5 Surprising Ways to Live a Better, More Satisfying Life in 2015

December 18, 2014 Updated: April 23, 2016

As the year draws to a dark and wintry close, the promise of a bright, unwritten New Year is once again upon us along with the mountains of expectations and hopes we call “resolutions.” From losing weight to learning a new language, resolutions are not just synonymous with our beliefs about how to live a better life, they’re also synonymous with our failure to achieve that better life, since according to researchers only 8 percent of New Year’s resolutions are actually met by the millions of well-meaning people who make them each year.

If you’re an unrepentant resolution maker, it’s time to go for the gold, and join the 8 percent by racing past commonplace resolutions to explore how you can really start living a high-quality life this next year.

1. Aim for a Simpler Life

Most people are overextended, stressed out, and full of complaints about their unbalanced lives. From lengthy commutes and wage stagnation to PTA meetings and gym memberships that languish as harsh monthly reminders in our bank accounts, living a simple life can feel like nothing more than a pipe dream.

While most of us would love to craft our days so that they included enough time to do yoga, cook organic food from scratch, play with our children, and stay connected with friends and family while still working a 40-hour-a-week job, the reality is that most of us don’t have the time and energy to accomplish all that a simple life might require. That being said, aiming for a simpler life is still do-able. Just try some of the following suggestions when January 1 rolls around:

  • Cook more. Even if you’re a newbie in the kitchen, commit to cooking a few nights a week for yourself. It will connect you more to the earth, your food sources, and your body, and you’ll save money, too.
  • Keep your phone/tablet/laptop/TV out of your bedroom. Having a space that is media-free will help you relax and sleep better.
  • Walk to your destination. Whenever you’re headed somewhere that’s less than a mile or two, try hoofing it instead of driving. You’ll get exercise, feel invigorated, and contribute less pollution to the air.

2. Go After the Career You Want

Did you major in Engineering to please your father? Have you been toying with the idea of finishing an advanced degree, but you’re afraid to make the effort? You only live once, and this New Year is the perfect time to start acting like it. Whether you need to finish your MSA so you can open your own accounting firm or you need to get help with a business plan, so you can open a neighborhood diner, plot the steps you’ll need to walk in order to get the career you truly want, and start taking them.

3. Exercise

Exercise is something of a panacea, and if you’d like to take fewer medications, suffer fewer health-related setback over the course of your life, manage your stress effectively, enjoy better mental health and memory, and sleep more soundly, regular exercise can accomplish all that and more for you.

While committing to regular exercise will add something to already overburdened schedules for most Americans, when you take into consideration how much time and money you will save over the course of your life by getting sick less, going to the doctor and pharmacy less, and enjoying better all-around health, the trade-off is clear: Exercise will bring you a much more satisfying life.

4. Read Fiction

Giving yourself over to a good novel isn’t just an enjoyable endeavor that stimulates your brain and imagination, research suggests it might actually help you live a better life.

From experiencing actual empathy with fictional characters so that we gain the skills of being more empathetic with people in our real lives to becoming a better storyteller at dinner and parties, the benefits of reading fiction are many.

5. Be Honest

Whether it’s telling the truth to a police officer about how a fender bender was your fault, or it’s telling the truth to yourself about whether or not you’ve got the skills required to take on that new project at work without help, being honest will keep you in your own and others’ good graces. Lies — even small, white lies — can be exhausting to keep up with, and when your cover is blown, they can be hard to recover from. This next year, make a point of being honest in every small and large way you can, and you’ll find that you and others like you and trust you a lot more.

New Year’s resolutions are a cultural crap shoot that few people rarely make good on. Don’t have the next year end like the last one. Commit to living a more satisfying life by following these five simple tips.