Are you happy and content with your life? Is there a difference in those two words? Sometimes we have all the things that we need to be happy, but we aren’t. Other times we struggle with being content with our lives. If this is you, then read on. I’ll tell you some things that I have learned about how to be happy and content with my own life, as well as things that haven’t worked at all. First, let’s explore the difference in the two words and what it means for your life.
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What is the Difference between Being Happy and Content?
That’s a pretty good question, especially considering that the name of my blog is Contentment Questing. Hard to quest after something when you don’t know how to recognize it. Content is a state of peaceful happiness. Happy is “feeling or showing pleasure or contentment”
The dictionary is not much help in this instance, is it? To me, contentment means being at peace with where I am right now in the general state of my life. Contentment is the long-range and big picture. Happiness fluctuates more with the moment, and the day. It’s a temporary feeling.
Why is This Blog Named Contentment Questing and not Happiness Questing?
Always being in an emotional state of happiness is unrealistic. We are going to get frustrated, mad, sad, and discouraged from time to time. That’s the nature of emotions – they fluctuate. However, you can be content with your life, even if you are not to your ultimate goal yet. You can be at peace if your house (or your paycheck) is not quite as big as you would like it to be. You can be content with where your life is right now instead of constantly seeking immediate gratification where ever you can get it.
Bottom line, your life may not be exactly what you pictured it to be at the moment, but you can still be content. Often, we have to actively seek it out, hence the “Questing” part.
What Does it Mean to Be Content?
To be content means to have an overall sense of well-being and peace in your life. Happiness is great, but it’s more of a short-term emotion. Content deals with how you view the big picture of your life and how at peace you are with it.
What is the Opposite of Contentment?
The opposite of contentment is discontentment. You may have a general sense of unhappiness with your life or restlessness. You want something to change, but are unwilling to have patience or to take any action yourself towards a goal. You may constantly overthink things, compare yourself to others, and fall victim to your inner critic. You may also lash out at those you love for not solving your problems and making you happier. All these are signs of discontentment.
How Do You Find Happiness and Contentment in Life?
Discontentment sounds terrible, doesn’t it? How do you go from that state to one of being happy and content? I liken it to decluttering your closet – some things you get rid of, and other things you keep. I share all the secrets to finding happiness and contentment in detail in my book, “The Pearl Perspective: How Changing Your Perspective Can Change Your Life,”
What Does the Bible Say about Contentment?
In my opinion, one of the most powerful passages in the Bible that deal with contentment is Philippians 4:11-13:
11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things, I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
Reading that verse of scripture was one of the things that started me on this quest for contentment. The passage says “learned to be content.” That means that it’s a skill that we can learn and certain strategies we can implement.
Why Is It Important to Be Content?
Have you heard the phrase that was popular for a while called “YOLO”? It stands for “You Only Live Once.” We get one chance at this life. There are no “do-overs” or “respawns” like a video game. Your kids are only little once. You will only be the age that you are now, once. You will only go through the phase of life that you are currently in once. Do you really want to waste it being unhappy and discontent? Life is too short to be filled with anger, sadness, and “coulda, shoulda, woulda.”
I want to live my life as happy and content as possible. I want to be grateful and suck in all the joy that I can, and do all the good that I can. We find what we look for in life. I’m going to look for the joy.
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How Do I live a Happier Life?
Negativity is easy. Being positive is harder. You have to make a conscious effort to put on a positive attitude, but it’s an effort that’s worthwhile. Below, I outline 16 things that you can do to live a happier life as well as 15 additional things to avoid. Come Contentment Questing with me. Let’s find a happier life together!
Is Happiness a Choice?
Yes, and no. Opinions seem to be divided about this, and everyone has their own. Most of the time, yes, happiness is a choice. Everyone will go through hard times in their lives. Some may even suffer from depression, anxiety, or other mental health disorders. Those are not choices.
We all have our own crosses to bear and our own challenges to overcome. I do think that there are strategies to better manage mental health issues. If you need professional help, please seek it out. Even if you are not happy every day, I hope that you can at least quest for contentment so you can have a better quality of life. If you need some strategies now for dealing with mental health issues, I recommend:
Heather LeGuilloux/ Mental Health Therapist and Blogger (Heather has a really nice workbook for dealing with anxiety)
For most of us, I think that the choice to be happy is a big one, and will impact how happy and content we are. This world is tough! Let’s look for the good things together and build each other up instead of tear each other down.
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31 Ways to Be Happy and Content in Your Life
With all that being said, there are are some definite things that you can do to be happy and content in life. Every one of these things will make your life happier, but combined they have a powerful effect.
1. Practice Gratitude
Practicing gratitude has a tremendous influence on how happy and content we are in life. It shifts our focus from what we don’t’ have to what we have.
2. Spend Wisely to Be Happy and Content
We all have a limited amount of money. For some, the limit may be larger than others, but we all have a certain amount of income. Choosing how you spend that money and having a plan and a budget can make you happier and more content. There is great peace in not wondering if there will be too much month at the end of the money or whether you will, once again, squeak by. Avoid that by having a plan on how to spend your money.
3. Evaluate Your Choices
We are faced with tons of choices every day. Some of them do not have much of an impact, (like what to have for dinner) while others (like who we choose to be our spouse) leave lasting effects over the course of our whole lives. You will not make the very best choice every time. It’s inevitable because you are human. However, we make mistakes so that we can learn from them. Hence, we need to evaluate our choices for lives that are happy and content.
4. Set Goals and Pursue Your Dreams to Be Happy and Content
Just because I want your life to be happy and content, does not mean that you should not have motivation or ambition. Our dreams give us hope. We all need a little hope. Your dreams can become reality by turning them into achievable goals that are broken down into manageable chunks.
5. Smart Routines
When we go through a routine, we put that part of our day on autopilot so that we can divert brain power to something else. They become a healthy habit. It helps you to be happy and content when your body feels healthy and you know you are making smart choices when it comes to taking care of yourself.
6. Self Care
Self-care is not selfish. You can’t pour from an empty cup. In order to be happy and content with your life, you need to take care of yourself so that you can take better care of others in your life. I have heard this likened to putting on your own oxygen mask on a plane.
We talked about evaluating our choices above as a way to a happy and content life. We may not always get to choose everything that happens to us, but we can choose how we react to it. Choosing kindness is the high road, even when someone is not very kind to you. Choosing kindness can open doors and bridge huge chasms. Plus, it always makes you feel good as well.
In a world that boasts easier communication over farther distances than ever before, the skill of active listening seems to be growing scarcer. That’s actually good news for you because if you can learn how to do it, then it makes you stand out. Pay attention to what people are saying. Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
Love is a funny thing – the more you give it away the more it comes back to you. When you take the time to tell your loved ones how much you care for them, all that love you express comes right back to you. Sometimes, it comes when you least expect it or in surprising ways. Both the giving and receiving of love help to make you happy and content no matter what your current situation is. Sometimes we just need to know that we are not alone.
10. Practicing a Hobby to be Happy and Content
Practicing a hobby has many benefits and is a great way to increase your happiness and contentment in life. It lets you unwind and takes away some of the stress of the day. It can also make you feel quite productive as well, and might even make you a bit of extra money on the side!
11. Keep Learning
You know those people in school that were labeled nerds because they actually enjoyed learning things? I confess – I’m one of those people. I have also learned that when I keep learning new things it makes me happier and content. Our brains are not meant to just sit. They are like a muscle – the more you use them, the better they work.
I have struggled with transforming my perfectionism. Trying to be perfect puts a tremendous amount of strain on you. No one is perfect. It is ok to not go the extra 110% on everything. If you struggle with perfectionism, know that you’re not alone, and you are most likely harder on yourself than anyone else.
A growth mindset refers to your attitude towards learning. If you think you know it all already or you can’t do something because it’s too hard, then you will not learn much. However, if you are open to new ideas, if you like to ask questions and you have a good attitude, it fuels not only your learning but also your ability to be happy and content.
Knowing your core values helps to ground you. It’s the “true North” that you base all of your choices on. You need to both know and internalize the most important things in your life and what you value.
15. Journaling to Be Happy and Content
I love journaling. I have been practicing it regularly for a bit over a year but I have kept a journal off and on since I was eleven years old. Most of my journaling has been free-writing although there are many different kinds of journaling. I just started a bullet journal and am enjoying that as well.
Journaling helps me to be happy and content because it helps me to work through my emotions, and process my thoughts. It also serves as a place that I reflect and brainstorm.
16. Develop Your Patience
There are times in life that we have to wait. It’s not always fun, and many times we get impatient. However, patience is a virtue because it is a way to practice self-control. It helps us from over-reacting and helps us to be content in the moment, even when things aren’t perfect.
Things That Are Keeping You From Being Happy and Content
Just as there are things that we can embrace to become more happy and content, there are also things that we need to let go. It’s much like decluttering your closet – some things you keep, other things you let go of, and some things are brought in brand new. I have dealt with every single thing in this list of “Don’ts” for being happy and content. If you find yourself falling into these traps, know that you are not alone. I tell about many of them in my book, “The Pearl Perspective: How Changing Your Perspective Can Change Your Life” as well as some of the more in-depth articles on the blog that I linked to for your convenience.
Overthinking is the root cause of many reasons why we might be discontent or unhappy with our lives. Overthinking fuels the inner critic, worrying too much, taking things personally, lack of confidence and much more. When you overthink things, you take something relatively minor, blow it up and sometimes even come to false conclusions.
18. Comparing Yourself to Others
Who has not fallen into this trap? While you may not be trying to keep up with the Joneses, you might compare yourself to others in a different way. No one has the same challenges that you do. Often when we compare ourselves to others, we are comparing all of our lives to someone else’s highlight reel.
19. Excessive Worrying
I once had a friend that told me “You worry too much” at least three times a week. That friend hit the nail right on the head. I was worrying too much. I thought that worrying meant that I cared, and caring is a good thing, right? Caring IS a good thing, but worrying all the time does more harm than it does good. Sometimes you have to let go and trust God.
20. Not Silencing Your Inner Critic
Our inner critic can be harsh! We think things to ourselves that we would never say to a friend. That inner voice can tear us down and destroy our happy and content lives, even though it may look like everything is good on the outside. You have to learn to respond to that mean inner critic and silence it. Turn that inner critic into an inner coach!
Oh yes, I am the master at taking things personally and when I do, it destroys my happiness and contentment. This is yet another relative of overthinking, the inner critic, and excessive worrying. Often when we take things personally, the offense was not about us in the first place.
22. Letting Little Things Break Your Happiness
“Don’t Let Stupid Little Things Break Your Happiness” How often have I repeated this quote to myself? (a lot) Sometimes your day is going great and then some little things go wrong and *poof* your mood transforms from rainbows and sunshine to dark thundering clouds and rain. I have learned to repeat this quote to myself and re-adjust my focus to all the things that were going well. Sometimes the things that rob us of being happy and content, really are stupid little things.
It’s so easy to react instead of responding when you get mad. (Confession: I reacted instead of responded when I got mad this morning.) I interpreted some minor things entirely wrong and I snapped at my husband, reacting instead of responding. Had he not lovingly taken me by the arm and said “let’s talk” it would have killed my happiness and contentment today. I should have asked him what he meant and what he was thinking instead of assuming and snapping. Reacting may be our first instinct, but it often makes the situation worse.
24. Not Knowing Your Priorities In Life
Our lives are incredibly busy. It’s tempting to try to multi-task and make everything a priority so you can get everything done at once! Problem is, that getting everything done at once just does not happen. It disrupts your focus, and you actually wind up being less productive. Knowing your priorities in life can help you decide how to prioritize and what to concentrate on.
Here’s the flip side to not knowing your priorities and trying to do everything at once: procrastinating! When you put things off till the last minute, you cause yourself an incredible amount of stress. I don’t know about you, but I’m not very happy or content when I am madly rushing to get something done.
26. No Self Confidence
When you are not confident in yourself, it holds you back and you live in fear. You don’t want to venture forth and try anything new for fear that you will fail. This keeps you from being happy and content because it hinders both your learning and your personal growth.
27. Not Setting Personal Boundaries
You are responsible for your own thoughts, feelings, and actions. You are not responsible for anyone else’s. While these statements may seem like common sense, it has taken me a long time to internalize them.
28. No Motivation
While being happy and content is a worthy goal to strive for, you also need some motivation to achieve your dreams. We all need a passion in life that gives us our purpose. We all need a reason to get up in the morning. If you struggle with having no motivation, the good news is there are skills that you can learn and habits that you can start to help.
Related: Build Your Motivational Skills
29. Always Looking Back
Self-reflection is a very good habit to get into with many benefits. However, always looking back and living in the past is a good way to keep yourself from being happy and content at the moment you are in. Our children grow. It’s true that you may find yourself missing the scent of baby and feeling sweet snuggles, but don’t let thinking about those moments ruin the ones that you are currently living.
30. Not Cultivating Postive Thoughts
Cultivating positive thoughts has a tremendous impact on how happy and content we are in life. I know that in my own life it has had a huge effect on helping me find peace where ever I happen to be at. Cultivating positive thoughts takes work. You have to pull out the weds of negative thoughts daily. At first, they seem to grow back two minutes after you pull them. If you keep at it, it gets easier. You will still have negative thoughts pop up in the garden of your mind from time to time, but they become less frequent and get much easier to pull. Just keep at it!
(As a side note, the linked article above is one of my absolute favorites on this whole blog!)
31. Not Practicing Mindfulness
Mindfulness is often defined as “being fully present.” I have not always practiced this. In all honesty, I didn’t learn about it until a bit over a year ago. Before, I would do something like take my kids to the park, but I would totally miss out on the experience. I would be there physically, but my mind would be a million miles away. I’d be thinking about my to-do list, worrying about something, scrolling through my phone while they played, or just thinking about something totally unrelated.
I missed out on a lot of good times like that! Now, I try to put my phone away (unless I am using it to take adorable pictures) or really watch them play. I study their faces as they light up with joy, I watch how they interact with other kids. I notice the things that they enjoy and they are really good at.
Put away your worries and your to-do list while you are supposed to be out having fun. Enjoy the moment and the time with your family.
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The Last Thing You Need to Know About Being Happy and Content In Life
Being happy and content in life should be something that you actively seek or quest after. It will be an ongoing journey. Happiness and contentment is not something that you find once and say “Ok I’m here! Let’s park!” Life is ever changing. That’s one of the most wonderful (and challenging) things about it. Once you think you are finally getting the hang of life, it changes!
I told you that I would share with you the things that I have personally learned about being happy and content from my own life. Every single thing above that I have written about, I have personal experience with. If you want to know more about a specific one, explore the linked articles, or simply shoot me an email or leave a comment. I share even more secrets to being happy and content in my book, “The Pearl Perspective: How Changing Your Perspective Can Change Your Life.” What about you? I’d love to hear your secrets about how to be happy and content in life!