Walking Toward Happiness

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It’s finally spring. Leaving the treadmill in the basement, I return to the countless pleasures of running outdoors. After meditating, the first thing I do in the morning is strap on my silver Asics and head out with the dog for a lap around Cedar Lake. The budding trees, the fresh air, the reflection of the sun on the water—I relish every luscious detail.

Afterward, the post-exercise glow lasts the whole day. Starting the day with exercise helps prime my body and spirit for a more relaxing, productive, and, yes, happier day. All the subjects in my book Full Heart Living incorporate exercise into their lives because, like me, they know it soothes their nerves and boosts their mood.

If exercise is so good for us, why do people hate it? On good days, many people see exercise as a chore to check off their to-do list. On bad days, exercise gets cancelled at the last minute—if it makes the to-do list at all.

What’s going on here? Why the reluctance to exercise? Is this just a bad habit or something deeper?

I’ve found it’s something deeper. And that something is often confusion between fitness and self-care.

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Finding Happiness: Is it in the being or in the doing?

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“What do you want to be when you grow up?” How often did you hear that question growing up?

Well meaning as the questioners may have been, we know that what they really meant was, “What do you want to do?” Our culture places great emphasis on doing and working. Our very identity gets wrapped up in activity and productivity—particularly if our actions translate into buying power. We are not as rewarded, generally speaking, for simply being.

Small wonder then, that as grow, we often lose sight of those things that bring us joy.

As a child, summers seemed like they went on forever. Plans weren’t needed and my worth wasn’t measured by accomplishments. Whatever I felt like doing, I could do. Riding bikes, roller-skating, swimming, and building forts with the neighbors filled many a summer afternoon. Other times, reading alone in my backyard tent or lying on my back staring at the clouds for hours hit the spot. As the mood struck, I went with it—free of judgment, free of accomplishment.

What I now know is that I actually was accomplishing something. Being in the moment, following my passions, and hanging out with friends was necessary and healing. Without knowing it, I was practicing the pillars of a happy life, which are a byproduct of just being, not so much in the doing.

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