With news that 40 per cent of A-level grades have been downgraded this year and GCSE results calculated differently, many young people have been left bitterly disappointed at their results. Experts agree that it is not surprising to feel frustration, sadness and even grief or anger at the situation, but it's possible to find hope and a little positivity, too. The suggestions below might help.
How to cheer yourself up if you're dissappointed with your grades
1. Console yourself by thinking about all the wildly successful people who flunked their exams
Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of university to become two of the wealthiest people in the world. Broadcaster Clare Balding wanted to get into Oxbridge, but she didn't get the grades. Jon Snow, the super-successful TV journalist, (not Game of Thrones' Lord Commander of the Night's Watch) got one C in English for his A levels and failed his other subjects and described himself as 'a complete dunderhead'. Their secret? A plan B. Balding took two years out, retook her exams, and got into Cambridge. Snow went to college, took two more A levels and eventually found a uni place via clearing. "Toil in hope, and you will get there," he advised. And Jeremy Clarkson reminds Twitter every year without fail how his poor grades turned into gold.
A level results not great? Don’t worry, I got a C and 2 Us and I’m currently building a large house with far reaching views of the Cotswolds
— Jeremy Clarkson (@JeremyClarkson) August 13, 2020
2. Plug in your earbuds and cue up some upbeat music
A 2013 study in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that people who played positive music for just 12 minutes felt happier. The secret? You have to want to feel cheerier while you listen, otherwise, it doesn't work. Consider pulling on your trainers while you do it. A 2001 study had college students run on a treadmill for 10 or 15 minutes. Both groups of students reported feeling happier and less anxious afterwards.
Read more: How to appeal exam grades
3. Meet up with – or at least Zoom – your most optimistic friends
It's tempting to hide away when things go wrong. But a 2017 study from the University of Warwick found that having a positive social circle is associated with good moods. OK, you might not want to hang out with that kid who got 5 A*s right now, but were you even doing that before? (Pro tip: The Touch Up My Appearance filter on Zoom is sure-fire self-esteem lifter)
4. Hug your mum for an instant mood-lift
A 10-second hug can lower stress hormones, and studies show it also boosts multiple hormones connected to wellbeing and happiness. Alternatively, petting your pooch or favourite feline can be as beneficial as snuggling a person. And let's face it, pets are the ultimate non-judgemental companions right now. They couldn't care less what your exam results are, just keep stroking those ears.
5. Do something you are brilliant at to restore your crushed self-esteem
OK, so the exams weren't perfect, but we all have our strengths. Bake a cake, paint a picture, take a great photo for your Instagram or simply make a friend laugh. Even thinking about your unique strengths can help – it's almost impossible to be miserable if you're feeling proud. Psychologist and happiness expert Martin Seligman says, "Look back and find three things that went well. Reflect on them, and even replay them in your mind, revisiting those good feelings." Prince Harry scraped a D in geography and a B – possibly with the help of his teacher - in Art. He said, "Exams were always a nightmare, but anything like kicking a ball around or playing PlayStation – or flying – I generally find a little bit easier than walking."
6. Help someone else
Maybe a friend is struggling even more than you are right now and could do with an uplifting text, funny video via Snapchat or the offer of a meet-up today? In a study carried out by Iowa State University, researchers found that "offering kindness to others… reduces anxiety and increases happiness and feelings of social connection". The study found that this worked even when people only thought nice things about others. And it took just 12 minutes to feel the effect.
7. Find something to laugh about
According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter helps relieve stress and improve your mood. How? Laughter increases the levels of dopamine in our brains. This is a chemical that elevates our mood. So head to YouTube and find something silly to watch. Want the same effect, only faster? Studies show that even plastering a fake smile on your face will trigger a hormone cascade which makes you happier and less anxious. Frankly, your brain is a sucker for a grin and doesn't care if you are really happy or merely faking it until you make it. Which you will.