13 Ways to Be a Better Person in 2020

Each year, around this time, we look back at the year’s most read Styles articles and ask: 1. What just happened? 2. What does it all mean? 3. What can we learn from these stories to live a better life in the new year?

Answers below.

1. Just … Be Jonathan Van Ness

The “Queer Eye” grooming expert and memoirist embodies many of the tenets of better personhood: He overcame a difficult past (sexual abuse, drug addiction and an H.I.V. diagnosis) to become the gorgeous and inspiring person we know today. “I want people to realize you’re never too broken to be fixed,” he said.

And perhaps the most useful lesson in this profile: “Namaste” is a gracious yet effective way to end an unwanted conversation.

The article: Jonathan Van Ness of ‘Queer Eye’ Comes Out by Alex Hawgood

2. Don’t, Like, Cheat

Move over, helicopters, there’s a new problematic parent in town. Enter the snowplow parent — one who removes obstacles from a child’s path, clearing the way to success. They came into the spotlight this year with their most extreme behavior yet: the college admissions scandal of 2019, in which parents who are famous or rich, or both, paid universities and coaches to cheat their kids’ ways into college.

The article: How Parents Are Robbing Their Children of Adulthood by Claire Cain Miller and Jonah Engel Bromwich

Related: Lori Loughlin’s Daughter Is Caught Up in College Admissions Scandal by Jonah Engel Bromwich, Valeriya Safronova and Caity Weaver

3. Hug a Boomer/Xer/Millennial/Zoomer

In case you missed it: Gen Z is mad at boomers for the state of the world; boomers are mad at Gen Z for being so dismissive; Gen X feels forgotten and yet resents even themselves; and, not making anything much better, is the fact that five generations are currently coexisting in the workplace. May we recommend our 2018 piece on intergenerational friendship?

The article: ‘OK Boomer’ Marks the End of Friendly Generational Relations by Taylor Lorenz

Related: Gen X Is a Mess by The Styles Desk, My So-Karen Life by Sarah Miller and Young People Are Going to Save Us All From Office Life by Claire Cain Miller and Sanam Yar

4. Think Before You Cancel

Sometimes canceling is warranted. And sometimes it’s just bullying, as some of these teenagers’ stories show. As one kid put it, “We all do cringey things and make dumb mistakes and whatever. But social media’s existence has brought that into a place where people can take something you did back then and make it who you are now.”

The article: Tales From the Teenage Cancel Culture by Sanam Yar and Jonah Engel Bromwich

5. Live Your Life Like a Rom-Com

As this Modern Love essay showed, sometimes a practical decision (not to get married at 18) can lead to a very romantic story (planning to meet at the New York Public Library at 4 p.m. on the first Sunday in April five years later — and then doing it) and a happily ever after (they’ve been married for 35 years).

The article: Let’s Meet Again in Five Years by Karen B. Kaplan

6. Protect Thy Acid Mantle

Yeah, we had no idea what that was, either. It’s “the protective film of natural oils, amino acids and sweat that covers your skin. Damage it with too much scrubbing or neutralize it with alkaline washes and you’re on your way to barrier problems: inflammation, allergies, breakouts.” In summary: You’re probably using too many products on your face, so … stop.

The article: All of Those Products Are Making Your Skin Worse by Courtney Rubin

7. Sleep Until At Least 6 A.M.

We can’t all be Tim Cook, Jennifer Aniston, Bob Iger or Kris Jenner and wake up around 4 a.m. without serious impact on our immune systems, mental cognition, stress levels and blood pressure. But it’s cute that for a minute we thought we could.

The article: Waking Up at 4 A.M. Every Day Is the Key to Success. Or to Getting a Cold. by Adam Popescu

8. Buy Stock in Leggings

Because they’re not going away anytime soon, writes our fashion director and chief fashion critic: “For Gen Y, they tend to be lifestyle signifiers that have more to do with health and activity than, say, everyday work wear; for Gen Z-ers, who largely reject uniformity and traditional labels, they are simply a basic, the equivalent of jeans. They are something you put on without thought.”

The article: It’s Possible Leggings Are the Future. Deal With It. by Vanessa Friedman

9. Use Your Office Bathroom as It Was Intended

Pooping is a privilege — if you’re doing it normally, it means your body is working as it should, and isn’t that nice? So, to quote the Mamas and the Papas in a song that had nothing to do with bathroom behavior: “Go where you wanna go.” Your colleagues don’t actually care.

The article: Women Poop. Sometimes At Work. Get Over It. by Jessica Bennett and Amanda McCall

10. Learn Your Personality Type

This Modern Love writer swore by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, controversial though it may be, as a lens into romantic compatibility. So what’s your type?

The article: Want Lasting Love? First, Take This Test by Lauren Apfel

Related (and for alternative tests): Personality Tests Are the Astrology of the Office by Emma Goldberg

11. Take a Quick Little Break From Booze

You may be planning a Drynuary, which makes you among the sober curious, “a new generation of kinda-sorta temporary temperance crusaders” who are taking a more mindful approach to their drinking, but don’t feel that their relationship to alcohol requires a 12-step program. As a result, some of these folks feel so good that they attend things like early morning raves. But, don’t worry: You don’t have to.

The article: The New Sobriety by Alex Williams

12. Do Nothing for 20 Minutes

Another thing to file under Things That Other People Swear By is Transcendental Meditation. For one, Katy Perry has said of T.M., “I will feel neuro pathways open, a halo of lights. And I’m so much sharper. I just fire up!” Our wellness columnist took a course, didn’t quite feel a halo of lights, but found that the routine took hold and helped give her perspective throughout the day.

The article: A 20-Minute Exercise You Can Do Anywhere by Marisa Meltzer

13. Or Do Absolutely Nothing for Even Longer

These San Francisco dudes are depriving themselves of many things, including conversation and eye contact, in order to experience more feelings later. According to James Sinka, a practitioner of dopamine fasting, “Your brain and your biology have become adapted to high levels of stimulus so our project is to reset those receptors so you’re satiated again.” In other words, a life without exclamation points — at least for a few quiet days.

The article: How to Feel Nothing Now, in Order to Feel More Later by Nellie Bowles

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