Self Discovery

20 Things About Happiness I’ve Learned By Age 20

"Throw kindness around like confetti" and other (hopefully) insightful tidbits

On 4/20 I turned 20 with a wholesome and marijuana-free picnic in a botanical garden. Although in the US, the big celebration is for 21, 20 is meaningful since you can no longer correctly identify as a teenager. Given this, you feel like you should have figured some key things out—like how to mail packages internationally and the correct way to chop onions. Although I’m still struggling on these fronts, I’ve lived enough hours and read enough self-help books on vacation to have picked up some tips on how to live a happy life. Here are twenty of those.

  1. Remember other people’s birthdays. I’m awful at this (like I’m even iffy on the deets of my immediate family’s birthdays), and each year, when way more people remember my birthday than I wished happy birthday, I resolve to fix this. There are a few tools for this: you can export Birthdays off Facebook or use an app like Punchbowl.
  2. Try to wake up at the same time every day, and not super late. This is something else I’m bad at, and nothing makes me more depressed than waking up after noon. If everyone is eating lunch while you’re eating breakfast, it’s too late. Of course, sometimes you go clubbing or something, but in general, strive to be one of those people who wakes up at a decent time. If you wake up at the same time every day, your REM sleep patterns adjust making the alarm clock way less miserable.
  3. Exercise in a tolerable way. This is the most challenging point on this list for me and I’ve given it a lot of thought. If you don’t do it, you’ll probs feel guilty all the time and unhealthy. If you do do it and hate it, well that sucks. So make it fun! For me, that means only going to classes (one of which features a hilarious ex-drag-queen instructor) and cute gym clothes, but you do you.
  4. Check in with yourself periodically. My quick check-in is asking myself how I feel on a scale of 1-10, and if I’m below a 10, I ask myself why and what I can do to fix it.
  5. Go outside every day it’s not freezing cold and raining. If your life is confined to Whole Foods, your classroom, and your house, you are not living. Now, if you live somewhere like London or Seattle like me, “every day it’s not freezing and cold” is like 10% of the year, so you’re kind of off the hook. But if you’re living in Barcelona, no excuses. Get that vitamin D!
  6. Volunteer.  If there’s one thing everyone says is the key to being a happier person, it’s giving back. Doing better at this is my personal resolution for turning 20. Once you’re older and past having to worry about looking uncool not drinking at parties and fake IDs, you can worry about being a decent person and making the world a better place
  7. Hang out with people you like. This seems obvious, but I’m sure you can relate to hanging out with people and realizing you don’t even want to be there. So leave and find people you like! There are billions of people on earth, no need to spend your time with those you don’t like.
  8. Forgive people. The way I see it, by not forgiving someone you’re allowing them to hurt you even more since you have to carry the weight of hating them while they go about their life probably not even caring you dislike them. Nobody needs that weight! Forgive and forget.
  9. Spend on experiences. They won’t last as long as material things but you get a lot more bang for the buck when it comes to great memories.
  10. Invest in clothes that make you feel beautiful. A couple killer pieces are much better than a wardrobe of blah.
  11. Keep a happiness journal. I have one where I write the best day moment of every day and it’s one of the best ways to remind myself all the things I’m grateful for. If you want to be happy, start with being grateful.
  12. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. A lot of my favorite memories were times I did something I wasn’t sure about—like singing “Ignition” at a karaoke bar. Trust that if it goes wrong, it’ll at least be a funny memory.
  13. Learn to cook decently. Unless you want to live off of UberEats and microwavable food. Just imagine a life where you have good food every night!
  14. Throw dinner parties. This also requires step #7. There’s just nothing greater than chilling with all your friends, eating good food, and maybe even having Ben and Jerrys for dessert.
  15. Travel—preferably with friends. This is the secret formula to all the best days of my life. Obviously/unfortunately, we can’t do this 24/7, but if you ask me, there’s no finer way to spend your money than on cheap flight tickets.
  16. Go into each day in charming mode. “Charming mode” is a concept I came up with after my friend was blown away by how much more funny, nice, and bubbly my friend was while Face Timing this cute dude. We all have one—it’s your modus operandi when you go to a party and are having a great time. Well, why not just do it all the time? Everyone will like you better and you’ll probably like yourself better too.
  17. Pamper yourself sometimes. I’m talking about those days where you paint your nails, take a bubble bath, put on a face mask, and maybe even get your eyebrows threaded. Treat yourself.
  18. Don’t check up on your ex. Exes are big happiness vacuums and best left turned off. Resist the urge!
  19. Study in cafes or other aesthetically pleasing places. Everyone has work to do, and a lot of the time it’s not fun, so the least you can do is do it somewhere nice.
  20. Realize there’s enough of everything good in the world to be happy for other people. Money, fame, hot future husbands, sunshine, Kylie cosmetics—you can have it too! The root of a lot of competitiveness and jealousy is a fear of scarcity. Don’t worry, there’s enough to go around.


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Tigerlily is a writer and musician living in London. She has released two...