“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. ” — Aristotle.

Good old Aristotle got it right; you are your habits, and so am I. Building good habits is the essence of a well-lived life. What you feel, have or lack right now is the result of the habits you`ve built weeks, months and years ago. This works anything, from the weight you keep to the way you feel about your experience on this planet.

For that, I made you a list of four habits you can build today that will raise your happiness bar steadily, and over an extended period. Here they are….

Happiness Habit #1: Counting your wins every day (and night)

Winning brings with it a sense of accomplishment that triggers more dopamine in the brain and makes us want to repeat that feeling and do more of what makes us win. If you still don`t know, winning is the reason why sports fans are so crazy about their teams.

According to Loretta Graziano Breuning, Ph.D., and author of Habits of a Happy Brain, it`s vital that you keep track of your wins so you can:

  1. Have confidence in yourself
  2. Feel optimistic about the future
  3. Have something to pull you up when life goes hard on you.

What Breuning suggests is set a daily goal for yourself. A goal that if you achieve nothing but it, you`ll feel accomplished. Put that goal on your calendar and check on it —preferably with a pen—once you reach it.

Secondly, make a list of all of your past wins and the difficulties you`ve surpassed so you can —This is an excellent exercise for your self-image. Finally, don`t go to bed without finding three positive things about your day no matter how small. According to studies, those who counted five things they were grateful for each week were more optimistic and had fewer health problems than those who didn`t.

Happiness Habit #2: Proper planning and scheduling of daily tasks

You know that calmness you get when everything goes according to the plan? You need more of that.

Proper planning makes you confident and calm, and the more you do it, the better you get at it. According to a study published in the journal Cerebral Cortex, exercising the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex—the brain area responsible for planning—can improve your emotional functioning and ease anxiety and depression.

Proper planning also means success. It`s the reason why every team has a coach—and your life is no different.

So where to start?

Take some time each weekend to plan your entire week. Of course, you won`t be able to do it minute by minute, but even the act of anticipating obstacles and planning your way around them will make you feel confident.

Download a phone calendar and schedule every major task you have each day of the week. Make it human, and leave room for interruptions. Do this for a month, and you`ll see a massive difference in your mood, work-ethic and confidence.

Happiness Habit #3: Finding the time to laugh (each day)

Find out what makes you laugh, and put time for it on your calendar. Laughing triggers endorphin which releases the feeling of fear and makes you more relaxed. Find the time to laugh each day will also improve your romantic relationships.

According to a study by the University of North Carolina, gratitude and shared laughter strengthen romantic partnerships. 

“People who spent more time laughing with their partner felt that they were more similar to their partner,” says Sara Algoe, the leading author of the study. These are what experts call, “the little things” that makes you a good relationship companion.

Happiness Habit #4: Varying your workout routine

Change your exercising routine from time to time to avoid feeling “too comfortable.” It`s what elite athletes do today, and it`s called “cross-training.” Experts believe that varying between exercises improves your health, reduces injuries, helps you overcome diet plateaus and, more importantly, fixes your mood.

Try new things instead of limiting your choices to doing either weights or cardio. Try hiking, racing, rock-climbing or get a dog to exercise with. A little extra responsibility but it will make you happier. 

According to a 2013 study, pet owners were found to be fitter, less lonely, more socially outgoing and had higher self-esteem than nonowners, and they have healthier hearts too. So, maybe it`s time to consider getting yourself a buddy from a different breed.

Over to You!

I know change isn’t easy, but you’ve got to do something about it no matter how small. So why don’t you pick one of today`s four habits and see what happens? I recommend you start with counting your wins cause it will give you some confidence to work with. 

Take a few minutes off now and list all the significant gains you have in life and the times you persisted through difficulties and act despite fears. Commit to revisiting this list every morning, even if you do it mentally, then rinse and repeat. I’m sure it will change you for the better.

Originally published at goodmenproject.com