Sustainable Happiness: How to Find Contentment That Will LastBy Julie Rosenberg, MD
Most of us have been taught to believe that happiness is linked to our accomplishments. We think, “I’ll be happy when I get married” or “I’ll be more satisfied at work when I get a promotion.” We are convinced we’ll find joy when we finally run a marathon or buy that luxury car. The truth is that we can create a feeling of happiness right now, regardless of our circumstances.
True contentment is a deep-seated sense of accepting who and where you are at any given moment. Too often, we get so entrenched in our busy lives that we don’t even notice where we are now. When we finally come up for air, we focus more on where we were or where we want to be instead of where we are now. In other words, our focus is on the past or the future, rather than the present. Does that sound familiar? But before we can be content with where we are, we must first be aware of our present situation.
Here’s a helpful exercise to establish a sense of place that takes less than two minutes:
Look around where you are at this very moment. Describe your space without making any judgments. For example, instead of saying the room is cheerful or dreary (words of judgment), simply observe the texture of the carpet or floor, the color of the room, and the positioning and style of your furniture. Perhaps the walls are beige, the desk is facing a window, the fabric on your chair is slightly worn, and there is a photo of someone you love next to your computer. By noticing without judging, we allow ourselves to be aware of the present moment. Contentment comes when we are most aware of the present moment, and through the power of contentment, happiness becomes a more viable choice.
Happiness can be sustained by making a series of those conscious choices. Here are a some tips for cultivating contentment in your life:
1. Pause. When you find yourself unhappy with someone or something, pause. Take a deep breath and remind yourself to accept that person as they are and to embrace their good qualities or to look on the bright side of any situation.
2. Stop buying stuff you don’t need. When you feel the urge to buy something, think about whether it’s a “need” or a “want.” If the item is a “want,” think about why you are not content