You can look just about anywhere these days and find information on getting better, feeling better, looking better, better bodies, better skin, better hair, etc. The pursuit of self-improvement is an honorable endeavor for sure. However, it is also important to take time to recognize ourselves as we are. Finding contentment with our present selves, not matter what we look like, act like or feel like is just as important as any self-improvement goal.
When was the last time you said to yourself “I am happy just as I am”? Today, yesterday, last week, or never? It is an unfortunate fact that most of us have never uttered these words to ourselves. We are more than willing to tell our friends or family members how wonderful and perfect they are. But when it comes to finding that same level of acceptance for ourselves, we tend to fall short.
Finding contentment is a choice we all have the ability to make. When the choice is made to be content, positive thoughts flow, this act reduces your stress level, improves your outlook, and your body relaxes. There is an unmistakable freedom that follows contentment: a freedom to be who you are, enjoy who you are, and live the life you were destined to live. Of course, we all must make the choice of self-acceptance and contentment. We can start today, if only for small periods of time.
To help to make the contentment choice, thing about how you can add these concepts to your daily life.
1. Become grateful. It is impossible to develop contentment without gratitude – they are inseparable. And a grateful person is one who has learned to focus on the good things in their life, not the things that they lack. When you begin to question what you have to be grateful for, just start making a list – a literal list of all the good things in your life. Don’t worry about finishing, you don’t need to. The simple discipline of beginning the exercise will undoubtedly shift your focus back to the many good things you already have.
2. Take control of your attitude. Take control of your own life. One of my favorite quotes is “choose your attitude”. It is entirely up to you how you wish to face each day. Your happiness is based solely on your decision to be happy – and this may be one of the most important life lessons you can ever learn.
3. Break the habit of satisfying discontentment with acquisitions. For many of us, it has been ingrained into our lives that the proper way to diffuse discontent is to purchase the outward item that is seemingly causing the discontentment. Almost no energy is spent determining the true root of the discontent. Are you dissatisfied with your wardrobe? Go buy new clothes. Not content with your vehicle? Go buy a new one. As a whole, we have developed the habit of satisfying our discontent by simply spending more money. Instead, the next time you recognize discontentment surfacing in your life, refuse to give into that bad habit. Commit to better understand yourself and why the lack of that item is causing discontent. Only after you intentionally break this habit will true contentment begin to surface.
4. Stop comparing yourself to others. Comparing your life with someone else’s will always lead to discontentment. There will always be people who “appear” to be better off than you and seemingly living the perfect life. But be advised, we always compare the worst of what we know about ourselves to the best assumptions that we make about others. Their life is never as perfect as your mind makes it out to be. You are unique. You are special. And it’s always better that way.
5. Help others. When you begin helping others, sharing your talents, time and money, you will find yourself learning to be content. The practice will give you a finer appreciation for what you own, who you are, and what you have to offer.
6. Be content with who you are but never stop learning, growing, or discovering. Take pride in your personhood and the progress that you have made, but never become so content that you cannot find room for improvement. Contentment is not the same as complacency. As soon as you stop growing, you start dying.
Right now if you will activate the attitude of being a contented person for today, you would not just have an amazing experience, but one that you will look to repeat again and again.
Carrie White spent more than 25 years in the fitness industry as a consultant, club owner, fitness trainer and attorney. She is now a professor, yoga instructor and the director of the LaunchLab at West Virginia University.