Don’t look for happiness, look for contentment

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

How many of us think along those lines:

  • “I wish I had him / her as my friend… then I’d be really happy. ”
  • “I wish I was famous, then I’d really be happy.”
  • “I wish was making enough money… then I’d be happy.”
  • “I wish… I wish.. I wish…”

Have you ever felt this way? I bet you have.

We spend our lives running after things or people, hoping that they will make us happy. But as soon as we get what we want, the happiness fizzles away & we start running after the next shiny object, the next connection, the next high.

Finding happiness in material things is like fighting illness with pain killers. The effect is superficial and rather short term.

It is nice to be happy, really happy, and to experience this high but you have to understand that this kind of happiness is like a wave on the ocean shore; it comes, and it goes. It is also a little – more than a little – like the high induced by drugs (you get where I am leading to).

What we all really should be striving for is to be content. Contentment is a lasting thing which happiness is a fickle thing that, as said, is like a wave on the beach or like the high induced by smoking a joint or by alcohol, a state of euphoria.

What is the difference between contentment and happiness?

If you chase happiness, it will always be one step ahead of you. If you chase contentment, there is nowhere to run. Happiness is, more or less, an emotion that comes and goes, contentment is more a way of life.

Contentment is a state of constant well-being despite the ups & downs we face. Life is challenging and at times it can throw us off balance. By practicing contentment, we find the strength to remain at peace no matter what. Looking for happiness, on the other hand, is a temporary high only, somewhat akin to consuming alcohol or certain drugs.

The first step to contentment is to be grateful. While sometimes circumstances may make you wonder how you can be grateful with what life throws at you there are definitely things to be grateful for.

If you are alive and reasonably healthy then that for starters. Then there are family, friends, the food we eat, the natural world and its wonders, and on and on the list could go. Practice gratitude. Some people even suggest of keeping a gratitude journal. It is not an easy thing at times but worth it, I think.

When we are grateful for what we have, it focuses our attention on what is right in our lives. Not only do we become content, it also helps us maintain a positive perspective when we face challenges. And the latter is important so as not to be thrown off balance.

Also and especially avoid complaining all the time. Complaining only creates more unhappiness not only for you, but also for those around you. Though there is a tendency in society to think that if you are complaining all the time, you must be “smart”. Because if you are complaining you’re implying you know how to fix the world’s problems or that you’re somehow better than others.

Even with practicing contentment does not mean that you have to or will walk around with a constant smile on your face. In some instances that could be seen as rude, inappropriate or the smile could even be mistaken for a smirk. Pretending that everything is alright when it is not is also not good; it is unreal.

Every time before you complain, ask yourself “Why am I complaining?” Is it to validate myself? Or is it because there’s a genuine problem that needs to be addressed. If it is the latter then try to be constructive in your criticism. Look at the world from the point of view of the other person. Listen well. Put forth your needs. Try solving the problem together.

If it is about something else than a person, such as circumstances, issues in your neighborhood or town, or such like, then see whether you can find a solution, and idea that might create change, rather than just standing or sitting there complaining.

In most cases this will lead to a solution.

So, the next time you catch yourself thinking “I wish I had so and so… then I’ll be happy”, gently remind yourself, that you are responsible for your own happiness; no one else. And that happiness, your happiness, does not (need to) depend on “being famous”, “making more money” or anything external.

What you are really looking for is to be content. And once you realize contentment comes from within, you don’t need to wait any longer. You can be content here & now. In other words: be happy with what you have got and you reach contentment.

© 2016