The tumultuous 20s are the most defining years of your life. This is the decade where you step into the big bad world of jobs, bills, health insurance, rent and EMIs; it’s basically your enrollment into “Adulting 101”. Now, you’re expected to do things like support yourself financially and invest and save what you earn – when all you had to worry about till now was buying the latest pair of Levis before the sale ended.
Nothing is constant because you’re trying to figure out where you fit in the world, all while wondering what the hell you were thinking when you decided to major in English Literature. It’s a time for mistakes, mishaps, experiments and life lessons; we would even go as far as saying you’re bound to lead multiple lives in these 10 years! At times it will feel like you’re riding a psychotic horse towards a burning stable, but you can find solace in the fact that this is a completely normal phenomenon!
With our ultimate guide to being happy in your 20s, you can now try and make the most of this exciting phase of your life and prepare yourself equally well for the future.
1) The best things in life are free
When you’re starting out with your first job and juggling a host of other adult responsibilities, you may think you’ll never have money to enjoy the good things in life – that’s not true. We’re here to tell you that not every life experience costs money. Go hiking, go fishing, go on a road trip, visit a museum, volunteer at an animal shelter, have a picnic with friends, play a sport; the options are infinite, you need only use your imagination! It will help you appreciate the finer things in life and you’ll never be crippled for fun things to do when the funds are low.
2) Meet new people, make new friends, build your network
This is probably one of the most important things you should do in your 20s to pave the way for success later in life. Now, we’re all not social butterflies, but at this age, we tend to possess a perennial source of energy that compels us to socialise with our kind. Trust us, this phase doesn’t last for many people! Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself and strike up a conversation at the opportune time; connections can prove to be one of your most valuable assets. As you get older, you tend to settle into a comfort zone with your own circle of friends and generally find socialising to be a tedious exercise.
3) Learn how to cook
We can’t stress this enough! Aside from saving money, you will be healthier and less dependent on outside food. Try to cook at home as much as possible and limit your outside food consumption to once a week. Some of us think that cooking is a chore, and sometimes it can be, but as long as you keep it simple, you will never regret learning it. Once you’re able to master a couple of basic dishes and familiarise yourself with what basic spices taste like, it will be surprisingly easy to improvise and create your own recipes! Besides, cooking by itself is a therapy for happiness.
4) Drink in moderation
We feel invincible when we’re young and healthy, so we tend to forget that our bodies can take abuse only for a certain time. It’s important to be aware of these changes as you get older. College was like an ongoing block party for most of us, however, when you’re in your 20s you need to realise the importance of moderation when it comes to partying. This is necessary not only for health reasons, because your body will become less tolerant of the continuous boozing as you age, but also for the kind of picture you paint of yourself if you don’t know your limits.
5) Start saving money
You might not realise how crucial this is until you find yourself in a financial bind. It’s always smart to set aside a small portion of your salary each month as savings. This will come in handy during difficult times especially when you’re in between jobs or suddenly in need of money for an emergency. By the time you reach your 30s, you’ll have a nice little nest egg you can fall back on if required, especially if you start considering making bigger investments, like having a place of your own.
6) Prioritise people and choose your friends wisely
The people in your life make up a large part of who you are and who you eventually become. Some are fleeting, some are there only when you’re at your peak and some will be there for you even when you hit rock bottom. Give them importance accordingly! There are friends who will stick with you no matter what and make a conscious effort to be in your life – do not take them for granted; same goes for your family. It’s easy to drift apart from your family when you’re busy making your mark on the world, but spend as much time as you can with them because they cannot be replaced.
7) Take care of your health
This doesn’t just mean popping over to the doctor when you’ve got a 102 fever, nor does it mean popping pills at the hint of a cold. It means eating healthy, exercising daily, getting enough rest and sleep as well as going for regular health check-ups. Maintaining your health is easy but it takes discipline and commitment; the older you get, the faster your health tends to slip away and the harder it is to get it back on track, so it’s always better to start early!
8) Don’t compare yourself to other people your age
This can send you into a dangerous spiral of self-loathing and depression. Not all of us are born geniuses or business gurus, and honestly, even they have had their fair share of hurdles and setbacks in life before becoming successful. You need to live your life according to your terms and at your pace. Focus on cultivating your own interests, talents and skills so that you can make a living out of your passion someday – this is what all of us aspire for but only a handful end up finding their true calling.
9) Put yourself first without putting others down
As you start your own family and have kids, the opportunities to put yourself first will be few and far between. Your 20s is the best time to be a little selfish and focus on what you want in life. However, be careful not to step on people to get ahead or get what you want. As we said before, your connections are one of the most important assets you could hope to have. Moreover, it’s an incredibly small world now, you can never be too careful about how you treat people and interact with them.
10) Set high standards
Whether it’s at work or in your personal life, aim to set high yet achievable standards and make a conscious effort to follow them. This will set the tone for how you conduct yourself in your personal as well as professional relationships going forward. Strive for an excellent work ethic and don’t shy away from going the extra mile – you will create the impression that you are proactive, hardworking and reliable. You’ll find that people will be willing to vouch for you without any hesitation, which is essential as you work your way up the ladder or if you choose to start out on your own.
11) Have fun!
While working hard and being responsible is important, you should also remember to have fun and not take things too seriously. If you get carried away trying to make a living you just might forget how to live! Spend time with family and friends, take regular breaks, take up a hobby or go on an adventure. Be open to trying new things; the more you experiment and explore the world, the more interesting and attractive you become as a person.
12) Travel as much as possible
The best times to travel are your 20s and post retirement. The latter, of course, may allow you to indulge a little more in the luxurious side of travelling because you’ll have the money. Money, however, should never confine you to one place. In your 20s, you have to take advantage of the fact that (more likely than not) you are borderline poor and really challenge your ability to make the most of what you have. You will also learn the all-important ‘value of money’ life hack when you travel on a low-budget so that even when you have enough money later in life, you’ll still be able to get the most out of it. You only live once and there’s a lot of ground to cover, so get packing and get cracking!
13) Don’t waste precious time
You will make a lot of bad choices in your 20s, that’s the reality of it, but the good part is that you don’t have to live with them if you so choose. If you hate your job, find a better one; if people in your life are sucking the joy out of it, cut them loose; if you’re in a bad relationship, get out. You might drift for a while but you’ll be happier for it. Your happiness should never be a compromise at any point, and your 20s is the ideal time to pave a path for yourself that ensures it never has to be.