14 little ways to instantly brighten someone’s day

A small act of kindness can go a long way, especially when you’re trying to cheer up a loved one.

Maybe they’re going through a difficult time, feeling overwhelmed, or experiencing a string of bad luck.

Perhaps you just want to do a good deed. 

Whatever it may be, here are 14 ways to instantly brighten someone’s day.

Pick the activity that has the best chance of eliciting a grin. 

1) Give them a genuine compliment

Compliments motivate and inspire.

That said, “You look nice today” is overplayed even when you add a “really” into the mix.

Instead, give your loved one a genuine compliment that catches them off guard and leaves a lasting positive impact.

For it to work, the compliment should be authentic, specific, and thoughtful.

Let’s take the “You look nice today” example. You can make it more effective by adding an extra level of detail:

  • I love how you styled your hair today. It highlights your natural beauty.
  • Your outfit is impeccable. It’s inspiriting how you always manage to look effortlessly stylish.
  • You’re really working those pants! It’s like you radiate confidence.

The more tailored the compliment, the better.

2) Listen

Sometimes, people just want to be heard.

I find it annoying when I try to talk through a problem, but the friend I reach out to either rushes me or immediately offers a solution.

More often than not, all I want is for them to listen.

If a loved one is going through something, give them your compassion and undivided attention.

Ask them out for a drink, put away your phone, and let them rant for however long they need to.

3) Send them a happy playlist

I don’t know about you, but nothing pulls me out of a funk quicker than the right playlist.

Even a single song can be enough to lift my mood.

(If you need pointers, my current feel-good musical obsession is Lucky Girl by Carlina.)

You can brighten someone’s day by sending them a personalized playlist of happy songs.

Alternatively, create a playlist of songs that have meaning to both of you to convey how much you cherish them.

Whichever option you pick, you can’t go wrong.

4) Offer them your time

Do you know what every person who feels overwhelmed longs for? More time.

While you can’t stop or stretch time to cheer up someone, you can donate yours.

Here are some ideas:

  • Babysit so your loved one and their partner can have a night out
  • Cook a few meals for someone who is struggling
  • Help a busy co-worker with a task
  • Assist with errands or chores (grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions, organizing, planning a function, etc.)
  • Accompany your friend to appointments (therapy, a support group, the doctor)
  • Share your expertise with a loved one or colleague (become a mentor or teach them a skill that can make their life a little easier)

5) Gift them something out of the blue

We all (hopefully) purchase gifts for our loved ones on special occasions.

But how about all the other non-special days in the year?

A quick way to brighten someone’s day is to give them an inexpensive gift: a baked good, a  knick-knack that made you think of them, flowers when they least expect it.

Bonus points if the gift is an experience you can do together.

Like movie or concert tickets, a spa voucher, or a weekend getaway.

And if they don’t feel like leaving the house, buy them a subscription to a streaming service.

At least they’ll have something to watch while wallowing under the covers.

6) Pay the bill

Similarly, you can pick up the tab when you hang out.

Playing for their coffee or sandwich may not seem like much, but knowing that you care enough to do it can mean the world to them.

7) Leave them a sweet note

I love the trend of leaving handwritten notes for your loved ones to stumble upon randomly.

If your partner is having a rough day, write them a thoughtful message on a Post-it and pack it with their lunch.

When your best friend is going through something, send them a postcard via snail mail.

To brighten a co-worker’s day, write a joke on a piece of paper and slip it under their keyboard. You’ll know they found it when they laugh out loud.

8) Make a plan

Looking to put a smile on the face of someone you haven’t seen in a while?

Make a definite plan to hang out – complete with date and venue.

If it’s a long-distance relationship, set a time for a lengthy FaceTime or Zoom session.

This will immediately make them feel appreciated and less alone.

9) Thank them for being in your life

For a more sentimental approach to the problem, thank the person for being part of your life.

Tell them you are grateful for their time and attention, and emphasize how deeply you value them.

As with compliments, it’s best to get into specifics:

  • To your partner: Thank you for picking me up from work. I never take for granted the fact that you’re there for me whenever I need you.
  • To a friend: Thank you for reaching out and talking to me on the phone the other day, you are a legend.
  • To a colleague: Thank you for sharing those meeting notes, they were a lifesaver. I appreciate you helping me out.

10) Bring up something they taught you

Another effective way to brighten someone’s day is to stroke their ego by telling them about something they taught or inspired you to do.

For instance, tell a friend that seeing them put extra effort into how they look inspired you to do the same.

Imagine how much hearing something like that would matter to you.

11) Give them a social media shout-out

If the person you want to comfort is chronically online, give them an Instagram shout-out or make a TikTok about your top 5 moments together.

Acknowledging your bond so publicly will definitely have a positive impact on their mood. 

12) Ask for their advice on something

It may sound counterintuitive, but asking someone for help can actually make them happy.

If a loved one is having a crappy day, see if they can offer advice on something you’re currently dealing with.

They will feel like you care about their opinion and experience a tiny confidence boost.

Worst case scenario, you’ll give them something to think about that has nothing to do with said crappy day.

13) Remind them of a recent accomplishment

People tend to remember negative experiences better than positive ones.

That’s why we cling to the one negative piece of feedback from a sea of praise.

For a quick way to lift someone’s mood, remind them of their accomplishments:

  • Talk about how they successfully overcame a hurdle in the past
  • Bring up a recent win they told you about
  • Gush about how much you admire their resilience

This can give them the motivation they need to reframe their current obstacles as challenges and move forward with a can-do attitude.

14) Let them know you’re thinking of them

Some things are too challenging to overcome in an instant.

Depending on what your loved one is experiencing, you might not be able to cheer them up, regardless of how many things your try.

If that’s the case, let them know you’re available and thinking of them. 

Knowing that someone is on your side can make a world of difference.

Final thoughts

Uplifting others doesn’t just improve their mood and strengthen your relationship.

It also has a positive effect on your self-worth.

By lending a helping hand, you’ll both feel better in no time.

If someone uses these 13 phrases in a conversation, they’re a really fake person

7 ways to break literally any habit, according to psychology