How to live a life with more contentment.
“If you want to be content with what you have, accept both your limitations and your strengths.”
When I think of contentment, my first thought is of a Norman Rockwellian painting with visibly happy faces. True contentment, however, runs deeper and can depend on certain factors.
Contentment is not simple to define because it looks different for everyone and acceptance is just one of the many pathways. Adding to the complexity is the definition itself, which is often intertwined with happiness, and vice versa.
What I want to share with you are my own experiences that led to more contentment in my life, and simple, practical tips you can try for yourself.
WHAT IS TRUE CONTENTMENT?
“Don't wait around for other people to be happy for you. Any happiness you get you've got to make yourself.” - Alice Walker
True contentment doesn’t look like a Normal Rockwell painting. It looks and feels different for each person and there are many factors that come into play, like your age, where you live, your gender, race, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, etc.
When I was a young child living on a tiny island in the Pacific, I didn’t know my family lived below the poverty line, yet I felt content. Then we moved to the “States”, and the definition of contentment changed for me.
By the time I was in middle school, my family and I moved into a working/middle class neighborhood and we were able to afford nicer things. I started to envy and desire what others had and the feelings stayed with me well into adulthood.
When I became a working mom, my family’s household income increased and so did my appetite for material possessions, validation from others, and wealth accumulation. Gradually, these superficial things were not satisfying anymore, and I had a sort of existential crisis that led to questioning my beliefs and values.
Over time, I had to find a way to deal with the general discontentment that I felt. I discovered that, although the inner work may not ever end, I am much more content with what I have and where I'm at than I used to.
WHAT LEADS TO CONTENTMENT?
“The time for happiness is today, not tomorrow.” - Paul H. Dunn
I don’t think that focusing on the pursuit of contentment will get you there. Constant striving for contentment could lead to disappointment, or worse, become pathological.
I don’t believe contentment is a permanent state either, because we are human beings. There will be times when you feel supremely content and other times that you wish you had more. The quicker you accept this fact, the easier it may be to slip into a state of contentment.
CONTENTMENT AND HAPPINESS FACTORS
“Happiness is not a goal...it's a by-product of a life well lived.” - Eleanor Roosevelt
Since happiness and contentment are used interchangeably, it’s worthwhile to touch on the mechanism and agents of happiness. One interesting study suggested that biological factors are significant predictors of happiness. Adrenaline and oxytocin are hormones that play a role in producing the feeling of happiness.
Other studies have shown that happiness is not caused by a single factor, but several combinations of factors, like education, income, emotional state, status, and quality of life.
PATHS TO CONTENTMENT AND HAPPINESS
“Happiness is not the absence of problems, it's the ability to deal with them.” - Steve Maraboli
In times of adversity and scarcity, it is better to focus on long-term well-being over short-term pleasures. The only exception is if you are under extreme circumstances (e.g. poverty, pain, war zone) that may prevent you from choosing to focus on happiness.
If you have disposable income, and you’re trying to keep up with the “Joneses”, you’d be more content if you focus instead on happy events rather than unhappy ones.
9 WAYS TO BE CONTENT WITH WHAT YOU HAVE
“Let no one come to you without leaving happier.” - Mother Teresa
It took a lot of time, patience, self-discovery, and compassion to be content with where I am right now. Although your path to contentment will be unique, here are some tips that may help you along the way.
If you're suffering from something extreme, it will be difficult to get into a state of contentment. You have to meet your most basic, physiological needs first. This means food, water, shelter, clothing, and good health.
Once you have stability and self-sufficiency, contentment can be a reality instead of a fantasy.
To be content with what you have, you need to recognize where you are, so you can move in the direction of happiness and satisfaction.
You can start a self-reflection journal to explore and discover what makes you truly happy. Before I journal and self-reflect, I like to meditate.
You can start by finding a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed for at least 20 minutes. Meditation will help to quiet your mind, so you can reflect on any insights that may arise, in your journal.
Being content with what you have may require a lot of time and patience, especially if you spent most of your life as a consumer.
It may take months, or even years, before you can feel truly content with what you have. You may even find yourself going one step forward, then two steps back, before you notice any difference. It will be wise to keep a daily journal so that all subtle changes will become more visible over time.
Accepting where you are right now may help you become more content with what you have. You want to accept your limitations as well as your strengths so you don't become a victim of the comparison game.
If you are caught inside your own comparison crossfire, shield yourself with kindness.
Gently remind yourself that you're perfect just as you are, flaws and all.
INCREASE YOUR FAITH AND TRUST
Believing in something bigger than yourself, be it God, Divine Love, Infinite Spirit, the Universe, energy, etc, may help you during tough times.
Faith and trust can help you focus on the bright side of things so you’re not stuck in a cycle that may be detrimental to your well-being.
BE GRATEFUL FOR WHAT YOU HAVE
“Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough.” - Oprah Winfrey
Gratitude opens you up to more abundance without adding anything that can weigh you down.
If you were grateful for just one thing each day, you may find that the simple things in life bring the greatest joys. You can start by writing in a gratitude journal, or saying one thing you’re grateful for, every day with consistency.
IDENTIFY CORE BELIEFS AND VALUES
Your core beliefs and values come from your own insights, not from outside influences. Examples of core beliefs and values are:
Create your own list and place the most important ones at the top. Identifying your core beliefs and values will allow you to focus on the things that are most important in your life.
LIVE A SIMPLE LIFE
Simple living creates more space in your life for the things that matter most. One simple thing you can do is to slow down so you can pause and notice what’s around you.
You can also let go of the stuff you no longer need and anything else that doesn’t add value to your life. This includes people, places, ideologies, and beliefs that are limiting.
Once you are able to simplify your life, you can create more room for the things that bring you happiness and satisfaction.
You can have more contentment in your life by becoming more intentional. Being intentional is choosing to live your own life because you want to, not because someone else told you to.
Living a life of intention will give you more clarity on what you truly cherish. When you can visualize what you value, you invite more happiness and meaning in your life.
“It’s up to us to choose contentment and thankfulness now—and to stop imagining that we have to have everything perfect before we’ll be happy.” - Joanna Gaines
To be content with what you have is to fully accept where you are right now. If you're starting out, it may take time, patience, self-discovery, and compassion. Just remember to enjoy the journey and process on your path to true and lasting contentment. I hope you found these tips helpful and I'd love to know what you think. Please drop a comment or feedback down below.