Your 20s can be tough. There’s no way around that.

Your 20s are a complicated decade full of figuring out who you are, and what you really want in life. This has become even more difficult in today’s age of Instagram. 

We’re comparing ourselves to others’ lives—others’ careers, relationships, families, vacations—hundreds of times a day. We’re so inundated by images of other people—people we don’t even know!—that it’s harder than ever to tune into ourselves, and what we really want to be and do.

The other hard part of our 20s, I think, is the sheer amount of decisions we’re forced to make. Decisions we have to make when we don’t really even know ourselves—where to live, what job to take, who to marry, who to date.

Looking back, I’m not sure how my 22-year-old self navigated starting my career, living in New York City, and finding friends, alone. But you know what? I did it. I figured it out, with some good decisions as well as lots of mistakes along the way. Basically I bumbled my way through it. (No, not the dating app—that didn’t exist when I was 22. I’m 29, okay?)

Long story short, my 20s have been full of ups, downs, and WTFs. Probably a lot like this decade of your life has been — or will be — too. And now, at 29, I’m living a life I could never have dreamed of at 22—or even 27.

So, what can we do? For starters, knowing that your 20s probably won’t be cheery all the time helps. 

What also helps: Knowing what makes you truly happy. Little happiness hacks, like these, can seriously build up over time to help you maintain a relative stable level of happiness (with some peaks and valleys) throughout your tumultuous twenties.

In fact, I’ve realized that happiness is more about the little things in life—not the major life moments. Right now, I don’t have a lot of the bigger things that  I thought would bring me joy—a high-paying job, a steady partner, a nice apartment—but you know what? I’m happier than I’ve been in years. 

Little happiness hacks, like these, can seriously build over time to help you maintain a relative stable level of happiness (with some peaks and valleys) throughout your tumultuous twenties.

Here’s my list of the little things in my life that have reliably made me happy throughout my 20s.

What’s on your list?

My Happiness List

Interesting conversations with (non-creepy) people at airport bars.

Re-watching The Office and Friends. Both incredibly politically incorrect these days; both still incredibly hilarious.

Not having to wash my hair. And good hair days, as a result.

Becoming friends with inspiring women. The ladies that see you for who you are, and who lift you up.

Freshly shaved legs.

Hearing a friend say she’s really happy where she is in life.

A really good—strong enough, but not too strong—cup of iced coffee. Is it just me, or they harder than ever to come by these days?

Sheet masks. And facials.

Finding common ground with your parents that sparks a great conversation.

Spaghetti squash. You guys, you can have “pasta” that’s low in calories and carbs, every single night if you want! It’s truly a miracle.

A good glass of red wine on a winter night.

A good glass of rosé on a summer day.

The latest Chainsmokers album. Don’t @ me.

Learning how to be happy by myself.

An hours-long phone call with an old friend.

Seeing just the right quote at just the right time.

Groups of little kids. Especially those little kids who hold onto a rope when they’re walking as a group somewhere. Omg.

Getting a tattoo that has a special meaning. Not going to lie—I was terrified at first, but damn, I am glad I got it.

Learning new skills. Whether it’s how to use a (real) camera, a new topic I’m writing about, or a totally new job.

Crushing a project at work. Still love that positive feedback.

Giving my time back to others. Volunteering at a shelter in NYC and coaching Girls on the Run have been some of my most rewarding moments in my 20s.

Lagree method classes on the megaformer. Caveat: With welcoming instructors.

Running 3 miles. And feeling really damn good after.

Sunsets. Any sunset.

Swimming. In any body of water, but ideally an ocean or lake.

When you take a selfie in a hat and you actually look cute.

Waking up early on a Saturday. Ideally when you’re not hungover, and with fun plans ahead.

Hikes with incredible views at the end.

Making a really good new recipe.

Driving with your windows down to a favorite song.

Connecting with cool strangers on Instagram. Hi, I love your page! 🙂 This has made helped me feel so much less alone lately.

Exploring places you’ve never been before.

Visiting places that used to mean a lot to you. They bring back amazing memories—and you suddenly see these places (and the people in the memories) for what they really are.

Incredibly good books. The books that make you excited to get in bed and read. The books that make you sad when you finish them.

Heated vinyasa yoga. I swear it solves 99% of your problems.

I’m a freelance writer and health coach currently based in Park City, UT. When I’m not writing, I’m probably hiking, doing yoga, drinking wine — or a combination of all of the above. Keep up with me on Instagram.


  • Locke Hughes

    freelance writer. health coach

    Hi! I'm a freelance journalist for sites such as The Huffington Post, Women's Health, SELF, Shape, and Greatist, among others. My goal is to empower people with the knowledge and tools to lead happier, healthier lives. I also work one-on-one with individuals as a certified health coach and trainer. Learn more about me at