Contentment: The New Happiness
The New Happiness
You would be hard-pressed to meet a person whose overall goal for seeking therapy, help, a new job, or really any other change in day-to-day living was not to be happy.
Happiness has become this standard that everyone is striving for, as they should; however, it is aloof and ever-changing. For some of my clients, they struggle with recognizing that they are happy or what being happy even feels like for them. They are able to look back on their lives and identify times when they were happy, but regularly notice that they do not recognize the emotion as it’s happening.
What this creates is a cycle of working and racing towards this goal that, at best, can be fleeting and difficult to accept if unfamiliar.
The objective of this blog is not to make anyone feel that happiness is not worth working towards and striving for; however, I do want to challenge readers to consider altering their goal to one of contentment rather than happiness.
The difference between being content and being happy is acceptance. It is believed that once overall contentment has been reached, the goal of happiness in a person’s life becomes easier to attain and to acknowledge.
What is contentment? How I define contentment in session is to be able to accept the things going on in your life, both those deemed positive and negative, and still recognize that your life is worthy. When a person is content with their life, a bad day can simply be a series of unfortunate events without being catastrophized or made into a failure.
Contentment opens the door to the medium or in-between. A truly content person is neither sad nor happy at all times, but usually somewhere in the middle. By working to accept your life and choosing to maintain a content attitude, polarized thinking will (hopefully) decrease as well. What this can look like is less black and white thinking- less labeling instances in your life as bad versus good.
Contentment is Happiness
Overall contentment is on the road for being able to feel happy and to be able to enjoy your happiness as it is happening. Following the fact that our feelings are fleeting and can change over time, setting the standard of constant happiness is, at best, unattainable. On the other hand, it is completely obtainable and possible to set your intentions to a long-term goal of having more happy moments, being mindful enough to fully experience them, and strengthen your emotional connection to objects, people, and situations that trigger happiness for you.
So, what are some things you can do to move towards contentment?
First, think about where you’re starting the journey from- always bloom where you are planted.
If you recognize a natural pessimism towards your life, start with some gratitude or conscious recognition of positive experiences in your daily life.
A good practice is to begin sizing your problems correctly- not every problem is a full 10, some problems are more of a 2 or 3. By challenging catastrophized thinking, you give yourself a chance to see the hiccups in your life through a different lense.
Second, consider your routine. The habits and methods of completing tasks in your life can mean everything. If you don’t have a routine, this is your sign to get one. What is something that starts your day off well? What is something that you do that helps you sleep peacefully? If you don’t know what these things are, consider trying a few different things for a week at a time and listening to your body’s response.
Being content with your life means implementing radical acceptance, being conscious of your emotional reactions, and giving yourself the opportunity to experience happiness without pressure for perfection.