HEALTH BY CHOICE

The word "fit" is thrown around a lot these days, especially in referencing one's physical condition.

However, being "fit" isn't just about how strong our bodies are, or how toned and muscular they look. True "fitness" is about our "inner sense of well-being." It includes inner peace, harmony and an awareness that empowers happiness from the inside out.

Happiness is not something that comes to us. We can't go out and purchase it, nor is it available online at Amazon ... no matter what we buy or how much we spend.

Sure, we get a temporary emotional "fix" from our purchases, but it won't change the fact that they are temporal things and as such the feeling produced is "temporary."

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It is a momentary, elated "state of pleasure" that does not last. In fact, temporary pleasure often brings with it, in its wake, suffering.

The overuse of drugs (legal and not), alcohol and food help us to regulate our emotions – they become "coping mechanisms," but unfortunately, the relief provided is temporary and, for the most part, in the long term, self-destructive.

Genuine happiness is an appreciation, a contentment and over-all sense of satisfaction with life and living, and this can never be achieved by popping pills or drowning our sorrows in alcohol.

It is the result of breeding positive perceptions with an understanding that all experiences bring growth, stir inner awareness and help us develop on a deeper level spiritually.

When we are spiritually aware, we are in touch with our deepest values, the ones that really matter.

The overuse of drugs (legal and not), alcohol and food help us to regulate our emotions - they become
The overuse of drugs (legal and not), alcohol and food help us to regulate our emotions - they become "coping mechanisms," but the relief provided is temporary. Photo/Getty Images

Because happiness is a direct result of what's going on "inside" of us and not the result of outside influences, it is a key player in the state of our health, mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

In other words, how happy we are is a serious contributing factor to the quality of our lives in all those arenas.

So, where is this lasting happiness that feeds our souls, gives us peace of mind and fills our lives with harmonious synchronicities?

Not surprisingly, it revolves around our personal self-care. Self-care activities are what provide long-term benefits for the mind and the body.

We know the mind (our thoughts) define and create our physical world. So, it's obvious that if we want to experience more happiness, our thoughts must be aligned with things that make us happy.

But, that's the hardest part - how do we get our thoughts to behave when most minds are like an arena filled with untrained, undisciplined "wild horses" running the show?

It doesn't just happen on its own. We must be in control and tame our thoughts and this is where our outer activities help boost our inner conditions!

When we take time to care for ourselves, when we give our bodies the kind of exercise required to stay strong and flexible (using our muscles the way they were intended to be used), our bodies reward us with more energy and strength, and our self-esteem and self-confidence get a boost.

In other words, we begin feeling better about ourselves. This is what translates to inner happiness and contributes to the overall quality of our lives, not the newest shiniest toy/gimmick being advertised. It's proper exercise along with healthy foods (avoiding the processed "dead" ones") that provide living energy and benefit how we look, function and feel.

Once you begin experiencing the benefits that
Once you begin experiencing the benefits that "right-living" provides, your passion and love for physical activity become much easier. Photo/Getty Images

In fact, if truth be told, most people who visit gyms on a regular basis do so because "it makes them feel good" and, there is also a scientific reason for this.

Hormones. These powerful chemicals are secreted into the bloodstream by the endocrine glands. They are responsible for digestion, growth, reproduction, metabolism and mood. That's right, mood.

Dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins (D.O.S.E. of happiness) are all popular "happiness" hormones empowered to boost our mood!

We would be wise to keep a big storehouse of these chemicals ready for quick release and one of the quickest and most effective ways of kicking in the production of these "happiness" powerhouses is exercise!

Once you begin experiencing the benefits that "right-living" provides, your passion and love for physical activity become much easier.

Care for yourself, love yourself and make happiness a priority! Reset your mind's perception to love physical activity and perceive yourself as fit, energetic and happy!

Unleash your inner athlete and claim the inner peace and happiness that is rightly yours.
Happiness looks gorgeous on everyone ... it is the "world's best make-up," and it's free!

* Carolyn Hansen is co-owner of Anytime Fitness.