Have you ever met someone who just seems to be happy all the time? Not that kind of bubbly, laugh-out-loud happy that’s fleeting, but the kind of happy that fluctuates very little regardless of the goings on in their lives. While we’re feeling stressed about every little thing, they’re just riding the waves of life.
People like that have discovered the secret to a good life: they’ve discovered being content in life.
What Does “Content” Mean?
The word “content” literally means “in a state of peaceful happiness”. It signifies a deep-seated sense of peace and fulfillment, and a calm acceptance of one’s life as it is right now. Being content is not, as so many seem to think, a state of complacency or “giving up” on your aspirations. It’s about finding joy in our present circumstances while staying open to future possibilities.
Unlike excitement and happiness, which are so often fleeting, contentment goes deeper. It offers us a steady state of well-being that doesn’t waver significantly due to our external circumstances. Of course, contentment doesn’t mean the same as stoicism – you don’t become emotionless – but you bounce back and are less affected by life’s ups and downs.
Why Is Being Content in Life Important?
Contentment offers us resilience, which is crucial for our mental health and ability to manage stress. It enables us to savor life’s simple pleasures and boosts our ability to cope with difficulties. When we’re stressed and constantly striving for that next thing that will (often, “finally”) offer us the happiness and sense of satisfaction we’re striving for, we often find that disappointments and bad things happening completely derail us. Our happiness plummets or we feel completely unable to cope with the stress of it all.
When you cultivate contentment, you allow yourself to step off the rollercoaster. Instead of your outside circumstances dictating how you feel, your internal world dictates how you react to the external.
So, how do you learn to be content in life? Is it something only naturally unflappable people can develop? The good news is that everyone can learn how to be content in life, without giving up on their aspirations. How? Let’s take a closer look.
How To Be Content in Life
How To Be Content with What You Have
Learning to be content with what you have starts with the powerful practice of gratitude. We’ve got a complete guide on gratitude practice here, but you should take a moment each day to count your blessings, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. Many people like to keep a gratitude journal and write down 3-5 things they are grateful for at the start or end of each day, so try incorporating gratitude into your daily routine.
Next, watch for comparisonitis. They say comparison is the thief of joy, and it will certainly steal your contentment. How can you be content with what you’ve got when you’re constantly comparing yourself to others? Start to cultivate a mindset that it’s you against you, and try to stay in your own lane as you work toward your goals.
How To Be Content at Work
Achieving contentment at work can seem more challenging, but it is attainable without having your “dream job.” That said, you do need to have a job that gives you meaning. For some, that means you feel like your work is helping you and others progress. You need to feel like you’re contributing something to the world. Other people simply find satisfaction in a job with good people around them that pays them the money they need to live the way they want. You know you best, so make sure you’re in a role that fulfills you.
You also need to strive for a healthy work-life balance. Make sure you aren’t giving your life exclusively to your work, especially if you are employed. It’s common for companies to emphasize their “family” culture, and you may truly feel that you have a family at work, but don’t forget that your worth is not defined by your worth to that company or your clients.
Finally, remember that it’s okay to be satisfied where you are at work. It’s okay to be happy in your role, even as you strive for more. While many of us are continually thinking about our next goal – that next promotion, pay rise, or increase in responsibility – it’s essential to take some time to appreciate where you are right now, even as you envision the future.
How To Be Content with Your Financial Situation
Learning how to be content with the amount of money in your bank account is easier said than done when there’s a cost of living crisis, but it can be done. Whether or not you feel happy with your financial situation depends largely on your perspective, so you can change the way you look at things to start to feel more content.
Firstly, start focusing on what your money allows you to do, rather than on what you don’t have enough for. Do you have a roof over your head? Food on the table? These are blessings worth counting and recalling when you do your gratitude practice. Even when you have to pay your bills (which can feel like throwing money into the aether), think about what they’re giving you when you pay them.
Secondly, separate your self-worth from your net worth. The saying that “your net worth reflects your self-worth” simply isn’t true. You are more than your current financial status, and your value doesn’t diminish just because you don’t have as much as someone else.
Lastly, feeling in control of your finances goes a long way to feeling more content. When you feel powerless is when you feel unhappy, so budget and make active decisions about where your money goes and when.
How To Be Content in Your Romantic Relationships
To be content in your romantic relationships, you need to start by fostering a strong sense of self. You need to understand who you are and be happy in your own company. Many people will say you have to love yourself first, but really, you need to be able to supply yourself with love first. You don’t have to think you are perfect and you have hang-ups, but you need to at least be aware when you have behaviors where you are seeking something from others that you do not have within yourself. By being self-aware, you won’t place unrealistic expectations on your partners.
Open and honest communication in your relationships is also key to being content. There’s no way to be happy with someone if you have to think before you speak or feel like you need to apologize all the time. You need to be able to disagree and come back together.
Also realize that you cannot be content in a relationship if you are hoping the person you are with will change in some way, especially if it’s drastically or a personality trait. It’s one thing being with someone you hope will get a better job because you believe they are worthy of more, but it’s another that you hope they will stop being the loud, life of the party, or stop being so hot-headed. People can change their circumstances, but it takes a lot for someone to change the way they are.
How To Be Content with Your Family
Families aren’t perfect. You’re in a social unit with people with whom you may share only DNA. It’s easy to be disappointed with their decisions or how they fulfill their end of your relationship. But you need to understand that everyone has a different personality and different wants and needs from familial relationships. Their needs will also change over time. Learning to celebrate your differences will help you find harmony and acceptance.
Just as with romantic relationships, communication is key. Share how you feel but also allow others to voice their opinions. Be aware that sometimes, you may not agree with their point of view, but you should still respect it.
Another essential aspect of being content with your family is putting good boundaries in place, and standing by them. In families, often more than romantic relationships, people have expectations about what you should do, contribute, or sacrifice for your family. You’ve got to learn to say no when you want and need to. If you’ve found it difficult to hold your boundaries before, it may take some time for your family to learn to respect them, but they will eventually, and it will lead to far better relationships and more contentment for you.
How do you strive for more, while still being content in life?
Balancing ambition and a desire for more with being content may seem impossible, but it’s all about how you manage your internal world. Here are some strategies to strike this balance:
- “More” must be aligned with you: You need to make sure that striving for “more” is genuinely about having more about what you want, not about meeting societal pressures. Your goals should be a source of inspiration, motivation, and excitement for you, not stress or dissatisfaction.
- Practice gratitude: When you’re content with what you have, you won’t feel that negative, desperate feeling when you think about your goals.
- Give yourself time: Remember that life is a journey, not a series of destinations. Working toward getting something is what takes time while getting it will only be exciting for hours or days. You’ve got to learn to be patient and appreciate the journey.
- Celebrate the milestones: Saving for a home? Celebrate every time you save a thousand dollars, or even a hundred dollars in the early days. It’s okay to appreciate your little wins.
- Record your milestones: People who take progress pictures every other week while on a fitness journey have a huge record of their little successes – each week or two shows the results of the journey that has moved them a little closer to their success. It also serves as motivation for them. When you’re striving to achieve something, record when it happened in a journal or planner so you can look back later and celebrate all your successes. Suddenly, what seems to be one achievement is actually hundreds of little successes, each leading us forward.
- Strive for balance: Workaholics, listen up; taking care of yourself is so important, and it won’t slow down your results. If anything, self-care will help you reach your goals sooner. Don’t be tempted to get into hustle mode, where you are so focused that you burn yourself out and stop enjoying your day-to-day life. Balance your ambition with a desire to enjoy every day and take care of yourself.
Being Content in Life Means Living in Harmony and Flow
Cultivating contentment doesn’t mean stagnation. Rather, it’s about finding a harmonious balance in your journey of life – appreciating what you have while setting goals and striving for more (if you want more). This balancing act, though challenging, can significantly enhance your contentment, happiness, and satisfaction with life. Remember, life is not a race, but a journey to be savored. Each step you take is a testament to your growth, resilience, and ability to create your unique path. Embrace contentment in all areas of your life and watch as it positively transforms your day-to-day existence.
Theresa Bedford is a syndicated freelance home and travel writer with regular contributions to the Associated Press wire and MSN. She helps everyday people love the life they have through simplicity, organization, and prioritization.