Think Happy Thoughts

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"When the dog bites, when the bee stings,
When I'm feeling sad,
I think of a few of my favorite things,
And then I don't feel so bad."

The Sound of Music, "My Favorite Things."

Times are tough. Your Love Interest has just been eaten by a Grue, you only had enough anti-venom to save one of your three adopted children, your hometown just got glassed by the Big Bad's Kill Sat, and to top it off you just dropped your ice cream. Life absolutely sucks.

But just when you're feeling your lowest, you conjure up your happiest thoughts, and suddenly, you're smiling again. It can be that time Jeff got really trashed at the office party, your favorite song, mental images of a litter of puppies, whatever - the point it's enough of a mental pick-me-up to keep you from being swallowed by despair.

In short, a thought that instantly improves your mood, helping you survive your darkest hour or just brightening a humdrum day. Most commonly it's a really good memory, though thinking about what's coming after this terrible time in your life works too. A relative of the Survival Mantra. If you can no longer think happy thoughts , you may cross the Despair Event Horizon, teach your enemies the meaning of suffering, or attempt to reduce the world to ash.

Examples of Think Happy Thoughts include:



  • Parodied in Eddie Lawrence's comic monologue "The Old Philosopher" (you'll find it on one of the Dr Demento compilation CDs), where the narrator describes an escalating (and ultimately fatal) series of hypothetical disasters that can be overcome, or at least temporarily forgotten, with a positive attitude. Then he apparently shoots himself at the end of the recording.

Comic Books

  • Reversed in one Hellblazer story: An apartment building contains a bunch of seriously depressing life stories that sucks the happiness out of the atmosphere, except for the last floor, occupied by a cheerful old lady. Add some grisly mutilations and murders to the ambiance. Learn that the old lady, long since past Christmas Cake status, uses strips of flesh from prostitutes to get high on their memories.


  • In the extras for the Lord of the Rings DVDs, Sir Ian McKellen mentioned that if he ever gets depressed about something, all he has to do is close his eyes and remember the incredible reception the LotR cast got for the New Zealand premier of Return of the King.
  • The ultimate parody of this must be the one at the end of Monty Python's Life of Brian, when the main character and others with him are cheered up by the song "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life"... while they are dying slowly and agonisingly of crucifixion.
  • At the end of The Punisher, Castle has killed all the criminals responsible for his family's deaths, and thinks he has nothing further to live for. He puts a gun to his own head, but a memory of his wife prevents him from pulling the trigger.


  • Most famously, happy thoughts are used in Peter Pan to enable flight.
    • Or not. It's stated it's really the fairy dust that does it by itself.
  • Or perhaps even more famously, happy thoughts are used in Harry Potter to create a Patronus. Made more difficult by the fact that you usually summon a Patronus to deal with creatures that literally suck the happiness out of you.
  • In The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Kit gets through the winter by clinging to the memory of a dream she had of standing on the prow of a boat bound for her home Barbados.
  • Anne of Green Gables. It's a necessity to surviving an Orphanage of Fear.
  • Pollyanna would also do this. The Hayley Mills version calls this the Glad Game. The high point is when she is challenged to find something to be glad about after the minister has delivered a depressing fire-and-brimstone sermon. Her reply is that once it's over you can be glad you don't have to worry about it again for an entire week.
  • Jaime Lannister mentions thinking of Cersei while the mad king he was pledged to tortured and burned his subjects to death in A Song of Ice and Fire. Once Aerys declared his intention to burn the city to the ground, however, happy thoughts weren't enough and Jaime butchered him.
  • Subverted in book 12 of The Wheel of Time, in which Egwene, captured by the now-corrupt White Tower, is constantly beaten for refusing to back down on her insistence that she is the Amyrlin (leader), having been elected by the rebels. She deals with the physical pain by thinking of the much worse emotional pain brought on by the knowledge that the once-proud Tower has split into factions that are at war with each other.
  • In Who Cut the Cheese? by Stilton Jarlsberg, Ho comforts himself during his starvation by thinking about his weight loss and the clearing up of his skin and breath conditions.

Live Action TV

  • In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode covering Red Zone Cuba, the movie is so bad that Mike and the 'bots try to cheer themselves up with a Bouncy Upbeat Song.
  • On Lost, Charlie compiles a list of these in the episode "Greatest Hits".
  • How I Met Your Mother: Quoth Barney Stinson, "When I get sad, I stop being sad and be awesome instead. True story."
  • A depressed priest suffering a crisis of faith meets Father Ted, and what finally convinces him that life is worth living is the theme to Shaft. Unfortunately, this is undone by listening to Radiohead.
  • In Glee, Rachel is about to have an emotional breakdown, but sings a happy song in her head so that she is collected enough to pose for the school photos.
  • Played with in the BBC Scotland sitcom Legit. One character, "Happy Boab", is so named because he is constantly happy, but this is implied to be a psychological defence mechanism due to having been repeatedly abused as a child.
  • Doctor Who; the episode "The Stolen Earth" has this exchange between the Doctor and Donna:

Donna: Thing is, Doctor, no matter what's happening—and I'm sure it's bad, I get that. But, Rose is coming back. Isn't that good?
The Doctor(after a Beat): Yeah. It is.


  • A Prairie Home Companion does this in the fake commercials for the Ketchup Advisory Board and Bee-Bop-A-Ree-Bop Rhubarb Pie. The ketchup commercials suggest that ketchup's "natural mellowing agents" will help make you feel better about your problems; the rhubarb pie commercials generally take the form of someone suffering a long series of disasters (basically an excuse for the sound effects guy to show off a little), and then, just as the worst catastrophe of all has happened... "Wouldn't this be a good time for a piece of rhubarb pie?"


  • As the page quote indicates, "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music.
  • "I Whistle a Happy Tune" from The King and I.
  • "We Need a Little Christmas" from Mame.
  • "Look For The Silver Lining" from Sally. (Actually originally written for a musical version of Brewster's Millions.)
  • Book of Mormon provides a rather dark take on this with the song "Turn it Off"

Video Games

  • In Dwarf Fortress it's almost mandatory. A very unhappy dwarf is either exposed to things that gives him "happy thoughts" or eventually goes nuts and damages something or someone. Which of course annoys more dwarves. And dwarves have a bunch of random personal preferences as to what may make them happy.
    • They all get happy thoughts from particularly fine furniture, though. When one of your dwarves enters a strange mood and makes an artifact furniture thing (like a floor hatch, a quern, a floor grate, a door, amongst others), good players know that they should put it in an area where a lot of dwarves will pass by to admire it. Bad players will put it in a noble's bedroom. A noble's bedroom that isn't also rigged up to be a drowning chamber.
  • A variant in Dragon Age 2, upon meeting the sloth demon Torpor if you have Merrill in your party she will recommend thinking 'active' thoughts.
  • In Persona 3 Portable, Shinjiro Aragaki muses during one of the later ranks of his Social Link that having good memories to look back on makes one more able to endure hard times.

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • One episode of The Simpsons revealed that all the photos they have of Maggie are posted on the wall at Homer's workstation, covering up the de-motivational plaque saying "Don't forget, you're here forever" to change the message to "Do it for her."
  • Possibly the "Laughing Place" scene from Song of the South, although it leans away from this and toward Happy Place as the scene progresses.
  • In the Family Guy movie: Future!Stewie has accidentally burnt down his apartment by putting up relaxation candles on the suggestion of Present!Stewie. He sulks, but Past!Stewie recommends "The Glad Game" as a pick-me-up. Pinwheels, cake from the fair, cutting into construction paper...these are a few of Stewie's fay-vo-rite things, indeed.
  • Played with in the Teen Titans episode "Switched". Starfire's powers are based on emotion, and like Peter Pan, flying needs a "joyful thought". Emotionless Girl Raven, stuck in Starfire's body, has a little trouble with this.

Starfire: [as Raven] What was your joyful thought?
Raven: [as Starfire] You don't want to know.
Starfire: Oh, but I do! Please tell me, what did you imagine?
Raven: (sighs) You not talking.
Starfire: (crestfallen) Oh... well... I am... glad I was able to help.