On Cheering Up

There have been a few times in the past few months when I’ve wanted to write a post, but I never felt strongly enough about something to write about – so months flew by without me blogging. I hope that I can keep up a more consistent effort to blog – I like it and it’s therapeutic, so why not?

Anyway, I’ve recently been on a campaign to increase my consumption of “grownup” material (read: stop spending so much time on Facebook and Buzzfeed, and move instead to reading news, learning different topics, etc). As a result, I’ve started listening to podcasts from HBR and TedTalks; scanning through different Quora topics in hope of life lessons I can learn, and reading Pulse on my phone for both edu and news purposes. This morning, I read an article titled, “Stop Telling Your Depressed Friends to Cheer Up.” 

This is something I’ve heard before but often fail to do. It seems intuitive to turn the conversation into a positive light; I try to “take their mind off it” or “act cheerful” – but deep inside, I can see that this doesn’t always work. At best, it’s a distraction from the actual problem. And at worst, as the article states, it suggests that “the relationship partner does not truly accept or understand their feelings.”

I used to think it was weird when I’d tell someone about my bad day and they would respond with, “I’m sorry.” I’d always reply with, “I mean, it’s not your fault” and create an awkward back-and-forth: “Well, yeah I know it’s not my fault, but I’m just sorry you had a bad day,” to which I’d reply, “Oh, thanks…?” (is “Thanks”  a proper response for this? I still don’t know). But I see the validity now in that response, where “I’m sorry” indicates that the listener cares about you and is empathetic enough to feel sad for you or with you.

I’m cringing internally now as I recall giving out this statement when talking to someone who was going through a funk: “I don’t get why you can’t just snap out of it. Just STOP thinking about it.” I took for granted my own happy mood at the time, assuming that it would be just as easy for someone else to “snap out of it” and just BE happy. What I didn’t realize was how hurtful that statement probably was: not only did I fail to understand and validate the person’s feelings, I even actively dismissed it!

As friends, peers, family, there’s only so much we can do; we can only listen to a certain extent before we realize that some problems just don’t go away. And with long-lasting issues like that, it’s best to seek professional help. But as long as I can be a listener and a friend, I hope to keep in mind that “cheering up” is so much easier said than done – I want to try to work on my listening skills, trying to empathize and feel the situation, and just being there for someone that I care about in the simplest ways that I can.

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