When you Google the definition of contentment, you’ll see that it is defined as a state of happiness and satisfaction. Sounds like the kind of state we’d all like to be in permanently, right? To always feel good, right where we are, never wondering what it might be like if we were somewhere else. I think this is the goal we all reach for. It’s why we work hard and do the tasks we don’t enjoy. We picture a better, brighter, more enjoyable future if we can just get through “this next thing.” But, the truth is, if we are constantly in this mindset of chasing contentment, we’ll never end up finding it at all.
I’ve come to learn that we as humans have the capacity to find something wrong with pretty much anything. That little voice in our heads pops up and will start going on and on about how the temperature isn’t quite right and the way you did your hair looks stupid or whatever other nonsense runs through there without proper supervision. It just rambles on through all the negatives which amplifies them and creates a reality you may not feel so great in. Or it rambles about bigger stuff, like how you could have made your relationship turn out differently if only you hadn’t been so “you,” or how you hate your job and really should have done that internship 5 years ago. Whatever it is, it’s a constant chatter in our minds that creates that feeling of discontent. The feeling of unease that makes us feel disconnected from ourselves and our true purpose and leaves us feeling irritable and maybe a little bitter.
I’d argue that feeling discontent is a natural part of life (because it most definitely is), but there are some things you can do to find some feeling of content during those times as well:
- Remember that life is cyclical and that highs and lows are natural and necessary. If we didn’t experience the full spectrum of these emotions, we’d have nothing to compare them to. How would we know if we were truly happy and content, if we were never unhappy and discontent? When you catch yourself in a low moment, go easy on yourself and remember that it’s okay to be right where you are. You’re human, after all, and it’s healthy to experience a range of emotions.
- Don’t let yourself dwell in those emotions though. In fact, don’t let yourself dwell on any emotion. Emotions come and go and we experience them in waves. If we clung on too tightly to any one emotion we’d experience fear and anxiety about any changes at all, and then be sorely disappointed when other emotions inevitably pop up. Nothing is permanent; don’t get too attached.
- Remind yourself that you’re not bad for feeling unhappy with where you’re at. It’s healthy to feel a little discontent, so that you always have drive to do better. I also think we learn and grow the most in the low times. They force us to reevaluate ourselves and the lives we lead, which hopefully makes us more human and compassionate in the long run.
- Look around you and point out all the things you’re grateful for in this moment. It’ll help you recenter and realign with what really matters and direct your focus in a direction of greater abundance.
- Adjust your perspective and try to see discontentment as a necessary stepping stone to your next exciting moment. What comes up, must come down, and what goes down, always has the ability to come back up. If we wallow in our down points we may never allow that opportunity to arrive. Remember that the feelings you’re having right now are just that: feelings. They do not determine your reality; not right now and certainly not the future.
When we feel unhappy or uneasy, we typically do whatever we can to claw our way out and escape the emotions. But what if we sat with it? What if we didn’t judge it? Or judge ourselves for feeling it? As if it makes us less human to feel emotion? Or do we just want to be the least amount of human we possibly can? Why do we feel so much shame around negative feelings? Because it’s uncomfortable to feel them?
If we can work to accept life on life’s terms, I think this all becomes much easier. We no longer work off of specific expectations of how things “should” go or “should” be, and instead understand and accept ourselves and our emotions a little more. This creates space for us to call in our next magical moment and remain open to it when it arrives. With pain comes beauty, and this is no exception. We can choose to focus on the negatives and wish we were somewhere else, or we can appreciate the exact place we’ve found ourselves in; embrace it, learn from it and trust that it’s a stepping stone to the next amazing stage. Contentment is something we must stop chasing, and instead learn to find it within ourselves, no matter the highs or lows.