I’m happy to share with you this guest post today from Mark Nation in support of his new book, Made for Amazing. I’ve read it and strongly encourage you to check it out. Look forward to your thoughts!

As a society, we’ve come to care a lot about health and fitness. We read food and drug labels, go online for medical information, learn new fitness techniques, and fuss with diets. In other words, caring for the body is high on our priority list as a daily target. Maybe it’s irrelevant to ask amidst all the gasping and research, but are we happy about all this?

Watching the faces of runners puffing down the roads, or those at the gym toiling away on the exercise machines, I’d say, not much – and I’m a former athlete and multi-sport aficionado! The point is, we give far less attention to our mental and emotional states than we do to our bodies. Few would claim much interest, let alone passion, toward the subject of their own emotional fitness.

Yet, what is it that makes (or breaks) our day? It’s emotional uplift (or its opposite). Of course, there’s also boredom that creeps in so easily (as is, “someone please hit me upside the head, so I’ll know that I’m alive.”).

We think it’s events and circumstances that make us happy. Not so. It’s our brains that do it, secreting dopamine, the neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Dopamine also helps to regulate emotional responses, and it enables us not only to see rewards, but also to take action to move toward them.

The outer event (a promotion, a new house, car or baby) just triggers our uplift, like a pickaxe driving through a thick coating of “everydayness,” and releasing the joy of our souls that was already there, 24/7. So, what if you were actually happy and didn’t know it? What if there were things you could purposely do, not to make yourself happy, but to release the happiness that’s hiding there inside you?

Well, guess what. There are.

Here are five simple ways to exercise happiness in your own life.

  1. Prioritize It. Like any workout, you need to make your emotional health a priority. Give yourself time and space for goodness to emerge. The more time in your mental calendar you give to happiness, the stronger it will grow.
  2. Workout Daily. Like a muscle, your mind needs daily exercise. Stay nimble and activate happiness each day, and your fitness will most certainly improve.
  3. Start Small. Nothing changes overnight. Life is tough. Work may be horrible for you right now. Families can crumble. Do a “happiness diagnostic” and be honest to admit your current state. Then…just take a step. And another. Each step, each day, is a brick in the wall. Just keep building.
  4. Keep a Marathon Mentality. You don’t just want a happy day – you strive for a happy life, a joy-full existence. Play the long game. Know there will always be setbacks. As any endurance athlete will tell you, it’s not the finish line that is most fulfilling, it’s the event itself, the chance to be on the road or path. Happiness flows all along the trail; don’t forget to hydrate with simple joy as often as you can.
  5. Take Frequent Breaks. In fitness and in life, growth happens during recovery. To properly optimize your mental fitness, you need to take breaks. Let your mind be at ease. Tune out all the noise and haste. Rest. Trust me, you have earned it.

Be intentional and aggressive about developing your emotional fitness, as it’s a critical driver of life and leadership health. Choose to exercise great caution with those thoughts which you allow to feed your mind. Your truest gifts and emotions will always emerge from a place of power, a place where spirit and light run free. Cultivate those emotions – workout every day. Your mind will thank you, as will your entire life.

Mark Nation is a globallyrecognized management expert, leadership consultant, executivecoach, author, and speaker. He is personally driven to discover what makes individuals, teams, and organizations amazingthose elements which power the heart and soul of individuals andbusinesses worldwideHis new bookMade for Amazing: An Instrumental Journey of AuthenticLeadership Transformation, helps people to identify and optimize their unique talents.