Our fast-paced culture rarely gives us permission to rest and enjoy where we are.
“We almost feel guilty if we feel content,” says Angela Buttimer, MS, NCC, RYT, LPC, a licensed psychotherapist at Cancer Wellness at Piedmont.
However, practicing contentment is essential to living a happier, more joyful life.
“The mind-body gives a huge exhale when we allow ourselves to be content,” says Buttimer. “When we practice contentment, we can feel a release from tension in the mental-emotional self. Contentment is an elevated emotion and when you are engaging in elevated emotions, you will feel better, your immune system will work better and you’ll be a happier person.”
What is contentment?
Buttimer likes to use a word from positive psychology called “eudaimonia” to describe contentment.
“Eudaimonia is considered the broadest idea of happiness,” she explains. “It is defined as a sense of contentment and well-being.”
She also suggests the word “satisfied” as a synonym for contentment. Ask yourself, “What am I satisfied with at this moment?”
“The ego always looks for dissatisfaction, complaints and what’s not going well,” says Buttimer. “If you can find what’s satisfying in your life, that’s very helpful.”
How to practice contentment
You can strengthen your ability to feel content by practicing gratitude, whether journaling or speaking it aloud.
“When you practice contentment, you can feel it in your mind-body,” she says. “If you bask in that feeling, you actually strengthen it within your neurophysiology.”
Meditation is a helpful platform for contentment.
“During meditation, there’s nothing to do,” says Buttimer. “You don’t have to be more, have more or do more. You’re just sitting and breathing.”
Being present is also essential to contentment. While planning is necessary for this life, it’s important to recognize how often your mind is in the future.
“Think of a person sitting on the beach watching the sunset,” she says. “Instead of focusing on the sunset, they may be thinking about the next time they’ll be able to visit the beach or what the family next to them is doing.”
To practice contentment, we must be present in that moment instead of planning for the next moment.
“When we miss too many present moments, we begin to miss our lives,” says Buttimer. “We grasp and clamor for more, bigger and better, which is a huge obstacle to contentment. But we can choose to be happy right now. There’s always a blessing right in front of us, but we often overlook it because we’re reaching for more.”
How to be content while planning ahead
Content doesn’t mean you stop planning or setting goals.
“You can be content with where you are and still be eager for more,” she explains. “Research suggests that you are more likely to realize your dreams if you practice contentment. If you’re able to find satisfaction in your life right now, you’ll likely realize your other goals more quickly.”
Learn more ways to reduce stress and improve your well-being.