Contentment is tricky. Being content means being in an emotional state of satisfaction, typically drawn from being at ease in one's situation, body and mind. It means accepting your situation and feeling a sense of happiness where you’re at. Contentment doesn’t mean you’re not ambitious or don’t have dreams or don’t want more in life. It simply means you don’t get so caught up in achieving the next milestone that you’re unhappy with where you are in the present.
Contentment is tricky because it’s hard to achieve in our current society. That’s because our society has created unspoken rules about what success, beauty, and dignity looks like, so that people who have not aligned with those societal standards tend to feel like they’ve missed the mark somehow and that naturally stirs up discontentment and unhappiness. That’s because we all want to fit in and feel accepted and compare ourselves constantly to how we measure up to what society says is good and right and our alignment with those standards.
That comparison habit is often at the root of discontentment—but not always. Sometimes, we’re discontent because we’re resentful of the family we were born into, perceived mistakes from our parents, we feel like we’ve never been given a fair chance, or enough resources to live the life we’ve always dreamed of.
You’re not alone. That feeling of mild unhappiness with our lot in life is often a communal feeling. But that feeling can rob us of our joy in life and lead to bitterness. Here are 8 ways you can become a more content person.
1. Find The Root of your Discontent
This will take some time and plenty of honesty with yourself, but the best way to become more content is to figure out what’s stealing your happiness in the first place. We recommend journaling for a few weeks and ask yourself the question, “What makes me displeased with my situation in life?” Then keep asking why. Try to determine exactly why your job or your relationship or your physical appearance make you discontent. Figuring out the root of your negative feelings is the only way to truly address any potential issues, so be honest with yourself about the deep, rooted cause for your emotions.
Once you understand the source of your discontent, work on balancing a feeling of happiness with your current situation and a desire for a better future situation. It’s a tough balance, but it is possible to be happy with your current weight while working toward a more toned body. It’s possible to be content with and grateful for your stressful job while interviewing for a new role. You can still mourn a break up while being excited for being in a healthier relationship one day. Take time to pray, meditate, and journal about your desire for contentment and for resilience on the tough days when you feel beat down by your current situation.
2. Practice Thankfulness
Gratitude is a muscle, and like all muscles, we can make it stronger by exercising it. A huge part of contentment is recognizing the good in your circumstances. We’ll pause to acknowledge that not all situations are worth being content with. If you’re in an abusive relationship of any kind, if you’re struggling with mental health struggles, facing an unplanned pregnancy or any other incredibly overwhelming situation, your top priority should be to get the help you need.
However, if you’re not in a particularly distressing situation, prioritize contentment by prioritizing gratitude. When you feel burdened by life, pause what you’re doing to think about a few great things happening in your life at the moment. We recommend making your gratitude tangible by journaling it or writing sticky notes to post things you're thankful for around your home or office. These small stickies can be a helpful reminder that not everything is as bad as it seems and there are still plenty of great things happening in your life. You can also practice gratitude with others. People are not obligated to be kind or generous with us, so when you see people treating you with kindness, tell them how you’re specifically thankful for them.
Be consistent, friend. These tiny, ongoing exercises in gratitude will help grow your contentment over time.
3. Dial Back Social Media Use
Social media is a fun tool that helps us connect with the world at large and our closest friends all at once, but its constant stimulation can leave us feeling incredibly exhausted. Plus, people tend to show their best selves on social media, but we tend to compare those manicured versions of people with our everyday life—that comparison often leads us to diminish our own self-worth and achievements because our lives often feel insignificant compared with what we see on social platforms. It doesn’t help that companies run ads on social channels that exploit our insecurities in order to sell their products.
Do yourself a favor and leave the apps for a while; try one day each week or even one week each month. If you get into the habit of leaving social media periodically, you’ll realize you feel better and get a lot more time in your life without it.
4. Accept What You Can’t Change
The truth is, there are things in life that we can’t change, for better or worse. Some are mistakes we’ve made, your family, or traumatic experiences. Unfortunately, living in unresolved unhappiness only anchors us to the past and to things we can’t change, and makes it hard to move on.
No one willingly wants to dwell on things they can’t change, but many of us focus on the aspects of our life that will always be the same. The tricky part is honestly challenging what we can and can’t change. We know we can’t change anything that happened in the past, how we look, the family we were born into, the education we got as kids, loans we inherited, or genetic illnesses.
Focusing on things out of your control makes it impossible to be content in life. Time to move forward, which is easier said than done. While this work is all internal, invite your close friends or family to help keep you accountable. Or talk to a counselor. These members of your support system can kindly remind you when you’re saying or doing things that show you’re still dwelling on things you can’t change. Give them the freedom to call you out on hard things so you can truly leave unchangeable realities in their proper place in the back of your mind. Instead, focus on the things you can change by pursuing good and reasonable goals for your life.
5. Keep Pursuing Your Goals
For the things you can and want to change, start working toward tangible change. It’s hard being content if you’re not actively pursuing your goals. That’s because feeling content without striving for personal milestones and growth can leave us feeling stuck and unhappy over time. Goals keep us moving and active, keeps our minds stimulated, and engages that part of us that wants to pursue passion projects. And goals help keep us grounded in reality and what we can reasonably achieve as opposed to feeling discontent over not having the perfect life we’ve always imagined.
If you don’t have personal goals, it’s time to develop some. Don’t take this process lightly. Clear an evening and reflect on what you want in life and why, and decide which goals you want to pursue right now and which ones you want to delay for the future. Make them realistic and give them timelines to work toward. We recommend posting them somewhere visible in your home so you’re always reminded of what you’re working toward.
6. Focus on Joy-Giving Activities
Discontentment can ruin our lives. More so, they can make each day feel more frustrating and displeasing than the last.
For many, discontentment makes it difficult to push through work days, leading to life feeling hopeless, monotonous, or overwhelming because we constantly feel unhappy with our circumstances.
Find activities that make you feel happy and excited because it can offer a healthy distraction from your feelings of frustration and discontentment. Here are some things you can do to break up your tough days and give your that emotional boost you need when things get tough:
* Plan a short road trip with a close friend
* Try a new restaurant each week to help you explore your city
* Pick up a new, creative hobby like painting, pottery, or interior decorating
* Get houseplants to care for, watch them grow, and beautify your space
* Go to concerts
* Try cooking or baking new recipes each week
* Pick up reading or writing
* Journal daily
* Try something new and scary to break out of your comfort zone.
7. Keep Material Things and Achievements in Perspective
A common fallacy is that material things and personal achievements increase happiness but that’s not true. In fact, getting more things often makes us feel worse than expected. A similar effect happens when we hinge our happiness on personal or professional goals; we see that all the time with celebrities who have every accolade they could ever want, but feel lost and miserable.
Achievements and physical things can make us happier, but only temporarily, so avoid pursuing new feats in an attempt to make you more content. Instead, check your motivations and if you believe that material possessions and achievements will make you more content, shift your perspective.
Remember, it’s still good and healthy to pursue goals, but remind yourself consistently that it’s crucial to find true happiness where you are now. You might spend a long time in your current situation, so why live miserably through it when you can try to be happy with where you are while you strive for the next big thing?
8. Take Care of Yourself
When we’re unhappy, we tend to sacrifice sleep, exercise, and healthy eating; this can leave us feeling unmotivated and stressed. One of the foundations to great mental health is taking an all-rounded approach to health and well-being. When we’re physically healthy, we tend to be more emotionally and mentally steady, in turn leading to a happier disposition over time.
Try a six-pronged approach to self care:
Get 8-9 hours of solid rest each night if possible to approach each day with mental clarity and less emotional strain.
2. Diet and Exercise
Eat as many balanced meals and get as much exercise as you can. Physical health starts with what you put into your body and what you do with it. Cardio exercise helps keeps our body oxygenated and high-functioning while reducing fatty, sugary foods can prevent things like lethargy and sugar crashes.
3. Time in nature
Time in nature has a calming effect, reduces stress, improves physical well being, and even boosts your self esteem. Try taking short walks at sunrise or sunset to enjoy the beautiful colors in the sky or take short hikes.
4. Quiet time
Spend time alone during each week. This will give you time to reflect on where you are in life and all the things you have to be grateful for. It’ll also help you destress if you’re able to really quiet your thoughts and practice mindful meditation.
5. Mental exercises
Simple practices like sudoku, reading, and crossword puzzles can help improve our reasoning and critical-thinking skills, in turn keeping our minds healthy!
6. Creative exercises
Try new, creative hobbies to give you an outlet for your emotions. Many people use tangible hobbies like pottery, painting, and playing music to help them relax, put things into perspective, and regain their positive disposition.
At the end of the day, if you feel better physically, you’ll feel great mentally and emotionally.
Becoming a more content person is certainly within reach for you. Take your time exploring the tips in this article and start by picking one or two things you can implement today. A more content you is growing inside you already!