Contentment is often talked about elusively, not unlike the moment right before you fall into a deep sleep, or a sudden thrill of excitement and butterflies. Believing it's not something we can cultivate ourselves is exactly why we're not feeling content. As a woman who found she could be happier, more at peace and more content than ever before while facing her greatest hardship, I've come to understand that contentment has absolutely nothing to do with the outside world or circumstance. If you'd told me that while I was battling cancer as a teen, I'd learn what true happiness and gratitude were, I'd probably have laughed at you. Thanks to other patients and the love of my family, I now see that contentment doesn't need perfect circumstances to exist.
Contentment is cultivated, but it's done so by first going deep inside of yourself, and then out in all directions rather than a narrow view from a single point. This may sound confusing, but the tips below will help you see that contentment isn't something you can go searching for, but like a deep sleep, it's waiting for you if you tune yourself in...
Looking Outside of Yourself
Money, notoriety and accolades, travel, relationships; there's a lot of places we look for contentment in, but don't typically find it. It's possible that contentment could be found in these areas, but only with the right view.
When we're asking something from the outside world to fix a perceived problem in us: 'I need more money to feel safe, then I'll be content', we're not accessing a power, we're feeding a void. Notice I didn't say filling a void; these types of need-voids in our psyche can't be filled, they only grow larger as we feed them.
On the other hand, changing our view can eradicate the void feeling altogether, as well as put perspective where it's been lost. In other words, it's not about what you don't have, it's about what you do.
The first step is embracing reality just as it is, without your filter of what's wrong or how you would rather reality be. You have a certain amount of money; it's not too much, it's not too little. It's just the amount you have, detached from emotional judgment.
You also have right now, this moment; it's not tomorrow with tomorrow's to-do list, it's not yesterday with your past struggles. You have right now. Contentment, and the happiness it brings is about embracing right here right now without judging it, and changing your stance from a place of need to a place of acceptance and global perspective.
Not Making Contentment and Peace a Priority
After visiting India to study yoga and meditation, I understood why so many people through so many centuries have devoted their lives to both. Peace within ourselves should be a priority, because without personal peace we can never spread peace throughout the world. But it's not something you can pick up at the store; it's a practice. In order to keep up the practice, you have to offer your energy and time to it, thus making it a priority. I like to think of it the same way I do my fitness; toned abs don't just show up at my door in summer (much as I've wished otherwise), I have to work for it. Personal peace and contentment are exactly the same.
In fact, this is exactly what we discuss in the new
HerAfter Lifestyle Guide To Happiness and Self-Esteem; that peace must be practiced in all areas of life, including fitness and diet, in order to work. You can pick up the new guide on Amazon.
If you don't make practicing contentment and peace within yourself a priority in your life, no one will. No one can force upon you the habits, practices, affirmations and lifestyle that will make you feel content and happy. You must be your own advocate.
As a women's lifestyle writer, I highly recommend you start first by making time to spend alone. Busy schedules and everyone else's needs of you will always be in the way, but do it anyway. You deserve the time to rest, check in with your emotions, and assess how your heart and soul are doing. It is only through time with yourself that your heart and soul speak to you, connect you with you purpose, and realign you with that universal view. It's also a great time to meditate; if you want beginner tips on meditation, read this article.
photo by HerAfter.com
Playing Comparison Games
There is no quicker way to ruin your happiness, sense of self, and individuality than by comparing yourself to others. Whether the verdict is good or bad, it quantifies parts of yourself that cannot be quantified, and limits your ability to appreciate life into a narrow, compartmentalized understanding. The problem is that when any two things are compared (say, my bed head and Chrissy Teigan's mane of instagram glory), one thing must be the better of the two. One thing must be good, while the other not. It puts the two on a spectrum of the same weight, rather than them having individual, separate existences (which they do). Comparison is unhealthy and unreal; no two things can ever be exactly the same, and shouldn't be judged for not being as much.
In judging yourself, your life, your body, your belongings as 'not as good as' or 'better than' (the only two verdicts in a comparison!), you limit yourself and your capability to appreciate. Contentment requires that you respect life as it is, including yourself. That would be unique, individual, one-of-a-kind, miraculous. Happiness comes when you learn to embrace that individuality about everything, and then celebrate it.
As someone who frequently, possibly manically asks why I'm still alive and what can I do with this time on earth, let me tell you one last thing. Life is very, very short, and we are all constantly on the cusp of it's non-existence. Even if you live to be 100, you'll think back to a life as quick as a wink. I can absolutely promise you that no matter what is going on for you, no matter what questions you have, if you take a moment to stop, look around, realize the incredible fact that you are alive right here, right now, and have no guarantee of the next moment, you'll feel at the very least some contentment. Do not be afraid to look at the preciousness of your life, to feel how lucky you are to even have this moment and the type of awareness to appreciate your very breath. You are powerful beyond belief, and blessed to be here, working to improve your life.
If you want more tips on how to find your peace and access your contentment, plus build a more beautiful life, just head to HerAfter.com. We discuss topics like this every day!
Rachael is a writer, blogger, cancer survivor and the author of HerAfter.com, a women's site about conscious and stylish living. After years as a fashion journalist, she now writes women's lifestyle articles about life, love, style, and thriving after surviving not just cancer, but all of life's big battles. You can catch up with her on Twitter ( @RachaelYahne ) and read more of her work on her website, and in her new ebook, Her Happier, Healthier After - A Women's Guide to Building Happiness and Self-Esteem