Life Support: How to be cheerful

Essential skills for the modern world

Look on the bright side

In most situations, reasons to be happy massively outnumber reasons to be sad, so try to count your blessings. In this instance – though perhaps not as a general rule – take your cue from The Sun newspaper. When last week’s budget announced that taxes were up on petrol, alcohol and cigarettes, the paper’s front page reminded readers: “At least it’s sunny”.

Keep a diary

There is a reason why diaries are eternally popular with angst-ridden teenagers – they are a brilliant repository for worries and depressing thoughts. Writing down what you feel is a great way of getting a sense of perspective on problems or emotions that could otherwise seem overwhelming. Set aside a portion of time in which to write each day, stopping when the time is up.

Stop wallowing

As tempting as it is to lie around listening to Leonard Cohen, reading Sylvia Plath, and generally feeding your misery – don’t. What you put in your body will also affect your mental state, and while it may provide a temporary lift, a diet of gin and chocolate will not help your mood.

Laugh more

If you can barely crack a smile, breaking into raucous laughter might seem like a bit of a tall order. But the endorphins released when you laugh will take the edge off the blues. In this situation, passive entertainment is what is called for. Watch your favourite funny DVD, chat with a friend who always makes you laugh, or venture out to a comedy club.

Make an effort

It is worth trying to cheer up. Numerous studies have shown that happier people are healthier. Researchers from University College London found that moments of happiness protect your body, lowering levels of stress hormones and making you less likely to suffer heart attacks or strokes.