True contentment is a deep-seated sense of accepting who and where you are at any given moment. Too often, we get so entrenched in our busy lives that we don’t even notice where we are now. When we finally come up for air, we focus more on where we were or where we want to be instead of where we are now. In other words, our focus is on the past or the future, rather than the present. Does that sound familiar? But before we can be content with where we are, we must first be aware of our present situation.
Here’s a helpful exercise to establish a sense of place that takes less than two minutes:
Look around where you are at this very moment. Describe your space without making any judgments. For example, instead of saying the room is cheerful or dreary (words of judgment), simply observe the texture of the carpet or floor, the color of the room, and the positioning and style of your furniture. Perhaps the walls are beige, the desk is facing a window, the fabric on your chair is slightly worn, and there is a photo of someone you love next to your computer. By noticing without judging, we allow ourselves to be aware of the present moment. Contentment comes when we are most aware of the present moment, and through the power of contentment, happiness becomes a more viable choice.
Happiness can be sustained by making a series of those conscious choices. Here are a some tips for cultivating contentment in your life:
1. Pause. When you find yourself unhappy with someone or something, pause. Take a deep breath and remind yourself to accept that person as they are and to embrace their good qualities or to look on the bright side of any situation.
2. Stop buying stuff you don’t need. When you feel the urge to buy something, think about whether it’s a “need” or a “want.” If the item is a “want,” think about why you are not content with what you have now. As yourself: Do I need this now? Wait a few days and see if the urge to buy it dissipates.
3. Show people you appreciate them. Be present. Offer kind words and actions to help build up your emotional bank account. The more you put out in the world for others, the more you will receive in return.
4. Practice gratitude. Each day, identify at least one person, pet, or thing that enriches your life. Write your thoughts down in a journal. When you find yourself unhappy, take a moment to review your entries and think about all the good things in your life.
5. Learn to enjoy simple things that don’t cost money. Meaningful conversations. Walking in nature. Reading a good book. A trip to the beach. These things are all free and can often offer more joy than more expensive endeavors.
6. Live in the moment. Don’t postpone happiness by waiting for a day when your life is less busy or less stressful. That day may never come. Instead, look for opportunities to savor the small pleasures of daily life. Focus on the positives of today rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
Happiness gained through success or materialism is only temporary. Remind yourself that the grass is always greener on the other side, and virtually every person you think has everything likely doesn’t feel the same about themselves. Even people who seem like they have it all often don’t find contentment. Why? They are always driven to want more and are unhappy with themselves. Now, it’s important to clarify that contentment does not preclude ambition. It does not mean that you will not want more.
Contentment is simply gratitude, appreciation, and acceptance for the way things are right now. So take that first step toward happiness. Doing so will be a gift that keep giving back to you for the rest of your life.