9 Things To Work On In Your 20s If You Want To Be Happy Forever

Happiness isn’t a final destination, it’s something you can carry with you along your journey through life.

Happiness may look different for people, but certain aspects of life hold us all back. I’ve seen it time and time again: people neglect parts of their life in favor of money and climbing the corporate ladder, only to be sorely disappointed.

Or, like me, they run away from their issues. When I was struggling with my eating disorder and an abusive boyfriend, I thought happiness would quite literally be found through a plane ticket. I opted to travel the world for two years, only to realize that true happiness wasn’t found in foreign lands.

But life can be lived differently. And I’d bet every one of you would like to be happy, right?

Well, happiness is about taking care of certain parts of your life and cutting out others. Yes, it takes some tending to, but the results will last a life-time.

1. Learn About Emotional Intelligence And Strengthen It

Emotional Intelligence is defined as “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.”

Essentially, it’s how well you express yourself and interact with others’ emotions.

Being able to identify and handle your emotions accurately will be a key player in determining your happiness. People often try to ignore their feelings, only to have them explode in their face (or someone else’s).

The sooner you’re able to have a better understanding of why you feel the way you do, the sooner you’ll be on your way to a happy life.

2. Cut Out Toxic People From Your Life

You may not realize it, but other people can drastically affect your emotions.

When you’re spending time with someone, they’re either building you up or bringing you down. Guess which of those categories “toxic friends” falls into?

A toxic friend is the kind of person that’s always negative. The kind of person that will throw a back-handed compliment at you, only to make themselves feel better. The kind of person that takes but never gives.

These people will be a huge detriment to your happiness. Learning that you deserve friends that build you up and cutting out the rest will set you up for a happier future.

3. Learn About Finances And Budgeting

Most of us aren’t born understanding how money works. I mean, it seems easy enough: you make money and you spend it.

But when you have bills to pay every month and subscriptions you signed up for and forgot about, you can quickly start spending more than you make. And there’s nothing worse than being in debt because you didn’t know how to properly budget.

Create a spreadsheet or a list of everything you must spend your money on each month. These include groceries, bills, rent, health insurance, etc. Then subtract that number from the amount you make each month. What’s leftover is for you to decide how you want to spend.

I suggest saving at least 10% of that number.

Keeping track of your finances is going to be one of the most responsible things you can do for your future self. You may not realize it now, but credit scores do really matter.

4. Be Pickier About Who You Date

Please don’t spend your 20s dating a bunch of assholes because they’re the “bad boy/girl” type. You will regret it later in life, I promise.

Take care of your heart now. Consider why it is you may have dating patterns that cause you pain. Try giving the nice guy/girl a chance. You could be pleasantly surprised.

Emotional trauma is a hard thing to undo. You can’t always avoid it, but the least you can do is work towards making better dating decisions to avoid it.

5. Work On Loving Yourself

The one relationship you will be in for the rest of your life is the one with yourself.

Your body isn’t going anywhere. Your mind isn’t going anywhere. Your past isn’t going anywhere.

Use your 20s to really get to know yourself. Figure out your own unique interests. Tell your body you love it every day. Practice self-care whenever you’re feeling down. Create a love for yourself.

Creating a stable relationship with yourself is something that will last a lifetime—better to get it started now.

6. Invest In Your Hobbies And Interests

Please don’t let the “real world” be the death of your unique interests.

Take the time (and the money, if need be) to invest in your hobbies. Being creative as an adult is one way to forget all the worries of the real world. It’s something that’s entirely for yourself; something no one else can take away from you.

And happiness comes when you do the things you genuinely love. So why keep yourself from the hobbies that you know bring you bliss?

7. Travel Or Read About The World

Your perspective on how the world works is limited. It’s created from the bubble you live in and the experiences you’ve been through.

Traveling the world allows you to see that things are different. You’ll realize that people think and act differently, and that doesn’t mean they’re wrong.

But I know there are many reasons that travel isn’t an option for some people. If you can’t travel the world, then read about. Find authors from different cultures than yours; read about experiences that differ from your own.

Having your perspective widen will make you a more accepting, caring person. And with these crazy times we live in, the world can use a bit more of that.

8. Let Go Of Expectations

Expectations are premeditated resentments. And this goes for your own life too.

There’s no possible way that we can ever know how life will play out. Sure, we can hope for a particular future and work towards goals, but life is unpredictable.

And when you’re in your early 20s, there’s no possible way that you can know what will truly make you happy. Your brain makes assumptions of what will make you happy off of what worked for others or what’s portrayed in the media. But we won’t know that until after we try.

So let go of your expectations for your life. Allow yourself to experience things and decide they’re just not for you.

And while you’re at it, let go of those silly numbers for when life events will happen. You know, the ones like I’ll be married by 25 and having kids by 28. Finding a life partner and having children should come naturally. You don’t want to do those things out of the desperation to stick to arbitrary numbers.

Life will happen when and how it is meant to happen. Trust that the path you go down is in your best interest.

9. Get Used To Feeling “Lost”

Our 20s is a time for going out into the world and understanding who we are, a time to question everything and define ourselves as an individual.

And that’s a pretty scary journey to go on.

But rest assured that we all go on it. Rest assured that we all have no idea what we’re doing. Rest assured that at some point, every person has felt “lost” in life.

Feeling “lost” is normal and, better yet, a good thing. It means you’re questioning the narrative you’re currently living, deciding whether or not it’s the right one for you. And that, my friend, is called growth.

Through uncertainty comes exploration and through exploration comes profound powerful growth. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

About the author

Kirstie Taylor

Dating + Relationship Writer & Coach