A Revolution of Contentment | The BridgeMaker

A Revolution of Contentment

By on May 26, 2013


Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. – Viktor Frankl

What if you simply decided this very moment to be content?

– Peaceful
– Happy
– Satisfied
– Gratified
– Tranquil
– Serene
– Untroubled
– At Ease
– Comfortable
– Pleased
– Fulfilled
– Unworried

You can decide:

– I have enough.
– I am enough.
– I am more than enough.
– I am good enough.
– This is the perfect moment.
– This is the only moment.
– Whatever is unfolding in this moment is an opportunity.

Contentment Depends Upon Your Mind

Contentment depends entirely on your mind, and how you perceive the people and events that occur around you. Sure, external circumstances can trigger happiness or suffering to a certain extent, but it’s how you choose to respond to the ups and downs of life that determines your actual level of contentment.

Essentially, there are two kinds of happiness. One depends on material comfort or pleasure. The other is a deeper inner state of contentment, an attitude you can cultivate through practice.

What happens when you depend upon externals for your happiness? It’s easy to get caught in a never-ending cycle of wanting more. One adage compares desire to drinking salt water: the more you drink, the thirstier you become.

In fact, it’s easy to slip into a state of addiction. The positive feeling that comes along with a new possession or experience quickly fades, as we all know.

Then, you’re immediately pulled into the next explosion of consumption, whether its possessions or experiences, having lost control of your self, and any true sense of freedom or choice.

Everyone wants happiness and wishes to avoid suffering. Yet, these days so many of us desperately seek happiness in ways that boomerang, and bring suffering instead: excessive shopping, overspending, overeating, partying, prescription drug abuse, unhealthy relationships, and the list goes on.

Alarmingly, both depression and anxiety are on the rise despite the fact that, at least for most of us, our basic needs are met.

Happily, it is possible to cut the chain of suffering, and find a more enduring sense of contentment within. It starts with a revolution in your own mind.

Instead of looking outwardly for your happiness, turn your mind inwardly, be aware of your own thoughts and emotions, and learn to become the master of your own perceptions and how you respond.

The Way of Contentment

In short, contentment means being satisfied with yourself and with your situation. But, how do you go from a state of dissatisfaction to one of contentment and ease? It requires training your mind to be happy and at ease. Use these practical strategies to create more contentment in your day-to-day life.

  1. Remember impermanence
    Whatever you’re feeling this moment will change, usually in a matter of seconds. But, if you try to hold onto a feeling of happiness you will feel discontent instead.

    Your possessions are subject to failure and impermanence so they can never bring you a sense of true contentment. Be satisfied with what you have, and purchase mindfully when the need arises.

    Worldly success is fickle, and it’s doesn’t necessarily bring more joy and happiness. Often, it’s married to more striving, worry, and stress. So enjoy whatever success you might have in the moment, but don’t expect it to continue eternally.

  2. Reject self-judgment
    Don’t you notice how a good deal of your dissatisfaction comes from comparing yourself to others, to an ideal in your mind, or to a former experience in your life? This is one of the quickest ways to make your self feel bad.

    To switch it around, try to notice every time a self-judging thought arises in your mind. Instead of grabbing onto it for the ride, let it pass by. Self-judgment is just another thought that comes out of nowhere and disappears into the big blue sky – unless you feed it and keep it alive.

    Wouldn’t you rather let it slide by? You might not be able to catch that inner critic each and every time, but with a little focus slowly you’ll successfully diminish the self-judging mind.

  3. Remember the goodness
    Begin or end each day by counting your blessings. If you have food and a place to sleep, that’s a good start. If you have one friend, you’re on a positive track. Chances are, you have much more than that!

    By regularly acknowledging the goodness in your life, you will slowly retrain your brain so contentment becomes its status quo.

    This is also an effective tactic to apply any moment dissatisfaction jumps up in your mind. Don’t fan the flames; instead counter discontent by appreciating the goodness in your life.

  4. Stay in the moment
    A huge chunk of suffering comes from anticipating the future or having regrets about the past. Instead of ruminating on thoughts in your head, open your senses and enjoy the richness that surrounds you at every turn.

    It might be a gentle breeze on a scorching summer day or children playing unabashedly with the zest of life. Just think, you might not have even noticed if you are all wrapped up in your head!

  5. Give the benefit of the doubt
    When people give you a hard time, don’t let it get under your skin. After all, we’re all human – no one is without faults. If you choose to see the good in others instead of haranguing about their weaknesses, you will always have greater peace of mind.
  6. Look for the lesson
    Life flows in cycles and difficult times will occur. Inner contentment doesn’t mean sadness, worry, or anger will never appear. But, if you commit to looking for the lesson in each challenge that comes your way, you’ll change and grow with less angst and distress to pay.

    I’ll be honest. Although creating more contentment is simple, it takes practice, patience, and perseverance. That’s because you’re up against a backlog of habitual patterning that has kept you stuck in those unhelpful grooves.

    But, don’t lose heart! When old habits try to hold you back, just flash them a big smile fully confident that true contentment abides within.

    A dose of humor also eases the noose of tired old ways. Just keep going with these tips, and with every small win, you’ll find your sense of contentment growing day by day.

Sandra Pawula is a freelance writer, mindfulness advocate, and champion of living with ease. She writes about finding greater happiness and freedom on her blog Always Well Within. Her new e-course Living with Ease: 21 Days to Less Stress begins on Sept. 9th, and you can register now.

  • Excellent post here Sandra on contentment and one which I can apply so many ways in my life.

    We collectively and I, personally, grapple so much with this elusive concept called happiness. Like you say, we always want more or we think that something out there will make us happier. I like the salt-water analogy – the more you drink, the thirstier you become. But no – you just get thirstier! You wan the next shiny gadget, the next bigger house, etc etc.

    Recognizing that everything will pass (good and bad) and living in the moment are 2 ways two ways I’m using to find more contentment in my life. I take success and achievements as they come, trying not to get caught up with or demanding more of it. Thanks again for your post here.

  • Sandra, I love love love that we’re on the same page! To keep myself together, I’ve been chanting some of these via self-talk. Great mantras here for contentment. You know, growing up, we were told “contentment” was mediocre. I disagree totally. Contentment is a very happy place and absolutely necessary for the soul.

    Hugs, Sandra. So thrilled to read your post here.

    Alex, you know I am your fan and simply love “your place” Hugs!

  • Sandra:
    Nice piece! You’re encapsulated so much of the beautiful Buddhist thinking that has drawn me in over the last year.
    Thank you.

    • Sandra Pawula

      I’m so happy you liked the post, David. Yes, there’s a thread of Buddhist thought running through this piece. And, the great thing is that these elements are universal. You don’t have to be a Buddhist to apply them.

  • Dear Sandra,

    I love the fact that you start your post with a quote from Viktor Frankl. In many ways he’s the ultimate proof that happiness is possible regardless of how harsh and how unbearable your circumstances may appear.

    This kind of example is important, especially for people who move through deep challenges. My (recurring) example is widows: Many widows are absolutely convinced that there is no way out of their happiness. I totally understand where they come from – and I also know that it is possible to move from grief to growth and contentment.

    This being said, Very few people on planet Earh, if any, can decide to be content and then stick to it. Those who can have decided already. 🙂

    For most of us, both the ultimate decision to love life as is and the actual manifestation of it (including through your 6 brilliant suggestions on the how of it) is work in progress and a multi-year transformational journey. And, it’s so worth it! 🙂

    Thank you!

    • Sandra Pawula

      Hi Halina, We hope and pray that no one ever has to live in such harsh circumstances, but it’s so incredible to know via Viktor Frankl’s example that ultimately our state of well-being depends upon how the mind perceives.

      Yes, I agree it’s impossible to decide in one moment and change altogether. As you point out, people can be firmly convinced that happiness is impossible. But, I feel a strong decision can kickstart us toward contentment. Then, we have to renew that commitment continually in every moment. There will be times when we don’t succeed, but, if we commit to training our mind, contentment will be ours. Definitely, as you point out, a work in progress! Thanks for adding these helpful points to the conversation.

  • Staying in the moment is the one that resonates for me Sandra. The monkey mind needs monitoring as you well know and trying to sneak a peek at the future is futile. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Sandra Pawula

      Absolutely, we need to cultivate continual awareness or the monkey mind will eagerly take over! I’m so glad you underlined being in the moment as it solves so many problems with one stroke. Thank you!