When I’m married, I’ll finally be happy.
As soon as I’m able to get out of this apartment and buy my own house, I’ll be content.
If I can quit my job and work for myself, I’ll finally have it all.
As a culture, we are always looking for the next thing that will bring happiness. A bigger house, a newer car, a better partner, or a slimmer waistline.
Simply put, we aren’t content.
We spend so much time worrying about what we don’t have that we have a hard time seeing what we do have.
We’ve forgotten how to live fully in the moment, being present, finding joy in the life we have. Or maybe we just never learned how in the first place.
Some causes of discontent:
Perfectionism is the driving need to attain flawlessness in all areas of life. Because it’s unattainable, perfectionism has been linked to eating disorders, anxiety and depression, and general unhappiness.
One of my biggest struggles is perfectionism, and I see how it affects my moods, my productivity, and my relationships. When you live in the fog of striving for flawlessness, you’re constantly focusing on negativity.
But what if I fail? I won’t be loved anymore.
If I make a mistake, I won’t be trusted after that.
Nobody will ever want me; I’m so messed up.
The plague of perfectionism spreads quickly and soon poisons your bloodstream like a cancer that just won’t quit.
Unfortunately, expectations go hand-in-hand with perfectionism. We sometimes place such high expectations on others that there is no way they can ever fulfill our needs.
When we do this, we remove the freedom to live in our humanness. The beauty of human relationships is that we can meet on this common ground and decide to do life together, even with its messiness.
In past relationships, I have been quick to find flaws and convince myself that the person wasn’t for me because of those flaws. I know! It sounds terrible now that I’m writing it, but I can see the root clearly- expectation of perfection.
The ever-popular, always-pinned quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” is absolutely true. How can you possibly be content with your own life if you’re constantly looking around you to make sure you measure up to a perceived standard for happiness? If you spend all your time trying to “keep up with the Joneses,” you will never love your own life.
Social media promotes comparison. Carefully curated feeds and albums let you see what people want you to see; they rarely show the imperfection of human life. The ironic thing is that when we find someone who is willing to share their real life with us, we cling to their every post. Vloggers are often loved because they are willing to give us a glimpse into their real lives, although I suspect that a lot of editing goes into those videos before the upload button is clicked.
Do you ever find yourself passively thinking, “I wish my living room looked like that” or “How are her kids always clean, perfect little angels and mine are covered with ketchup and dirt all the time”?
Desire for wealth and possessions
“If you are not content today, there is nothing you can buy this weekend to change that.” — Joshua Becker
We Americans are inundated daily with messages that promote getting more, having more, making more money, etc. If we have more money, we can take those Hawaiian vacations. When we have a bigger house, we will have more friends. If we get that promotion, we can finally buy that boat we’ve always wanted.
Being too busy
Our schedules have become nightmares. Our kids play on every sports team they can, we volunteer for committees and organizations, and we work more hours than we ever have before as a society. Commute times have become outrageous, and family dinners seem to be a thing of the past.
We are always chasing the next thing, and we’ve fooled ourselves into thinking we’re chasing happiness.
How can you be content in this hurried culture?
Simple living is the voluntary practice of improving your lifestyle by simplifying everything you can. It includes practices such as minimalism, self-sufficiency, mindful eating, and frugality.
People choose to live simply for many reasons: health, spirituality, stress reduction, work-life balance, increased quality time, and improved relationships.
One area worth exploring is essentialism. Essentialism is the pursuit of living with only what you need. Its cousin, minimalism, is very similar but often brings to mind pictures of a stark white room with a single piece of furniture in it; this tends to turn some people away.
Essentialism is the opposite of consumerism and materialism. Basically, we have too much stuff, and I guarantee we don’t use most of it.
Clutter is linked to stress and depression, and it may make you think that you don’t have enough space (leading to discontentment).
There is a strong belief that the need to keep things we don’t need is tied to fear. We wrap our possessions in the gift wrap of emotion, believing that we need our “stuff” to be okay. Often, we we set out to purge our clutter, we end up keeping it all because we fear we may need it one day.
Clutter holds your emotions, just as eating can. It traps you and steals your life, making you want more and more so you can be happy.
Related post: How to Break Free of Emotional Eating
Be fully present wherever you are. Stop and take in your surroundings. Use your senses to imprint this moment on your mind. This is where life really happens.
Get up early on Saturday morning, brew a cup of steaming hot tea or coffee, light a candle, and enjoy the silence. Take time to reflect and think. Morning stillness can be magical if you aren’t spending that time snoring in your bed. Create hygge daily wherever you can.
Mindset is everything. If you can control and frame your thinking, you will find contentment in every situation.
Being grateful has been proven to improve quality of life. It helps you to focus on what you already have rather than wishing for what you don’t have.
Try writing down as many things as you can think of that you are thankful for. Some people commit to writing just 3 per day, and even this small number makes a big difference.
Learn to say no (without feeling guilty). Stop glorifying busyness. Declutter your schedule.
It isn’t inherently better to be busy all the time. It doesn’t make you a better person or parent. In fact, it can actually make you less effective!
We weren’t made to constantly be on the go. Without time to rest and regroup, we quickly become moody, tired, and discontent.
Related Post: 10 Ways to Deal with Stress and Overwhelm
Kill perfectionism and people-pleasing
Go easy on yourself! Be okay with mistakes, understanding that they bring about growth. I challenge you to make a list of all those crazy scenarios in your head where people abandon you or yell at you because you’ve messed up; then, reframe your thinking. Think about what would really happen if someone was disappointed with you. Ask a friend to help you with this if you don’t think you can get out of your head to try it.
Anxiety comes when our fears masquerade as our reality, and it’s very healthy to determine what reality actually is.
Contentment is all about perspective and how you see your world. You will always find what you look for.
“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.” -Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden