How to Make This Year Better Than Last Year

Well this has been a stellar year. Seems like just yesterday we were watching Anderson Cooper cringe at Kathy Griffin's sexually aggressive jokes while we daydreamed about all the possibilities 2014 held. The hashtags, the SNL skits, the fashion trends, the new movies, the Sons of Anarchy finale, all of it was ahead of us, and so so exciting. And here we are, in the same place, just days before 2015 begins, and wondering about very similar things... how can we make this year better than last year?

Most of the highly anticipated entertainment and pop culture news is out of our hands. Obviously, we can only hope that Jennifer Lawrence does something too adorbs to handle on the Oscar red carpet again, and that Kim K. continues to break the Internet. I mean, all we can really do is stay informed and tweet our little hearts out as things happen. But there are ways we can control our own success in 2015. And the key to making this year better than the last is through little steps and practical plans. Resolutions are fun to make, but almost impossible to keep. Not anymore. Just use the following smart tips to make 2015 a happier 12 months than 2014, and you'll be able to look back a year from now with nothing but pride.

1. Make realistic goals

Feel free to dream big, but when you write down a goal, make it small and easy to accomplish.

2. Reduce the junk food

As good as it tastes, it does terrible things to your organs, so do the right thing and cut back as much as you can without setting yourself up for failure that will inevitably include sucking down a large pizza by yourself.

3. Read more

However many books you think you read this year, add 10 more. Reading is fuel for your brain, and only 10 more books is a doable path to becoming even more brilliant than you already are.

4. See other humans more often

It's getting easier to isolate ourselves and avoid human contact. For those of us who are antisocial introverts, this is a very thrilling time. However, regular interactions with people IRL is great for improving conversational skills and reducing general awkwardness. Even if it's chatting with your barista, give it a shot.

5. Cut back on screen time

Too much time with your eyes fixed on a screen is not ideal, so plan on giving yourself a cut-off time for screens. Like, all screens put away after 9 p.m., or something. Or give yourself a daily hour limit.

6. Find one good deed to do consistently

Volunteer a few hours each month at the local animal shelter. Open doors for strangers. Hold the elevator for approaching riders. If you only do one of these things once, your soul will be happy, but do it at a regular frequency throughout the year, and that feeling will last through next New Year's.

7. Help a friend

Friendship is all about give and take. Your besties probably need your help with something, and you'll need theirs at some point too.

8. Help someone in need

From something so simple as sending an understanding glance to a mother holding a crying baby, to treating the person in line behind you to a free latte. Just like the commercial (I think it's for life insurance?) of the chain of people who pay it forward with selfless deeds, you could be the start of a new heroic chain.

9. Find a new show to love

Falling in love with a new show is like making new friends. Pick a show you've been wanting to see, or a show you would never normally watch, and play the first few episodes. Then just escape into the fresh fictional wonderland.

10. Spend more time relaxing

Stress leads to so many diseases, you guys. Pretty much all of them. It weakens your immune system and opens you up to everything you don't want. So take a little extra time just for you. Take a bath, do yoga, read a trashy magazine while drinking a glass of wine, whatever relaxes you.

11. Reduce stress

While bonus chill time will help, it's also important to determine the sources of stress in your life and figure out a way to cut them out. Some stressors might be tough to remove, like work, but you can always change the way you approach situations that normally stress you the F out.

12. End a toxic relationship

If one of those stress inducers is a person, maybe it's time to break up with them. Maybe it's a boyfriend, maybe it's a friend, maybe it's a co-worker. If they make you more miserable than happy, cut them out. If they're someone you can't entirely block from your life, establish a safe distance between the two of you.

13. Clean out your closet

It doesn't matter what you have in there, I'm certain you have a few things you don't wear or need. Give them away. It'll be a huge weight off your shoulders, good for the person who gets your wardrobe cast-offs, and it'll make room for new clothes!

14. Buy something you've always wanted

Save that paper and spend it on something you've wanted for years. You deserve it.

15. Try something new, alone

A friend of mine took an archery lesson recently and she went by herself. She said she couldn't help but notice how everyone else brought a friend or significant other, and how they were all oddly curious about the chick who was comfortable learning a new skill alone. It's freeing, and you should try it too.

16. Spend a day living like your fave TV character

Mine is Ron Swanson, and I'm very much looking forward to a full day of eating red meat, bacon, drinking aged scotch, carving things out of wood, and being completely annoyed by anyone who tries to engage with me. It's probably going to be the best day of the year.

Image: Holiday Inn/Paramount Pictures; Giphy (16)