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47 Bright Ways to Make Someone Happy (or Smile)

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Though we all want to make someone happy or smile, we get so caught up in our work, life, and travel we don’t bother to be any nicer or do beyond what is expected of us.

I am no different, and I openly talk about how my husband and I loosened up on being sweet to each other during the beginning of the lockdown. But then we realized, hey, now we only got each other. We can work together from home, food is still abundant, and the world is quiet. We should sing “don’t worry, be happy” all day (most of the pandemic affects hadn’t hit us by then). 

Pretentious jokes and Bob Marlyn aside, making someone smile is the least we can do. As Maya Angelou rightly said, 

People will forget what you said,

people will forget what you did,

but people will never forget how you made them feel.

I have put together 47 ideas on how to make someone happy. These methods have helped me put a smile on a face and make a person laugh or feel good.

Now not all of these things that make people happy would work for everyone. But if you can make someone smile, whenever you wish, even with one of these ideas, I would hit a jackpot. Not you, I. Do you see? (You are making people happy, and, in turn, you are happier, which serves my purpose.)

Now go. Read. Apply. Share. Smile. 

Frans_Hals_-_Lachende_jongen a laughing boy
Just a laughing boy. [Frans Hals, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons]

How to Make Someone Happy Today

1. Smile often, especially at strangers

A childish, innocent, sparkly smile always does more than a I-wish-I-hadn’t-seen-you smile.

Our wives and friends and fathers would be a bit happier if they see us smiling. But why should we be smiling at strangers? Well, this could be our first, and maybe the last, encounter with that person, and we owe each other a smile, at least. We shouldn’t expect a smile in reciprocation always (because not everyone in the world is reading my article).

Please also beware of smiling on unknown streets where men and women might interpret your smile as an invitation to follow you (happened to a friend, of course).

2. Tell your partner you love them, especially when you are angry with them.

When I have fought with my other half and I’m still angry, I message him and say, “I love you. PS: Still not happy with what you did.”

Leaving our life partners stranded on the island of guilt brings unhappiness to both of us. Let’s keep our arms extended toward our loved ones (one of the methods to maintain a happy relationship).

3. Always tip the bagger

In my supermarket in Bengaluru, an old guy always bagged my shopping. He was there even during the pandemic while the shoppers queued outside. That’s enough said, right?

Update June 2022: I don’t visit a fixed supermarket anymore as I have been traveling from place to place slowly. But I get much more options to tip the staff now.

4. Offer water to delivery stuff

None of the delivery guys accept my offer but they smile. I also warn them to be careful if the stairs or the floor are wet. They smile again.

[Offering water to anyone who comes to your house is something I learned from my parents in India.]

We don’t have to invite a stranger inside our house. But we all know there are many ways to bring water to someone without risking our security.

5. Send a house-warming gift to a friend

Anyone can make use of a funky coffee mug, a soft shawl, or a carved book holder. The gift doesn’t have to be expensive because the idea is to fill the friend’s new home with the warmth of old friendship.

6. Praise your housekeeper on her good work

I used to tell my devoted housekeeper she does a great job. I would say, “I could not shine the house like you did even in a hundred years.” She would smile contently and, in turn, my day was made.

My compliments didn’t make my housekeeper lazy or arrogant. She was dedicated, and my words ensured her that her efforts were being noticed and rewarded.

I have found a simple thank you to be precious, too.

7. Instead of holding a grudge against a friend who wasn’t there at your wedding or forgot to call on your birthday, ask her to meet you for a coffee or a drink.

I was a major grudge reservoir. He didn’t do this, she didn’t call me back, how could he forget. But when people held grudges against me, I realized how futile the whole idea is (and other 29 things I learned in my twenties).

Sometimes we cannot be with our friends or call them or be who they expect us to be because of our own terrible circumstances. If someone keeps complaining we weren’t there or mentions our absence in a hurtful way, we won’t apologize more rigorously but would instead retreat into our shells and become defensive.

We should let our dear ones make mistakes. I have seen my people not only get much closer to me but happier when they see I am not angry with them but waiting to listen to their narrative.

8. Give a gift to your housekeeper or the building guard without any occasion

Gift something for the personal use of your helper instead of a family utility such as rice and oil. How would you feel if you would get a kilo of rice on your birthday? So maybe the same fountain-pen you have or the same socks could do the trick. Tell them how you both have the same one now.

9. Bring one apple for someone sick around you. (one of the easiest things that make people smile)

No, not the saddest apple from the basket. That red ripe one I see right there.

An apple to us could be hope to someone else.

10. Listen to people. Let them speak even if they are talking about something you don’t care about.

After every workday, my husband wants to quickly recap what he did during the day or want to show me the elegant website pop-up he designed. Except for a few evenings when I am famished, I let him talk even if I am too tired to make any sense of the technical details. I understand he needs to get it all out or else he won’t let me eat peacefully. Afterward, he looks so relaxed as if his day just found meaning.

During most conversations we are busy preparing a reply rather than listening. Catch yourself the next time and pause and listen.

Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder-_The_Corn_Harvest_(August) doing things together is one of the things that make people happy
Doing things together make people happy. [Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons]

11. At the end of the day, make a cup of chamomile tea or any other tea you like.

Drink it. This one is for you 🙂

12. Message your special recipes to your friends.

While cooking, record the recipe over audio. Now you will always have a copy and the recipe is easily shareable, too. (Let me know if you want the secrets of my prawn mango coconut curry.)

13. Reply to negative comments positively, especially on social media or on other public platforms.

I am not immune to receiving negative comments on some of my articles or ideas. But instead of playing the who-can-insult-harder game, I tell myself that the person who can write such a hateful comment either doesn’t know any better or is going through a hard time — none of the reasons justify me being rude to them. (And isn’t taking our time to reflect rather than bursting out one of the sure shot ways to better ourselves?)

I am not advocating online trolling or harassment but I have realized when I reply to people amiably despite their harshness, they apologize and feel better about the whole thing. They even tell me why they reacted the way they did. And by being gentle, I save myself from feeling hateful.

We are not trying to please anyone but letting people make mistakes, giving them a chance to fix them, and meanwhile not losing patience and sanity is a guaranteed way of making others happy. Try replying positively to a negative comment next time and see the change.

14. Please don’t ask the air hostess to put up your heavy suitcase.

Instead, help her.

15. Always wipe the toilet seat before leaving the public stall.

And if you finish the toilet paper, replace it, or tell the housekeeping staff. You are making a countless number of people happy.

16. Offer to carry an old lady’s or an old man’s suitcase at the station or the bus stand.

Imagine if it was your parents or you at seventy. (Kindness of an old Peruvian lady.)

17. Fill your partner’s water bottle often.

A hydrated body is a happy body.

18. When you go out, ask your flatmates or people nearby if they need something, too.

Especially now more than ever. Even if they say no, still bring a bag of banana chips or a few oranges or lemons.

A lemon to you could be a lemonade for them at the end of the day.

19. Surprise your parents with a gift without any occasion.

Who said we have wait for father’s day or a birthday or the New Years or Diwali or Christmas to make our special people happy?

Jan_Steen_Vrolijke_huisgezin family making merry together
A family making merry together. [Jan Steen, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons]

20. Ask your client or colleague about how they have been.

Back in an investment bank I worked for, my manager still remembers me as the one always checking in on him. He was from the US and had shifted to our Bangalore office to manage the team; that was the least I could do.

We all make shallow talks with our seniors and clients. But we spend so much time with the people we work with that it’s only natural for us to ask each other if we are okay and if things are going well. The conversation doesn’t have to be personal if the relationship is formal but it doesn’t have to be superfluous either.

When we move beyond small talk, share a life instance, and get the conversation going, others share with us, too. And thus balancing on each other, we tread a little more lightly than ever before. (Also read – How to create lifelong relationships: and why are relationships important.)

21. Let people move in the aisle before shoving your backpack on the overhead counter.

Sit down, breathe, and decide what you will eat. When people have moved, get up to put your luggage inside. You will make everyone happy with this tiny gesture.

22. Buy flowers for people around you, even on regular days

For your partner, friends, family, staff, yourself, Tabby the cat. Who doesn’t need some flowers?

23. Instead of saying a pompous no to a charmed one approaching you in a bar or a restaurant, be polite.

They are reaching out to you, ready to hand over their heart, or at least a few dinners, and you are only thinking about how better looking or better dressed you are and they don’t deserve you. Please, think again.

Jokes aside, remember our grandeur only exists from the perspective of another human being. On our own, we are nothing.

Even if someone’s approach wasn’t the best, I smiled. I told them they came off too strong. My rude replies would have crushed the confidence of the love-seekers, but my thoughtful words helped them look beyond. [These two pieces can help: How to approach women and how to approach men.]

24. Write about your bad or humiliating personal experiences online.

If need be, write anonymously. Let people know they are not the only ones getting dumped on birthdays or paranoid enough to not sleep with a dripping tap in the house.

Our embarrassing story would make somebody happy somewhere.

25. If someone drops a bag of blueberries, help her pick them.

Don’t help her so that someone can help you pick your nickels on a rainy afternoon. Let’s help others in the spirit of being humane acting as per the need of the hour. We will definitely see a smile come by.

26. Compliment someone dressed up. But whenever someone doesn’t dress up, compliment them even more.

“You are gorgeous the way you are.”

“This baggy top is made for you.”

“I thought black is your color, but you rock even in purple.”

See their confidence touch the sky. [I love it when my husband tells me you don’t need to shower. If only I could reciprocate the compliment.]

27. Leave a helpful comment on the articles you read.

Sometimes a comment is enough for the writer to keep going 😉

28. Put up little bird nests in your house.

You will make the people and the birds around you so happy they will all chirp all day long.

29. When you make a mistake, forgive yourself.

Be gentle. This is the first tip in the how-to-be-happy course.

Read other 32 things I would tell my younger self.

30. When someone makes a simple mistake, first try laughing about it.

When we laugh, the culprits laugh with us and the chances of them accepting their mistakes are higher. Everyone ends up happier and calmer.

31. When we don’t understand why someone is eating rice with hands on a banana leaf, let’s not smirk, never look disgusted.

We feel superior to others when we can laugh at them.

But when I started traveling, I realized I didn’t want to smirk at the Cambodian men and women sitting by the roadside eating strange meats. I was annoyed by Chileans’ eating so much bread, but I knew rather than complaining I could help myself more by buying some lettuce and greens. When my host in the Himalayas asked me if I hadn’t made tea for my partner, I had to repeat to myself she comes from a different place.

Being curious about a cultural tradition and asking people why they do what they do have helped me not only discover different ways of living but have also brought me closer to people.

So now sit on that floor and scoop up some rice with your fingers. Nothing can make others happier than seeing their culture being accepted by strangers.

[Research shows that engaging with local culture on travels boosts our creativity. Kindness bears fruit.]

Suggested Read: travel as a catalyst to change and Cultural Differences between India and Chile

32. Ask the grocery owner if he would give you overripe fruits at a discount. Then distribute those or make a fruit salad and share it with your neighbor.

Hint: Papayas are generally lying around over-ripening in Asian fruit shops.

Frans_Hals_-_fisher_boy_Burgsteinfurt laughing
A fisher boy laughing. [Frans Hals, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons]

33. Create your own list of how to make people happy.

Got you.

34. At a party or dinner at your friend’s house, do the dishes without anyone asking you to.

And then sneak away with a leftover bottle of wine.

35. Randomly thank friends and family.

Isn’t it enough that they are around? If you think I am being too sentimental, imagine your life without one of your close friends or a family member you appreciate.

36. Send a book to someone you know would love it.

Sharing our favorite book with a friend is almost like having an intimate conversation with them. (Here is the list of my life-changing books if you are looking for some impactful ones.)

37. When the next time you think the other person would take your advantage, ask yourself if you have a genuine reason to doubt her or if you are just being defensive.

When I am traveling, I often walk with my invisible defense shield put up in front of me. I doubt anyone who tries to come too close.

Once while strolling in the bazaar of Pushkar, an artist, who had a shop in the market, invited me inside. I didn’t know why he was calling me so I told him I would come later. Then the next time I was in front of his shop, he again requested me to talk to him over tea. Unsure, I walked in.

While conversing about life and art and Chile over masala chai, I realized he was a sweet person and a genuine artist. I felt horrible for doubting a man whose heart was full of gratitude and generosity. One cup of tea together and a good conversation was all he was looking for. Perhaps he should have been cautious of me.

Not everyone is set out to hurt us. Taking care of ourselves is good but we can let the armor go once in a while. And learn and adapt and reroute. See how happy people get when they see we trust them.

38. Hug people. Caress their shoulder. Pat them on the back. Pull their cheeks. Probably one of the easiest answers to how to make someone happier

Human touch can do wonders. I have written all about it in this piece on making sense of our emotions.

39. When others talk to you about a fall out with their friend or partner or parents, be on their side but suggest them to look from the other person’s perspective too.

If putting themselves in someone else’s shoes is too much for them at the time, suggest to not act immediately and take some time to cool off. Time heals, and you might end up saving a relationship and make many people happy.

40. Light candles at dinner without any occasion.

Tell your partner he looks like a fairy.

41. Instead of judging people and writing hateful comments on their pet-give-away posts, say you support them.

Now, please hear me out before judging me.

In the cat adoption groups I am a member of, I constantly read hateful comments on pet give-away posts. No one listens to anyone’s reasons and people get personal. Now none of us know what is happening on the pet parents’ end and their intentions must have been nice for they did give space to a pet once. And if they are publicly giving away their fluffy balls, something must have pushed them to do so. If they have decided to give the pet once, no one can change their heart about keeping her.

Instead of putting hateful comments or suggesting ways to continue keeping the pet, we should respect the pet parents for accepting their limitations. They are doing the right thing by not abandoning the animal, which they might do the next time in fear of public humiliation.

People are allowed to make mistakes. While caring for the animals, don’t hate the people. They are fluffy balls too. Even humans purr when they are happy.

42. Hold the doors open for people after you, even for men. (one of my favorite ways to make someone smile today)

Just a little thing but so humane to do.

43. Ask the waiter/server if she has eaten.

If they would love one of your french fries. Oh, I can’t share more than one.

44. Whenever you visit home, give your parents a day off and do their chores.

Bake their favorite bread or spice up their curries.

45. Use on of these ways to make others happy today.

46. Forgive yourself if you don’t.

47. Share the list with a friend if you like.

Books on Happiness I recommend.

Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

stumbling on happiness book cover

How Emotions Are Made by Lisa Feldman Barrett

how emotions are made book cover
how to make someone happy image by giving flowers

Feature Image Courtesy: GaetanoartistMinale, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Do you have other ideas on how to make someone smile? Or on how to make a person happy? Tell me in the comments.


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18 thoughts on “47 Bright Ways to Make Someone Happy (or Smile)”

  1. Thank you! Those tips made my day, I will definitely try them soon! Those are all simple things that we forget way to often!!^^

  2. Thank you for your lovely ideas to spread happiness without any expectation. No doubt in turn happiness falls in arms.


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