First, what really is “Contentment”: According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, being content “is having true peace of mind and it has absolutely nothing to do with any external pleasure or condition, but rather than your attitude”. Stop for a moment and ask yourself: Are you content? Where would you rank your contentment today?
Oftentimes, we let our negative scripts play in the forefront, filled with worries and fears, anger or resentment, doubts and defensiveness. As this becomes such a habit, we are subtly losing our grip and surrendering to the war of discontentment. We may seek contentment, but our thoughts, feelings and our actions are spinning away from the curve.
With all these negative scripts, we oftentimes find unhealthy ways of coping to deal with the emotional pain or try to avoid it all together. These can include distracting ourselves with habits of over-eating, being detached or uninterested in others, drug or alcohol abuse, blaming others and being resentful, deliberating on our own misfortunes, increased irritability, or experiencing more pain due to feeling emotional pain.
If we work very hard to be happy, and mind you, it takes very hard work to be happy in this world, we may feel right and good, and more content during our battles.
So, how do I get there? Here are some ideas:
- Become aware of your negative thoughts and how they are triggered.
- Practice challenging your negative thoughts to determine if they are realistic or biased that unnecessarily support a continued negative mood
- Rephrase your thoughts so that they are more realistic, or optimistic. Fight the tigers of negative thinking. Think, “This is just a bump in the road rather than this is a monstrous mountain that cannot be passed”.
- Put yourself in control of your attitude
- Set your goals on what is meaningful and with purpose
- Focus on what is good and right. Clarify your values and focus on the person you want to be like
- Work on being more lighthearted, generous, creative, kind, encouraging and helpful
- Remember in detail the good memories of yesterday
- Meditate on the good characteristics of others. We all have an angel and devil on our shoulders. Seek the angel – in you and in others. The one, who gets the most attention, wins.
- Realize that we all make mistakes, and the opportunity before us is learning from them
- Pay attention to what is happening “now”. Stop the racing or wandering thoughts. Pay attention to what you are paying attention to.
- Feel good about helping others be more content
- Practice laughing
- Realize that the years are short
Of course, contentment does not take the reality out of living. We still go through many hardships. Life is not easy and no one promised us a rose garden. However, there are things we can be in charge of. Being wise, seeks contentment. It is an attitude. It is a resolution. It is a decision. It is a life-long pathway of living that we can take with us so that we are better equipped to deal with the rough spots on our bumpy road.
Claudia A. Liljegren, MSW, LICSW