Tony Horton

Tony Horton, creator of P90X, and author of a new book, "The Big Pictures," talks about the power of being a "happy junkie." (Doriane Raiman / Los Angeles Times)

It's no secret that Tony Horton is a fitness junkie. At 55, the creator of the P90X fitness regimen has a ripped physique that rivals that of men half his age. But did you know that he's a "happy junkie" as well?

Horton's new book, "The Big Picture: 11 Laws That Will Change Your Life," ventures beyond the gym, offering advice for finding one's purpose in life. The Santa Monica resident shares lessons he learned as he transformed from a flabby, aspiring Hollywood comic to tripping over his life's calling.

One of the more surprising revelations contained in the pages? A "Loving-It Meter," an hour-by-hour, temperature-taking check list to evaluate our happiness levels and what precisely is stressing us out and making us unhappy.

Horton will sign books at 7 p.m. June 30 at Barnes & Noble in Santa Monica.

This book allows you to exercise a completely different kind of muscle. How did it come about?

A lot of us don't have the right information to sustain us, or motivate us, or inspire us or help keep us consistent. I see a lot of that in my business. And over the years, I kept coming back to the same steps over and over again to help people with that. I call them the basics. They help us to become a better human being. And that became the basis for the book.

You describe a healthy lifestyle as the ultimate source of control.

I call them the four pillars: sleep, limiting stress, exercise and diet. What are the two things you control? You control your hands and your mouth. If people do that for just 30 days, all of a sudden it's like "I want to do things I hadn't done before. I want to write that book. I want to get a new job. I want to buy that house." ... There is so much beyond our control. You can't control the weather. But you can control this.

Many of us are spending too much time looking at the little picture — smartphone screens among them, according to the book.

People are completely stressed out of their minds. They never take the time to recharge, recover and relax. They don't have any downtime to just hang out with the kids. That's the nature of an ever-changing society. We don't want to feel like we're feeling left behind. Remember way back when nobody knew about Facebook? We were all able to survive. I'm not saying you need to turn down technology. I'm just saying we need to find the balance. If you found the balance, it means you're smiling. 

I'm a bit of a happy junkie. Sometimes it's understanding when to turn on and when to turn all that stuff off. Sometimes I just find 15 minutes to go sit outside and feel the sun on my face. And believe me, I'm really good at sitting on my butt and watching my favorite shows. I love "Mad Men" and the Jimmy Fallon show.

You encourage people to get a hobby they're passionate about. How does that help?

Some people don't have any hobbies at all. They watch TV, have a couple of glasses of wine after work, a restless night's sleep and then they're so damn angry when they wake up in the morning and have to do it all over again. What kind of life is that?

"Do scary things that don't kill you." That sounds like an ominous piece of advice.

I beg people who are reading this: As scared as you are, as frightened or filled with apprehension that you are about something, go do it anyway. It doesn't mean you need to risk your life. But step outside your comfort zone. I took a swing dance class a few weeks ago. Me! Swing dance! I looked ridiculous. But I say collect as many yeses in life as you can.

rene.lynch@latimes.com