10 things we learned in 2020 about living a good life

Gratitude can create a ripple effect. People applaud outside of the Lenox Health Greenwich Village hospital during the nightly cheer to thank medical staff and essential workers May 18 in New York.

(CNN)What do you need for a meaningful life? Even as 2020 strained communities around the world, it offered some object lessons in living well.

In the widespread nostalgia for pre-pandemic gatherings and rituals, we saw just how much we depend on other people. When medical and other frontline workers risked their own health to support entire communities, the world watched the everyday impact of lives dedicated to service.
"There are so many things that we are going to learn from 2020," said Emiliana R. Simon-Thomas, science director of the University of California, Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center. "We've really had a coming to terms with how important our collective experiences are to health and well-being."
    And even as they, like the rest of us, coped with an ongoing pandemic, researchers studying the science of well-being uncovered key insights into what makes life meaningful. The findings include the benefits of empathy, gratitude and cooperation, with ideas for increasing happiness in your own life — or even in your country.
      Simon-Thomas joined a team from the GGSC in December to select the 10 research findings from 2020 that shed light on the good life, and offer a positive road map for weathering the months and years to come. Here's what the team found.

      1. Choose empathy for a kinder, more compassionate year

      Scientists already know that empathy is both a personality trait and a learned behavior. That's great, because it means that you can increase your empathy no matter your disposition. In turn, that can help forge stronger, more supportive relationships.
        Being empathetic is about more than skill building, though. Your motivation to be empathetic matters, too, according to two studies published this year, one by Harvard University researchers and another from the University of Toronto.
        Wearing a mask in public helps protect the community from the spread of the coronavirus. A man wears a mask as he visits Times Square in New York December 10.