When I'm feeling sad,
I think of a few of my favorite things,
And then I don't feel so bad."
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.
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: The Gurren-dan does this whenever they think of, remember, or quote Kamina. Same for the public: thinking of or playing "Libera Me From Hell" or even "Rap is a Man's Soul" always makes you feel like you could do ANYTHING.
- D.Gray-Man: This is Allen Walker's advice to Chaozii, who is on the brink of a (completely justified) mental breakdown. Allen has obviously had a lot of practice.
- Parodied in Eddie Lawrence's comic monologue "The Old Philosopher", 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.
- 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 uses strips of flesh from prostitutes to get high on their memories.
- Hetalia: Axis Powers fanfic Gankona, Unnachgiebig, Unità: This is how Italy is able to keep on flashing brilliant smiles even after being abused by Austria for hundreds of years and having terrible anxiety as a result.
- Used darkly at the start of The Promise. At the start of chapter 3, Ill Girl Maria stares at her vital monitors and pretends they're fireflies in order to avoid thinking about the man who is sexually abusing her. This only goes so far as Maria is still visibly shaken afterwards.
- Cremia tries to invoke this in Final Toll while waiting for the moon to crash. It doesn't work because the ground keeps on shaking her out of her thoughts.
- Grimm are attracted to negative emotions, so this method is used sometimes in RWBY: Scars. When Winter acts as a spy to a cult who feeds people to Grimm, she conjures up memories of her siblings in order to avoid being attacked by the Grimm.
- RWBY Thoughts: When stressed over her uncle Qrow being drunk, Ruby tries to do this. She thinks of her weapon Crescent Rose, her dog Zwei, and her friend Weiss. The Weiss part ruins her mood.
- 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.
- In The LEGO Movie, Princess Unikitty tries and fails to do this after Cloudcuckooland is destroyed). She tried to do that again at the climax, but thankfully she snapped out of it and unleashed her Unstoppable Rage.
- Inside Out: This is the whole thrust of Joy's personality. Being the emotion of joy personified, would you expect anything else?
Joy: Look, I get it: You guys have concerns. But we've been through worse. Tell you what, let's make a list of all the things Riley should be happy about!
- Peter Pan: Peter Pan's flying powers rely on thinking happy thoughts, which he teaches to the Darling children (along with a helping of pixie dust for good measure).
- Bolt: When Penny is upset that they're keeping Bolt separated from her in order to film a cliffhanger for the TV show, Penny's Jerkass agent condescendingly tells her to console herself by imagining how happy Bolt will be to see her when he rescues her the next day. Naturally, this doesn't make Penny feel any better.
- In the extras for the 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 The 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 (2004), 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.
- In Beauty and the Beast (2017), LeFou tells Gaston to think happy thoughts of his time at war. Thinking of blood, explosions, and widows apparently relax Gaston.
- 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 in A Song of Ice and Fire mentions using this tactic during his time guarding and serving the Mad King, focusing on thoughts of his beloved Cersei as Aerys burned people to death. He even advises Brienne to do the same when she's threatened with almost-certain rape: "go far away" and think of the man she loves or her beloved childhood home to make it quicker and easier.
Jaime: "Let them do it, and go away inside. Think of Renly, if you loved him. Think of Tarth, mountains and seas, pools, waterfalls, whatever you have on your Sapphire Isle..."
- 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 Inheritance Cycle, Eragon tells Arya to do this when she remembers her traumatic experience as a captive of The Empire.
- In Smallville, "Abyss," Chloe is told to focus on happy memories as the doctors try to reverse her memory loss. They are all intimate moments with Clark. Including their First Kiss. Aww.
- 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.
- NCIS: Los Angeles: A few episodes after being brutally tortured, Deeks told Kensi that he got through it by thinking of her.
- Star Trek: Voyager: When Voyager is confronted and scanned by a Borg cube in "Scorpion, Part I," Janeway tells herself to "think good thoughts."
- Person of Interest. In the penultimate episode, Harold Finch is infiltrating Fort Meade. The Machine urges him to "think positive thoughts" (unfortunately he's walking past the memorial wall at the time).
- This is referenced in the chorus of Creed's "Wash Away Those Years". It tells a victim of sexual abuse to "close your eyes and just imagine everything's alright", while at the same time telling them that it's more than okay to cry about their trauma.
- 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?"
- "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.)
- The Book of Mormon provides a rather dark take on this with the song "Turn it Off"
- In Doki Doki Literature Club!, this is how Sayori coped with her depression. She thought happy thoughts to keep up appearances so she would make her friends happy while not worrying them with her problems. She also thought thinking happy thoughts would actually make her feel happy...but to no avail.
Happy thoughts, happy thoughts, happy thoughts in bottles, all in a row...Happy thoughts, happy thoughts, happy thoughts in shards, all over the floor.
- 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 II, upon meeting the sloth demon Torpor if you have Merrill in your party she will recommend thinking 'active' thoughts. "Like running and jumping!"
- 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.
- In Alfred's Playhouse, Alfred is a traumatized and crazy dog who imagines himself in a happy fantasy world whenever he is being sexually abused or having a flashback.
- Girl Genius being full of mad scientists, people (including other mad scientists) have to do something in order to stay conscious when one begins a long rant. Bangladesh DuPree shares with us her little method.
- In Sinfest, inverted -- the green succubus urges bad thoughts to ward off the Devil's thought detector.
- Nostalgia Critic invokes this when mocking Felix the Cat: The Movie, particularly Princess Oriana's decision to disband her country's military despite her psychotic uncle wanting to take over her kingdom.
Critic as Grumper: Princess, why did you dispose of our army?
Critic as Oriana: Well, when in the history books has anybody ever taken a government down?
Critic!Grumper: Ah-hah, you're joking, right?
Critic!Oriana: And even if someone did try to break in, I would just hold my dress on both sides and think happy thoughts. Doesn't that sound the most logical?
Critic!Grumper: This conversation makes me feel drunk.
- A minor copypasta/meme generally associated with Touhou Project:
pls rember that wen u feel scare or frigten
never forget ttimes wen u feeled happy
wen day is dark alway rember happy day
- 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."
- 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.
- The title character of Steven Universe has Gem powers tied to his emotional state. In "Steven Floats", he leaps high into the air In a Single Bound... only to have trouble controlling his descent. He resorts to this trope to save himself, with mixed results.
- Of course, this is Truth in Television; you've probably heard it yourself once or twice, and it's generally a healthy enough mindset to go through life with. However, like all good advice, sometimes it gets glorified to "universal problem-solver" levels when that's not quite the case. Be wary of saying this to anyone with clinical depression, because then you will just come off as smug and condescending; someone who is clinically depressed is incapable at the physiological level of pulling off this trope.
- The idea of "comfort characters" and general "comfort media" tend to revolve very heavily around this trope, with the idea being that some people (particularly neurodivergent individuals) use certain fictional characters or entire works as sources of reassurance and retreat during mental low points. The practice is fairly controversial, particularly due to it leading some to adopt possessive and entitled attitudes towards a given character or work in extreme cases, but for the most part it's generally seen as fairly benign.