Sometimes I think joy is overrated.
We’re told to follow our bliss, to seek joy. But I’ve come to believe that contentment is the real key to happiness.
If I’m not feeling joyful, I feel like I’ve underachieved. If I’m not dwelling in waves of bliss, I feel like a failure. But contentment? Now that’s something I can get behind.
This idea of santosha, or contentment, teaches us that life is complete the way it comes to us in each moment. Santosha invites us to fall in love with our life just the way it is.
There are some things, however, that we can bring our awareness to, to help enhance our feelings of contentment.
The way we frame things—the story we tell ourselves and others—can set us up for happiness or disappointment.
As a child, I was a latchkey kid. No dad present in my life, a mom who had to work to put food on the table. I was left alone much of the time. There are two ways I can look at this time in my life. One is that I was a lonely, somewhat neglected kid who was left to do for herself. The other is that spending all this time alone fueled my creativity, and nurtured my ability to think and act independently.
If I embrace the first story, I might feel sad and a little angry that I missed out on an idyllic childhood. If I embrace the latter story, I can feel content that my early years prepared me for living the full life I have been blessed with.
What story are you telling yourself? Is it serving to bring you contentment or frustration? If the story you’re telling yourself is frustrating you, why not start telling yourself a different story?
It takes a while for us to get into the rhythm of something—to become good at it. Whether it’s parenting or our jobs, we need practice to become good at what we do. We need time to find our rhythm but once we do, it feels really comforting, and that brings contentment.
I’ve been a yoga teacher and sacred music musician for over 10 years now, but I feel like I’m only just now finding my stride and becoming really good at what I do. Sure, I was pretty good in years past, but I’ve found a rhythm in teaching and in making music that serves me well. There are several teachers at our yoga studio and we all have a different style, a different energy, a different rhythm.
No matter what you’re doing, it will benefit you to stop trying to be like someone else, and instead, find your rhythm, your style, your unique expression.
When we do what we know, teach what we know, practice what we know, there is a comfort in it. It helps us to feel good about ourselves and our abilities.
I know the things I’m good at and the things that I suck at. One of the things I suck at is competitive sports. I’ve learned that I am just not competitive, so after some failed attempts, I’ve learned not to push myself into the arena of competition.
My comfort rests in dialogue, storytelling, singing, yoga. I’ve developed skills in these areas, found my rhythm. When I’m engaged in these activities, I feel good about myself. I feel comfortable that I’m doing what I know, and I feel contented.
What are your comfort zones? What activities help you to feel contented with who you are and how you express yourself?
It’s good to live in our zone of comfort, but we may need adventure to have a sense of completion.
Now that I’ve touted the benefits of finding comfort, I also want to encourage you to find adventure.
Most of my chosen activities are pretty low key: teaching yoga, playing music, facilitating group dialogue, and storytelling. My soul was yearning for some adventure so I became a mountain biker. There is a lot of adventure in negotiating trails, encountering brilliant wildlife, challenging my physical prowess. Mountain biking brought me a sense of accomplishment beyond my comfort zone, and that brings me great contentment.
If we don’t follow our desire for adventure, I believe it leads to malcontent as we always have that little itch that hasn’t been scratched.
Is your soul yearning for adventure? What have you done about it?
Kindness is paramount to contentment. It’s important to be kind, first to ourselves, then extend that kindness to others.
If we’re consistently beating ourselves up for something, we’re being unkind to ourselves and this robs us of contentment. If we are not being kind to ourselves, it’s difficult to be kind to others. I’ve found that if I can become more curious rather than judgmental, it helps me behave more kindly, and this brings me contentment.
What can you do to foster kindness toward yourself and others?
As for my personal suggestion for a happy 2020, instead of making grandiose resolutions for the new year, why don’t we all resolve to slip into a little contentment? Just like a warm bath or a cozy fire on a cold winter night, contentment can make us feel really, really good.
Oh, and invite a cat onto your lap.