PTSD programs and therapists recommend daily laughing as ‘homework’ to feel better.
As soon as you ask your loved one to fake laugh, we bet they’ll laugh for real!
Arrange A Session Of Acupuncture
When acupuncture is applied to specific trigger points in the body, endorphins are released in the area, releasing tension, pain, and stress.
Give Them A Safe Space
Bottling up your feelings can lead to chronic stress and stress-related health problems.
Support your friend or loved one by letting them know they can feel comfortable in your presence.
Know When To Call In Reinforcements
Understand that if your 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, it is time to call in professional help.
Counseling can be incredibly useful in helping someone understand their emotions and how to cope with them.
If your friend is genuinely depressed, it is most likely beyond your ability to help them out, no matter how much you try.
Yet, they are lucky to have a friend like you, alerting their parents or a specialist about their difficulties so that they can begin their treatment and recovery as fast as possible.
Keep up with the latest in fashion, beauty and style!
Now it’s your turn…
What is that ‘one thing’ you do to comfort someone you love?
How do you cheer up your friends when you see them down and depressed?
In your experience, what is the fastest way to make someone feel better?
Please share your experiences below, so others can learn from you and cheer up their loved ones.
A passionate traveler with over ten years of experience in the tourism industry, Rebecca Siggers pens down her real-life experiences, lifestyle views, and advice on the best holidays, best ways of traveling, and the best ways to stay happy and content while living a semi-nomad lifestyle. Rebecca's life and pocket-saving insights have made it to some of the best traveling and lifestyle magazines right now, such as Travel + Leisure, AFAR, Global Traveller, SurferToday, The VOU, INSC Magazine, The Levant, FashionEdits, Sooper Articles, Outdoor Life and Escapism Travel Magazine.