Happiness, Mental Health

Contentment: What it is and Why it Matters

“To be content doesn’t mean you don’t desire more, it means you’re thankful for what you have and patient for what’s to come.” -Tony Gaskins

A woman in a field feeling contentment and happiness

The Reality of Life

Throughout life there are numerous experiences we will engage in, some of which will be uplifting and positive and some that will be challenging and negative. One guarantee of life is that there will be ups and downs, triumphs and defeats. Sometimes, things will go very well for us and, at other times, life can seem like a struggle. Through it all, there is one principle that we can live by that will help us navigate both the good times and the bad, and it is that of contentment. 

What Does it Mean to be Content?

Contentment is a state of being where one is satisfied with their current situation and the state of affairs in one’s life as they presently are. If one is content, they are pleased with their situation and how the elements in one’s life are situated. 

This might sound like things have to be going well in one’s life to be content. One may deduce that to be content one must have the areas in their life going as they had previously planned and that elements in their life are all perfect, with no errors or difficulties. 

However, this thinking is flawed. In fact, it is possible to be content with one’s life regardless of the circumstance, regardless of whether things are going as one expected or not. Furthermore, it may be even more important to find contentment in life when things are NOT going well, or according to plan.

Contentment in the Difficult Times

As mentioned above, life is full of ups and downs. There are going to be good times filled with fun and joy, and there will be hard times with difficulty and sorrow. Regardless of the circumstance, it is possible to be in a state of contentment. How is this possible? You might wonder…

Well, to start, it must be noted that it is not easy to be content when things are tough. It takes awareness to realize that bad times are not only guaranteed in life, they are necessary. Additionally, it takes acceptance of the negative situation to find a level of contentment in these difficult times. One can be content with their struggle by finding ways to appreciate it and to understand the benefits that a struggle can bring.

Now, this contentment in difficult times does not mean staying in the difficulty without trying to better the situation. It does not mean tolerating negative things that you can change. If you can change something to better the situation that you are in, it only makes sense to do what you can to improve those elements in your life.

Contentment is especially helpful in situations in which there is no way to improve things. It is also helpful when one is focused on positive things that can come from the difficult times. Furthermore, it is helpful to be content while keeping in mind that elements in one’s life and one’s life circumstances are fluid and will change overtime.

Contentment in Good Times

It may make sense that it takes effort and practice to be content during the difficult times. It may seem like being content in the good or positive times is easy and natural and that it does not take any work to find contentment in these times. However, this is not the case. 

It can be difficult in the rat race of life to find contentment when one is flourishing in life. Instead of being content when things are going well, people often get caught up thinking about how they can continue improving their situation or trying to one-up themselves and where they currently are. They may engage in social comparison and compare themselves and their situation with others who are doing better and lose sight of how well things are actually going in their own life. 

While it is good to be ambitious and want to continue to improve, it is not good when this ambition comes in the way of being satisfied with one’s self and one’s life.

Finding the Balance

A zen setup of rocks displaying balance

Altogether, as with many things, finding a balance is critical. This balance of contentment and striving to better one’s self and one’s situation can be difficult to achieve. It is important to find a peace and satisfaction with how one is living and one’s life circumstance. It is also important to not lose sight of working to improve one’s life as well. 

In the difficult times it can be helpful to realize the positive things that come from struggling and that the difficult times do not last forever. However, while being content with difficult times it is important that one does not become complacent and settle. 

Instead, one should attempt to better one’s situation while appreciating the struggle and learn from it. Similarly, when things are going well one should be content, appreciative, and grateful but not complacent in the good times. Having this appreciation and satisfaction while still striving to be better is an appropriate, but difficult balance that we can aim for in our lives.

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