We know about wants and needs, pain and suffering but what about contentment?
Contentment has been defined variously as “calm satisfaction” or the feeling you get when you reach your destination. Some say it includes ease of mind making it a very rare commodity indeed.
One traditional belief was that you worked hard here on earth, lived correctly and then when you died you go to heaven or something like that where you are allowed to finally be happy and contented. With the decline in religious beliefs it is becoming difficult for people to fathom the idea of waiting till you die to finally be happy or contented.
There are some who would argue that contentment is not a good thing. Contented people are happy where they are. Contented people enjoy the journey and are in no rush to reach the destination. Most of us live life as if we can’t wait for it to be over.
There are those who argue that human progress is dependent on pain. That without an unhappiness people would become lazy and unmotivated. There is no denying that pain can motivate. Some find it hard to give up their belief that we need to be in pain and suffering. They tell us that it is part of the human condition. In truth the pain may happen to all of us but the suffering is optional.
Two people can live is similar life circumstances, experience similar pain or trauma and one is able to maintain their attitude while the other suffers. The difference is not in what they experience but in their attitude towards the events of their life.
One source on unhappiness is the constantly moving expectations we set for our lives and ourselves. When you goal is “more” no amount of having can get you there.
Many a person who has struggled to reach a goal finds a deep depression after their accomplishment. They lack the ability to appreciate what they have accomplished, always wanting more.
Contentment is the emotional equivalent of eating. Some people are driven to eat long after the hunger has been satiated. You can feel intense pain if having arrived at a goal you are unable to enjoy that success and need to constantly be chasing the next one.
Those who do things because they love what they do, in addition to finding they may be paid to do what they would want to do anyway, also find that they are happy and content because they are enjoying the journey not fretting about the goal.
One great source of contentment is having friends and a positive support system. People who have supportive others in their life are more likely to be content. Extroverts find it easy to be with and around others and are often happy as a result. But introverts who make conscious efforts to develop and maintain positive relationship with others are also more likely to be contented.
Reaching a goal that you have set for yourself is extremely important in achieving happiness and contentment. People who have struggled to reach a goal in order to please a parent or other person in their life are frequently disappointed when reaching that goal is hollow and emotionally unrewarding. Make sure the goal you are working on is one that matters to you.
While poverty may make us unhappy, no amount of money seems to make people content. As our income or wealth expands beyond our basic needs so do our expectations. The wealthy pay larger bills than the poor but are often no more content. As you climb the pyramid the danger of being pushed off rises. The truly content person is able to pause and enjoy the things they have accomplished, the friends they have and give themselves credit for what they have accomplished along the way.
Contentment we find is not so much a feeling as it is a skill which you can practice any time or place you find yourself.
For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page . For information about my other writing work beyond this blog there is also a Facebook authors page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com .