‘Open When You Need to Smile’ Ideas & Messages


Nobody wakes up in the morning thinking that they want to have a bad day. But as much as we try to stay positive, sometimes there’s no getting over whatever’s getting us down. Illness, a death in the family, challenges at work—any one of these things can cause a person to be in a funk. If someone in your life is going through a hard time, you likely want nothing more than to lift their spirits. 

Jump ahead to these sections:

If you need ideas on how to make someone’s day, keep on reading. We’ll share ideas on gifts that may cheer up someone in your life. We’ll also break down the steps in writing a letter of encouragement and provide examples of what a letter like that might look like. 

‘Open When You Need to Smile’ Present or Theme Ideas

When people in our lives are having a hard time, there are so many ways we can lift their spirits. You can send cards with “just because” messages to make them smile. Or you can pick out thoughtful gifts to lift their spirits. Here are some suggestions for gifts that could brighten a loved one’s day. 

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1. Gift certificate to their favorite restaurant

Did you know comfort food can actually provide comfort? If your loved one has a favorite restaurant, pick them up a gift card they can keep in their wallet. Next time they need a pick-me-up, they can treat themselves to a nice, comforting meal.  

2. Care package

A care package is a tried and true way to cheer someone up when they’re down. Gather together an assortment of items that you know will cheer up your loved one. This can include things like their favorite snacks and drinks. 

3. Home spa experience

When people are stressed, it’s often because they aren’t practicing good self-care. Give them the tools they need to have a spa night at home.

This can include bath bombs, scented candles, and a gel eye mask. It could even include a bottle of wine and a curated playlist of relaxing songs. Get creative, so they can get relaxed. 

4. Spa gift certificate

Sometimes a change of scenery is really what a person going through a hard time needs. Instead of giving them a home spa experience, get a gift certificate for a local spa. They can take a little time to unwind and indulge in a massage, facial, or pedicure.

If something might hold them back from using the certificate, offer to help eliminate that roadblock as part of the gift. For instance, if they’re acting as a caregiver, offer to sit with their loved one while they go take a break. 

Steps for Writing an ‘Open When You Need to Smile’ Letter

It’s not always easy to know what to say when someone’s having a bad day. The best rule of thumb is to speak from the heart. People tend to recognize sincerity when they hear it.

Just knowing that you care will be enough for them. But if you want to elevate a letter of encouragement to a whole new level, you can also follow these steps. 

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Step 1: Anticipate the need for the letter

If you know your loved one is under a lot of stress, you can write an “open when” letter for when they need some encouragement.

Pay attention to what’s going on in their life. Is your wife in the midst of a grueling work project? Write up a letter of encouragement and give it to her on a day when she feels like giving up. Does your father have an ailing parent? Write a letter to help him know he’s not alone, and have him open it on a day when he needs emotional support.

When you pay attention to people’s lives, you can see the speedbumps they might be facing. Be prepared to comfort them in those moments. 

Step 2: Make the purpose of the letter clear

If you’re writing a letter in advance for someone to open when they have a hard day, make that clear. Tell them verbally as you hand them a letter that it’s not to open now. But also write across the front of the envelope when they should open it.

That might be a specific date, like after a major school deadline has passed. Or it could even say something like “Break glass in case of emotional emergency.” If your loved one is stressed, they may forget the purpose of this letter. Writing its reason for existence helps solidify its purpose in the recipient’s mind. 

Step 3: Praise them

When someone is facing personal or professional challenges, they may be down on themselves.

An “open when” letter is a great opportunity to list the qualities you admire in the recipient. Reading this will make them feel good about themselves. It may also remind them they have the tools to get through this situation. 

Step 4: Don’t be afraid to make a joke

Even if you’re trying to take an inspirational tone in an “open when” letter, it’s okay to make a joke. Laughter can trigger the release of endorphins.

Endorphins are natural feel-good chemicals that promote an overall sense of well-being. Making a loved one laugh can actually improve their mental health and get them in a better state of mind. 

Step 5: Offer words of comfort

Including jokes and humor are definitely okay in a letter of encouragement. But it’s also important to be comforting and sincere. People can really recognize and appreciate authenticity. If you speak from your heart, they will know. 

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Step 6: Be encouraging

If your loved one is struggling, remind them that they will get through this. Let them know everything they have going for them. If they’re struggling with challenges at work, remind them how they’ve worked through similar issues in the past.

Point out the qualities—their intelligence, their sensitivity, etc.—that give them strength. Above all else, remind them that they aren’t alone. Let them know you’re an asset that they can always count on, too. 

‘Open When You Need to Smile’ Letter Examples

We can’t always be there for our loved ones when they need cheering up. They might have to leave town to care for an ailing parent while you stay behind for work. They might have an emotionally-draining job that keeps them out of the house for long hours. In cases like these, an “open when” letter can come in handy. 

Slip your loved one a letter like this and tell them to open it when they need cheering up. Just knowing you care enough to write a letter like this will lift their mood. And the next time they need it, they’ll have it handy even if you can’t be with them.

Here are a few examples of what a letter like that should like. Obviously, they should be personal and specific to your particular circumstances. 

Example one

Dear Mark,

I’m just sending you this letter to open on a day you’re feeling really alone. I remember when my mom was dying. It’s the most isolating feeling in the world. Being a caretaker is hard, especially when the patient is someone you care about deeply. I know this feels like the hardest thing you’ve ever been through in your life. But I also know that you wouldn’t be able to live with yourself if you weren’t there.

The good news is, you’re one of the strongest people I know. You’ve always been the rock in our family. When I had my own health issues after our daughter was born, you took amazing care of me. You also kept the household running and kept up with your job. You have experience doing this kind of thing. It’s why I know you’re doing great. (Even though I have eaten your cooking, and hope you’re getting takeout for the sake of your patient!)

It’s hard being away from you right now. I just want to be there to support you the way you’re supporting your mom. But I’m holding down the fort here. I’ve been mowing the lawn (well, I’ve been paying the neighbor kids to mow the lawn), and the dogs are doing great. We all miss you though, and we’ll be waiting to give you hugs and kisses when you come back. I won’t lick your face, but I can’t speak for the dogs.


Example two

Dear Miranda,

Even though we live together, it feels like we haven’t seen each other much lately! I miss you, but I know it’s for the best reason. I know doing a residency is incredibly grueling work. But it’s just part of the process. You’ll make it through this, just like you made it through med school. And I’ll have your back the whole way. 

I feel really lucky that I married such a brilliant and ambitious person. You are saving people’s lives. You change the world every day thanks to the career you’ve chosen and just by being the person you are. You’re an inspiration.

I know you’re exhausted right now. I know you’re stressed. I know you miss me as much as I miss you. But at the end of the day, I know this will all be worth it. I hope you’re proud of all your hard work. I know I am.”


“Open When You Need to Smile” Messages, Letters, and Gifts 

The world can be a sad and scary place sometimes. As much as we wish we could shield our loved ones from grief and hardship, we can’t. But we can try to make them feel better when they’re down.

Part of this is anticipating when they might face stressful situations. In doing so, you can be prepared with a gift or letter to help them smile, even through hardship. Small gestures like this serve to remind our loved ones that this too shall pass, and better times are right around the corner. 

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