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16 Things That Made This Terrible Year Just A Little Bit Better

The TikToks, gadgets, memes, TV Shows, recipes, albums, and more that helped us get through this train wreck of a trip around the sun.

One unexpected result of such a patently bad year is that the things that brought us joy REALLY did a lot of work to get us through.

These are just some of the things that helped BuzzFeed employees feel less lonely, feel more supported, stay entertained, and get more connected to our friends and loved ones through the ups and downs (and downs and downs) of 2020.

1. FaceTime

FaceTimed my dog, took a Live Photo, and accidentally captured the exact moment my mom explained why I’m probably going to die of coronavirus

FaceTime has been such a great tool during this year. It's been my main source of communication — especially in the earlier months of quarantine. I would use it almost every day to be able to talk to and see those that I could no longer meet on a daily basis. It was a great way for me to relax, and try and take my mind off of everything happening in the world. Salimah McCullough, Resident Writer

I lived alone in the early days of the pandemic, and lockdown life in my tiny studio apartment was pretty isolating and lonely. I mean, I basically went four months without speaking to any humans IRL, except for the occasional grocery store cashier or delivery person. My phone became my only real connection to the outside world, and I truly do not know how I would have survived that time alone without the ability to FaceTime my friends, my family, and especially my baby niece. Sometimes, when the daily headlines became too scary or overwhelming, I would turn off the news, whip out my phone, and FaceTime my family dog for 30 minutes to calm down. (OK, technically I was FaceTiming my parents, but they were kind enough to point the camera at the dog while we caught up.) I'll admit that in the pre–COVID-19 days, I used to avoid FaceTiming folks at all costs. I thought video-chatting was awkward, strange, and unnecessary when a good old-fashioned text could suffice. But once COVID-19 hit, FaceTime became my lifeline. Stephen LaConte, Senior Writer

FaceTiming my family has gotten me through this year. Being able to have visual communication with my family, when we can’t be together, has been incredibly rewarding. I get to see my little niece and nephews, talk to them about the most random things, and also get to catch up with my parents and siblings. I’m thankful that FaceTime is available and we are able to see each other on a consistent basis. Tayo Ola, Creative Video Producer

2. Public Parks

Dariya holding an iced coffee while in a public park
Dariya Kizieieva

Living in New York City for the last six years, I've always felt pulled to the city's parks — a curated taste of the nature I grew up with in my native Australia and a respite from all the noise of the city. But my love and evangelizing for public parks has grown to Leslie Knope levels in 2020.

Where else could we all gather outside (and thus somewhat safely) for free, weekend after weekend? Amid the pandemic, Prospect Park in Brooklyn became my sanctuary, my gym, and my therapist. What a glorious gift to the city.

I still remember the time my nervous friends and I gathered on separate picnic rugs, spaced six feet apart, in May for our first hang together after two months in our apartments. As we slowly relaxed and laughed together, it felt like we were all exhaling for the first time in months. We breathed out and the trees breathed in. If this is my summer this year, I thought, then that's OK. I can do this. We can do this. David Mack, BuzzFeed News editor

When I moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn this summer, I was trying to build a new morning routine to feel at home. Discovering new places in my neighborhood, I stumbled upon a tiny coffee shop called Bittersweet that always has an endless line of people trying to get their cup of fresh brew. I could never get tired of interacting with people’s dogs and overhearing fun conversations while waiting. If I need an extra mood booster, I always get their gluten-free muffins and go across the street to Fort Greene Park on a mindful walk. Dariya Kizieieva, Distribution Account Manager

3. The Great British Baking Show


This is a truly unique cooking competition that restores my faith in humanity by the end of each episode. Everyone is super friendly and kind to each other. When a baker is struggling or having a breakdown, someone always rushes over to help and comfort them. I wish real life could be this nice. —Neena Paul, Senior Analyst, Ad Effectiveness

If you've made it this far into 2020 without tuning in to The Great British Baking Show, may I ask what you have been doing? I'm not a very good cook; my husband will attest to that. But I really enjoy baking simpler things like cookies and muffins. There's just something soothing about following a recipe I likely can't mess up and enjoying a warm baked good at the end of it all, which is exactly how I feel while watching The Great British Baking Show. It's nothing like the cutthroat, cheesy cooking competitions we have here in the US (though I watch those too. Shoutout to Carla Hall on Halloween Baking Wars). The competitors are kind humans who simply love to bake. I actually don't think any of them even bake for a living and they don't win some big cash prize or anything like that! Just a simple trophy and bragging rights. Can you think of anything more wholesome? Because I can't. Over the eight seasons, there have been an array of quirky hosts you'll come to love. They truly bond with the bakers and try not to get in their way when they're in the midst of a bake, but are also the first to offer a kind word and a smile when they are seemingly stressed out. But the real star of the show is none other than Paul Hollywood, English celebrity chef and a judge on the show since 2010. He's honest, but not in a cruel way. The highest form of praise on the show is to receive a handshake from him, meaning your bake was flawless. Aside from *all* of the things I just rambled about, you might just want to unwind with this heartwarming show and admire the mesmerizing baked goods. This peaceful show has warmed my heart and helped me unwind this year. It's way easier to worry about whether the bakers will be able to pull off making ice cream cakes on a hot day in the tent. Give this show a go. You won't regret it. Heather Braga, Market Editor

A lot of reality competition shows (especially American ones) feed off of manufactured drama, pitting contestants against each other or throwing curveballs at them. The Great British Baking Show has none of that nonsense. In fact, I think it’s the only reality competition show I’ve seen wherein contestants actually ~help~ each other. Because of that air of positivity and kindness, it’s the perfect show to watch in 2020. When the pandemic hit, many fans figured we wouldn’t see a new season this year. But the show brought contestants (and some of their family members, even) to a vacant hotel and created their own quarantine bubble through rigorous COVID-19 testing and keeping everyone on site. The result was a surprise, new season of the world’s most calming, comforting reality show, just when we all needed it. Andy Golder, Senior Staff Writer

4. Takeout (especially from Local Restaurants)

Alana Zeitchik

Takeout food and to-go cocktails have TRULY gotten me through this year. One of the biggest changes the pandemic brought, especially as someone who lives in New York and Brooklyn, was no longer being able to go out for drinks and dinner with friends. But so many places were able to adapt and I am forever grateful for that.

I got bagel babkas and wine from MeMe’s Diner (RIP) and sat in Prospect Park. I got drinks from the walk-up window at the Barlow with my roommates after stressful days of virtual meetings. I got chicken and waffles from Sweet Chick and sat in McCarren Park with friends (a lot of takeout park picnics!). My partner and I ordered at-home pizza kits from Roberta’s and made our very own bee stings in our oven. I got takeout from Cheryl’s Global Soul with two coworkers I had not yet met in person and drank mimosas in the park. I bid goodbye to one of my all-time favorite beer and burger spots, Franklin Park, when I was moving neighborhoods with, fittingly, a takeout beer and burger. There's nothing that a margarita or mojito from Bogota Latin Bistro couldn't fix.

It wasn't exactly how I expected to be eating at these places (and more!) this year, but the comfort of old favorites and discovering new spots definitely made this year a lot better. Samantha Tomaszewski, Senior Social Media Strategist, Commerce

I'm a self-proclaimed foodie (who isn't?) and I love trying new restaurants. I usually stick to the same handful of takeout places but when I go out, it's gotta be somewhere new! Obviously, that had to change during 2020, and exploring new places to order/pick up food from has been a fun way to get that excitement of going to a new restaurant. It's been great to get to know my neighborhood more (which I sometimes neglect exploring like I should) and now I have a full list of places I can't wait to visit in person once it's safe! Shoutout to Lula Bird in Crown Heights, Brooklyn — my favorite new place of 2020! Danielle Healy, Market Writer

Grocery shopping became a daunting and depressing task early on. UNTIL, my favorite local restaurant duo the Fly and Hart's turned their usually packed spaces into a grocery 1–2 days per week. We're talking 24-hour brined and ready-to-roast whole chickens, the marinated olives of my *DrEaMs*, magical spice blends, cooked gigante beans that I smothered atop fresh ricotta on She Wolf Bakery bread, natural wines galore, and farm-fresh eggs and produce from upstate. Finally, I have become the European-style grocery shopper that I've always wanted to be and I will never look back. The Fly is back to serving dinner, but Hart's is continuing on as a Thursday–Sunday grocery for the foreseeable future. Alana Zeitchik, Director, Growth Partnerships

Damn you LA for having the best food in the country (yeah, you heard me, New York), and damn you Postmates for giving me 30% off every time I tell myself I'm gonna actually eat my groceries! My bank account is hurting; but honestly, if that means I get to keep eating from these incredible local restaurants, I don't really care. Shoutout to Spoon By H, Pine & Crane, Bossa Nova Brazilian Cuisine, and Chao Krung for keeping me full and happy in these trying times. Daniella Emanuel, Staff Writer

5. Yoga with Adriene

I cannot say enough good things about Yoga with Adriene. I started practicing yoga alongside her YouTube videos really just as a way to pass the time earlier in the spring but slowly these videos have become an essential part of my day. The ethos of Adriene’s approach to Yoga is to “find what feels good.” And in a year where it was really easy to lose a grasp on what actually made me happy, this practice was a salient reminder to carve out time for myself to care for my body and pay attention to how I was feeling. And look, if you’re not so sold on the touchy-feely yoga stuff, Adriene has a dog and I promise that the possibility of Benji making a guest appearance is worth trying out a video with her. Jillian Karande, Account Manager

As you can imagine, the seismic shifts that 2020 decided to flop on us back-to-back (to back) stressed a girl out. When I moved back in with my family in March, I needed an outlet other than getting lost in the nightmarish loop of knowing I purchased a mango at a bodega while standing a hair's length behind someone in February. Cue my cousin's suggestion to try Yoga with Adrian. I was immediately blown away by the video selection. From complex 30-day challenges to 10-minute wind-down routines in which you literally just lay in Savasana with a blanket on you — trust me on the effectiveness here, I fell asleep twice — her channel offered ~*variety*~. Adrian herself was inviting enough for beginners, but you could tell she took her practice seriously enough for those who had a bit more experience. All in all, I would highly recommend Yoga with Adrian to anyone, yogi or not. Georgie Olmeda, Commerce Coordinator

6. Grocery Stores

Trader Joe's storefront
Bill Tompkins / Getty Images

I couldn’t have gotten through the last few months without these staples: Trader Joe’s Cowboy Caviar Salsa, their Ridge Cut Potato Chips (truly the best potato chip out there — someone prove me wrong), Quinoa Cowboy Veggie Burgers, Rosemary Balsamic Steak Tips, Shredded Unexpected Cheddar Cheese (I can NOT recommend this enough), Soft & Juicy Dried Mango, the vast array of soups…the list goes on and on...and on. Another tip: Do NOT sleep on the prepackaged raviolis. My boyfriend and I have made it a tradition to try every different kind, as well as trying every different cereal to figure out which is our favorite.

Trader Joe's got me through 2020. My favorite thing was going through the aisles and finding the new items and products that popped up every season. Finding and trying new things has really brought so much joy to the last few months. I’m not ashamed to say that I also followed an embarrassing amount of Trader Joe’s fan and recipe accounts on Instagram to stay up to date on all the new goodies.

At Trader Joes, I’m like a kid in a candy store. I cannot get enough. It's become one of the things I look forward to the most, when typically, grocery shopping can feel like a chore. It doesn’t hurt that the staff are some of the warmest people I’ve had the pleasure of crossing paths with during these trying times. Good food, great people. Trader Joe's is IT. Spencer Field

For someone like me who has been a Disneyland pass holder for over 8 years, the closure of the parks has really put a damper on my weekends. I’ve realized that I have tried to replace trips to the park for the next best thing: trips to the grocery store. Well, maybe not the next best thing, but hear me out!

Instead of getting ready for a day at Disneyland, I now find myself putting on makeup and jeans just to go to the Ralph’s Grocery Store that’s five minutes away. I don’t have to sit in traffic. I just hop in the car and I’m there in two lights and a stop sign! I throw on my favorite handmade mask for the day and get ready to explore the aisles. I love seeing everyone in the store wearing their masks with fun designs and patterns. It reminds me of the crowds of people wearing their Mickey ears. Sometimes, I’ll even FaceTime my mom just to pretend I’m doing something fun or important. Instead of sending me off with a “have fun,” she’ll remind me to wear my mask (even though she can see I’m wearing one), to wash my hands, and to use hand sanitizer. Just like at the parks, there is an endless supply of snacks and sometimes with better prices (although I’m realizing that I still end up leaving the market spending the same amount I would have at Disneyland). Did you know they make a Twinkie cereal?! Elisabeth Riley, Animation Coordinator and Project Manager

7. Instant Pots

Sarah Wainschel

The Instant Pot is like that best friend who will pick up their phone no matter how late you’re calling. It allowed us to have yummy and quick family meals and supported us while we were all trying to navigate our new normal of two full-time WFH parents and children doing school remotely with no childcare. We also upped some of our favorite Indian dishes like this Butter Chicken, one you can find on Tasty. Thank you, Instant Pot! Swati Vauthrin, VP of Engineering

My Instant Pot Air Fryer Duo was by far the best purchase I made in quarantine. After months of cooking myself three meals a day in my very tiny Upper East Side apartment with no dishwasher, the thought of hand-washing the multiple pots, pans, baking trays, and cooking utensils it usually took to make a good meal made me want to scream. The fact that the Instant Pot only left me with one thing to clean was a game changer in itself, but I also found myself slowly becoming a better, more innovative cook with every use. I was finally excited to cook myself meals again (and in half the time, too!). I ate nothing but Instant Pot spaghetti for the entire month of April and I have no regrets. Plus, with the Air Fryer lid, I was finally able to make the crispy restaurant-style Brussels sprouts of my dreams! Sarah Wainschel, Community Editorial Manager

Not only does my instant pot make delicious food, but it also can keep me entertained for a full day on the weekend. The actual cooking effort is usually minor but when slow-cooking, I like to drop my instant pot at regular intervals, take a peek inside, and think about the yummy things coming my way in four to five hours. Good things come to those who wait. And waiting can be good when you're stuck at home with nothing to do. Lizzy Bradford, Senior Manager of Analytics

8. I May Destroy You


The brilliant Michaela Coel’s BBC/HBO comedy-drama I May Destroy You lives up to its title. After Arabella — often fun, sometimes selfish — is raped during a night out, she struggles to build a life again. Arabella’s best friends Terry and Kwame also become victims of sexual crimes. It’s a show with gut-wrenching depictions of sexual assault and life after trauma. I could not recommend it more.

Consent stands front and center, taking up its rightful, abundant, and nuanced space. I have never seen the visceral fear that comes with being a woman depicted so loudly. The show hurts and shines. That all the main characters are Black and the writer and star is a Black woman should not mean as much as it does. I May Destroy You will break your heart, but what crushes more is that it's the first show of its kind.

Let I May Destroy You wash over you. Let it hurt and let yourself be changed forever. Hope Lasater, Resident Writer

I May Destroy You is truly a compelling show. TBH, I was initially hesitant to watch it because I knew it was a heavy series and 2020 was already such a heavy year. However, thanks to the brilliance of Michaela Coel, the topic of sexual assault was tackled with plenty of nuance and care. I found myself fully invested in each character and truly rooting for them in the end. Definitely expecting to see some Emmy nominations for this show in 2021. Terry Carter Jr., Senior Editor

This was one of my favorite shows this year. It was so well written and I instantly fell in love with the characters and the storytelling. It was heartbreaking, funny, honest, and clever. As the show continued, it got even better and became something I was able to look forward to every week. Ajani Bazile, Staff Writer

I was planning on traveling to London last summer but unfortunately the pandemic hit. Luckily, I May Destroy You premiered in June and I was able to experience London through Michaela Coel's brilliant television show, which was a much needed distraction. Christine Sanders, Supervising Creative Producer

9. Bikes and Cycling

Tayo Ola

My bike quite literally carried me through this pandemic. Even though I've lived here for a while, I only really started exploring the city when biking became one of the few safe activities that I didn't get tired of again immediately. My favorite memory is of a late summer evening ride to watch the sun set over the Statue of Liberty and then riding back into Manhattan over a completely deserted Brooklyn Bridge while the sky was still glowing. I recently moved next to a park with a large bike loop too and doing laps around it is still my number one serotonin catalyst. Melanie, Data Scientist

I picked up cycling back in late April after we went into the first lockdown. After weeks of running and working out in my apartment, I got tired and decided to do something I’ve always wanted to do and that was to purchase a bike. The first bike I bought was $100 on offer up. I rebuilt it but eventually got rid of it because after my first 50+ mile bike ride, I realized I needed something more durable. The second bike I bought didn’t last that long and I ended up partnering with Poseidon Bike, a bike company here in LA. Cycling was honestly one of the best things I’ve done this year. It’s been very therapeutic, allows me to disconnect from everything that’s going on in the world and be in a good space mentally. I typically ride 10–15 miles during the weekday in the morning before my day starts and 30–50 miles on the weekend. I have my bike, my playlists, my snacks, and nothing else but the road. Before the end of the summer, my friends and I, blkcyclist, rode our first 100 miles and that’s been one of the best highlights of this year. Tayo Ola, Creative Video Producer

2020 was the year I finally worked up the courage to learn how to ride a two-wheel bike. In the past, I was scared of falling and scraping my knees, especially since the roads near me are always so bumpy and dangerously filled with rocks! However, this summer, my boyfriend’s neighborhood got newly paved roads and the streets were smooth. I was getting bored staying inside during the pandemic and decided that it was time for me to learn how to ride a bike since it would be the perfect outdoor, socially distanced activity. After covering myself up with protective gear, we took the bike out to the street. It was frightening at first and I found myself braking after every minute because I was afraid of going too fast and eventually bumping into something. But every weekend, I’d push myself to ride the bike longer without stopping and try to ride it around new streets. Nowadays, when my boyfriend is walking his dog, I’ll trail behind with the bike cruising along — slowly but at least I now know how to ride a bike. Sarah Lee, Associate Social Media Strategist

Being cooped up at home was hard at times, but being able to take a nice little bike ride through the neighborhood or go on a long-distance fitness ride was just so freeing. Something about the wind hitting your face when you’re coasting just feels so nice. And if it was a particularly long day at work, I've found that a quick ride through my neighborhood is such a great way to decompress. Biking is honestly one of the few physical activities that I actually enjoy and look forward to doing. So if you’re like me and running isn’t your jam, I highly recommend you give biking a go. It’s so much fun. Zia Thompson, News Curation Editor

10. Dua Lipa's Future Nostalgia

Dua Lipa performing onstage with background dancers
Gareth Cattermole / Getty Images

I LOVED this album and it helped me through the earlier stages of the pandemic when it was released. The album is so fresh and fun, and each track is very unique. It just always put me in a dance-y mood and provided me a nice little escape during the day-to-day quarantine life. Ajani Bazile, Staff Writer

Dua Lipa’s second album Future Nostalgia proves the magic of pop. Every track — from the *over you* "Don't Start Now" to the loved-up "Hallucinate" to the death-to-the-patriarchy "Boys Will Be Boys" — flashes, sparkles, and explodes in your earholes. It’s the kind of record youths in 30 years will dance to in their rooms, thinking they discovered it.

As a sucker for synth and disco, I’m on cloud nine with every listen, the number of which, genuinely, I would guess is over 100. If you need any joy remotely even at all in this terrible, terrible time, turn on Future Nostalgia. You will hear Lipa’s husky voice emote, “Baby, keep on dancing like you ain’t got a choice,” and you will find yourself following her order. Hope Lasater, Resident Writer

Future Nostalgia was one of my favorites and one of the best albums that was released this year. Dua Lipa did such a great job dropping an album that put me and so many others in a positive mood. Whenever I listen to it, all I want to do is dance around and sing it loudly. Salimah McCullough, Resident Writer

11. Love Island UK


Reality shows are not my favorite. I was always a hater until Love Island. For some reason, throwing 12 gorgeous people on an island and forcing them to play games while giving ample opportunity for betrayal was the exact emotional catharsis I needed. Watching it with captions due to the UK only made it better. It also had my family utilizing the colloquial terms at odd times of the day. Georgie Olmeda, Commerce Coordinator

I'd been waiting for Season 2 of Love Island USA since the end of Season 1 last year, and it didn't disappoint! (Spoilers ahead!) I was rooting for Justine from the start, so I was ecstatic that she and Caleb met and eventually became the winning couple! The show became my favorite weekly nighttime routine — especially in quarantine. Now that the season is over, I'll be definitely watching the UK version (finally). Liz Richardson, Resident Writer

Love Island UK was my #1 comfort show even before the pandemic. Season 4 in particular got me through an especially rough patch. So the first night of official WFH, I looked at my roommate and said, "I know a show that will not only cheer us up but also take up an insane amount of time." She was skeptical during the first episode but by the second one, I could tell she was invested. As of last week, we finished all six seasons, totaling 245-ish hours in watch time.

It truly is the perfect show to totally escape reality. Hot British singles? Check. Gorgeous villas in Mallorca and South Africa? Check. Hilarious commentator? Check. Mind-numbing relationship drama? Check. It's so easy to find yourself invested in the comings and goings of these islanders on their quest to find love. Love Island is also a convenient allegory for the quarantine we found ourselves in. In the villa, the islanders only have each other, developing deep trauma bonds and struggling to find ways to kill time. Love Island is totally part of our trauma bond as roommates during this extremely weird time. Don't tell her, but for Christmas, I'm getting her a cameo of our favorite couple who made it in the outside world. They're part of our little quarantine family now, too. Kristina Bornholtz, Newsletter Editor

12. Lady Gaga's Chromatica

Lady Gaga's album Chromatica is the sole reason why I can’t fully hate on 2020. Not only did we get early Gaga vibes (BOP after BOP), but also that transition from "Chromatica II" to "911" gave me a happiness that I could only describe as something last felt in 2019. 10/10. Would let Lady Gaga hit me with her car anytime. Amanda Alvich, Video Producer/Editor

Where to even start. Stefani Joanne Germanotta, people. She can do anything, even make us dance through anxiety and uncertainty. "Stupid Love," the first single off of Chromatica, dropped right around the time everything started to get chaotic back in March. Every time I hear it, I think of my last few commutes to the office and how worried I was but how that song was able to make me smile anyway. It's fitting that the entire album consists of dance- and scream-sing-worthy songs about intense emotions and not-so-dance-worthy mental health. It came at just the right time when we all needed a combination of escapism and an outlet for all our fear and sadness. My personal faves? "Rain On Me," obviously, which is just an absolute bop about...crying? Mood. Can't wait to blast it at parties when parties are a thing again. "Free Woman," which could easily be a follow-up to one of my favorite underappreciated Gaga tunes of all time "Scheiße," features the lyric I want to write all over a pair of Converse like I'm in eighth grade: "This is my dance floor, I fought for" (I already bought a poster). "Fun Tonight," a song with a simple chorus that cuts right to my heart on bad mental health days. "Enigma" and "Sour Candy" are perfectly weird jams that declare that the Old Gaga, that rah-rah bitch, is still very much here. Katy Herman, Market Editor

13. Tabitha Brown (on every platform)

14. Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing / Via Judith Leng

Not to be a total hipster, but I've been an Animal Crossing aficionado since the GameCube days and it has been so much fun to revisit the latest version a) in the internet era with all the custom patterns and memes I could ever want and b) with so many new people playing and loving it for the first time! I don't even want to know how many hours I've sunk into this game, but it's something wholesome my roommates and I can all bond over. And we can forget for a minute the absolute insanity of the world outside. It's calming, surprisingly social, and actually really creative as we all work to build our perfect islands! Danielle Healy, Market Writer

I actually used to be obsessed with the DS version of Animal Crossing when I was younger, so I was awaiting the release for the Switch with bated breath. I had it pre-downloaded and everything. Little did I know its release was going to happen right at the beginning of what ended up being a long, quarantine-filled year. It gave me so much nostalgia and joy to be able to play a game that I had loved so much when I was young and to see so many other people discovering it and falling in love, too. It definitely helps that the new Animal Crossing is ridiculously time-consuming and — as someone who hates staying inside — I was able to waste away many hours terraforming my island and making it perfect (finally got that five-star island!). It also created a weird sense of community during the isolation of the pandemic. I played with friends who lived far away, joined a Slack channel at BuzzFeed where we traded tips, and even joined a huge Facebook group that helped me master the stalk market. Even though I definitely am not playing it as often now, it was a breath of fresh air to be able to escape to a tropical island for a few hours a day, when the outside world was feeling scary and uncertain. Samantha Tomaszewski, Senior Social Media Strategist, Commerce

This game came out right when the first wave of the pandemic had started to pick up. Being able to easily escape to my peaceful island, interact with adorable animal islanders, go fishing, and grow flowers gave me a way to forget about all the craziness happening and just relax for a few minutes/hours every day. Neena Paul, Senior Analyst, Ad Effectiveness

Animal Crossing helped me and a lot of my friends cope when quarantine first started. In this new world, we found ways to socialize and maintain that human connection over island visits and virtual gift-giving. One of our friends organized a surprise birthday party (he terraformed his whole island and time-traveled to get the birthday decors) and it turned out great (See picture above!) Judith Leng, Product Designer

Animal Crossing and fanfiction definitely got me through 2020. It might sound silly, but both have really been pleasant escapes from reality and great ways to unwind after work. There's something really satisfying about creating your own little oasis you can escape to when the real world is too much. Kelly Martinez, Resident Writer

I had a Switch prior to the pandemic but not ACNH. I started to notice a buzz about the game right after the lockdown hit and decided to jump in and find out what all the hype was about. First, it was a calm and soothing world to escape into where you can garden, landscape, fish, stargaze, play house, etc. Second, if you’re on your own in quarantine, ACNH has celebrations for the holidays for you to participate in. Your island neighbors celebrate with you and encourage joy for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and even birthdays. Lastly, the game design encourages positive interactions in the ACNH community; your bot character neighbors will give you DIY recipes to share with your friends and others across the ACNH universe. I found everyone, strangers and friends alike, to be extremely helpful, sharing, and kind in this community. In a sense, the world in this game is a community of refuge. Emily Simoes, Partner Services Senior Manager

Animal Crossing: New Horizons has been my saving grace in 2020. It's the purest form of escapism! I've probably gotten a little too invested TBH, but there's something so soothing about catching fish, growing flowers, building cute furniture, and shopping for clothes in a seemingly much safer space than the one we're in now. It's also the way I've continued "hanging out" with my coworkers. Many of us have downloaded the Switch app to our phone so we could actually verbally chat and tour each other's islands. We even have a Slack channel dedicated to it that's helped me connect with other employees and see their islands as well! Heather Braga, Market Editor

Truly, I cannot think of a better game to act as the antidote to 2020 than Animal Crossing: New Horizons. It hit shelves in late March, which was a particularly scary time due to all the uncertainties around the pandemic, and provided a colorful, wholesome, and stress-free outlet. While we were stuck at home, Animal Crossing allowed us to travel to a tropical island. While simple tasks like running errands became logistically difficult, Animal Crossing gave us achievable and satisfying daily tasks. We could visit our friends virtually, if not physically, and show off everything we’d built in our little island paradises. To play a game where the main goal is creativity and every character is positive, supportive, and collaborative felt like a warm hug in such a tough year. Andy Golder, Senior Staff Writer

Amid all the chaos of this year, Animal Crossing: New Horizons was a breath of fresh air. No matter how stressful or long my day was, being able to spend an hour or two on a tropical island picking fruit and making friends immediately made it better. I love that you can play the game at your own pace and the fun, calming atmosphere made it a perfect video game for casual gamers such as myself. Zia Thompson, News Curation Editor

15. Virtual Therapy

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I've been going to therapy on and off for about five years now. Anyone who has been through the process knows how hard it is to find a therapist you like and connect with. So when I found one that I really liked early on in 2020, I wasn't about to give her up due to the pandemic — and I'm so glad I didn't. It's been essential to have someone outside of my "quarantine bubble" to open up to, vent, and get some perspective from during this chaotic year. And it's been even better that I can do so safely from the comfort of my own home *and* without the hustle and bustle of trying to get to an appointment on time while rushing through the subway and streets of NYC — a much more calming experience overall. Heather Braga, Market Editor

Virtual therapy changed my life for the better this year. Whether it was needing to discuss my new home (my childhood bedroom), my new life (bye-bye apartment of seven years and my Prius), or my mom’s breast cancer...I always felt a sense of relief after sharing how I was feeling. If the internet is a chess board (thank you The Queen’s Gambit), Zoom is the queen: dominating, strong, and sturdy, yet it can knock us out if we’re not careful. But I find therapy to be like the bishop. A bishop is considered a minor piece, as long as it’s not blocked by its own pieces! Mental health is a similarly underrated piece of our own puzzle...of our own chess board...of our own game of life. Many of us remain blocked by our own thoughts, too trapped by our own occupied square, field of vision, or internal thoughts.

Regardless of your current situation — of which pieces you’ve chosen to play, keep, strategize, or block — I encourage you to release some steam in the exquisite and convenient one-on-one formula that is virtual therapy. Other benefits include: consistency, i.e., not having to cancel due to traffic; convenience, i.e., booking a different time each week; or uniqueness, i.e., drinking wine during a sesh. Make it happen and make it regular. Chelsea London Lloyd

I struggle with anxiety and have been meaning to start therapy for years, but always felt like I didn't have the time to make it a priority. When quarantine hit, I not only finally had more time on my hands but also an even stronger need for some mental health help. I started a free trial with an app and am never looking back. I never thought I would like virtual therapy (IRL seems so much more personal); but as someone who struggles with being vulnerable, having that screen actually helped me feel more comfortable opening up to my therapist. Even though my free trial ended, I'm still seeing my therapist and don't plan on stopping — even after quarantine ends. I wish that it hadn't taken a global pandemic to convince me to get help but better late than never! Kirby Beaton, Content Strategist

I am lucky enough to have been working with a therapist for a few years now. If you have insurance, employee perks, or can afford one, I highly recommend giving yourself that support. It is extremely helpful when something happens in your life that is very challenging, like losing a loved one or living through a pandemic, and you have this support system already in place. While I no longer had the safe space of going to their office — a space that was not biased toward or against anything in or around my life other than toward my own health, of course — it was a lifeline to know that on a specific day and time every week I had the room to share, cry, complain, or express fear and anxiety, whatever it was, and someone who could receive that. Being able to continue my sessions remotely, we use FaceTime, has been a profound help for surviving this dumpster fire of a year. Emily Simoes, Partner Services Senior Manager

(Curious if virtual therapy is right for you? Check out our introduction to the pros and cons.)

16. TikTok (all of it, but especially the FYP)

@yourfavouritetwink / Via, @iamtabithabrown / Via

When I say TikTok single-handedly saved my mental health in 2020, I mean it. Whether it was discovering a new recipe to try, laughing at countless memes until I cried, marveling at Halloween costumes, watching a literal Ratatouille musical appear right before my very eyes, exchanging countless TikToks with friends, or learning more than I ever have in school TBH, TikTok gave me the best distraction from the dumpster fire that has been 2020. And for that, I am eternally grateful. Here's to more endless scrolling in 2021! Shelby Heinrich, Staff Writer

I'm not sure what I would have done without TikTok this year. Whenever I felt overwhelmed (with work, the world, the election, you name it), TikTok made me feel seen, less alone, and even helped me discover some decent coping strategies along the way. It's like my own little window into the world while I'm sheltering at home, and I love how my feed has everything from adorable little toddler chefs to wild Montana horses and spooky hobgoblins. TikTok recommendations are also pretty localized and I've been living for all the NYC content this year (we really are all in this together). Melanie, Data Scientist

Throughout quarantine, TikTok has been a consistent part of my nighttime ritual. I slink into bed after a long, monotonous day and take solace in the fact that I'm about to see a whole lotta things I've never seen before. TikTok is not only a great platform for opening yourself up to worlds you're unfamiliar with, but also for finding people who share your interests as well. For example, who knew there was a vast community of proud, small white crusty dog owners out there? Honey, I'm home! Daniella Emanuel, Staff Writer

When times get hard, it’s important to have something near you that you can always depend on. Something that can brighten your day no matter what. And no, I’m not talking about loved ones or the indomitable human spirit, I’m (of course) talking about TikTok.

Like most other depressed millennials, I downloaded TikTok back in March just to feel something. But it has slowly taken over my life. Learning the “Savage” dance was a way to keep in touch with my younger cousins during a time when we couldn’t see each other. (My preteen cousin Ella used the word “cringey” to describe most of my early content.) After evangelizing the app to all my friends, we now send TikToks back and forth instead of sending memes. TikTok is more than just teens doing dances. It has something for everyone: cute animals, trendy recipes, aesthetic “day in the life” mini vlogs, erotic Harry Potter fanfiction recommendations, people cosplaying as Edwardian-era school children. And these are all just things I saw on my FYP (for you page) in the past hour.

And sure, TikTok taught me how to clean my stove and made me laugh, but it also did something else: It gave me hope. Because while the rest of the world was spiraling out over a global pandemic and breaking down due to a nightmarish presidential election, Gen Z'ers were creating an entire Ratatouille musical, complete with choreography. And if that doesn’t give you hope for the future, I don’t know what else will. Emma Tyler, Senior Social Media Strategist

See even more reasons why TikTok got us through 2020 here.

What helped YOU through 2020? Tell us in the comments!

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