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Contentment is appreciating what you have, feeling satisfied with your life, and not constantly yearning for more. Finding ways to be content can help with stress levels and preventing burnout.
As more people are juggling virtual learning, unpredictable schedules, isolation, and working from home, burnout is a real concern these days. There are so many new ways that things are hard now, which is why I believe looking for ways to be content is more important than ever.
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” Seeking ways to be content helps fill your cup up, allowing you to participate fully in and enjoy your life.
1. Find the good
Look around you, right now. What is one thing in your line of sight that makes you smile? Why does it make you happy? Really dig in and evaluate your feelings.
Knowing the why can help you find other areas that bring you joy. Use that knowledge to replicate that feeling.
If taking a deep breath of crisp December air invigorates you, find the time to take a quick walk today. When you realize the pet snuggled next to you feels good, sit there another minute enjoying the comfort of touch.
If you need more help, I have 3 Simple Gratitude Prompts to help you get in the right mindset.
2. Rephrase your complaints
When you notice your internal narrative is full of complaints, rephrase that sentence. Instead of “this day has been exhausting,” try “I got so much done today.”
Tell yourself “my child is enthusiastic and happy” instead of “this kid is driving me crazy with the noise.” Your long commute is a chance to reflect or listen to interesting podcasts, not a boring waste of time.
The important thing here is to look for the silver lining of each situation. It’s hard at first, but once you acquire that skill you can handle most situations.
3. Identify what is making you unhappy
This is one of the more difficult ways to be content. It takes real introspection and self-awareness. Saying “I hate my job” isn’t enough; look for the real source of those feelings. Maybe you’re actually bored with your duties, or maybe you have a personality conflict with a co-worker.
After determining the real cause of your feelings, look for ways to improve the situation. For the job example, research training opportunities your employer provides or start looking for a new job. Talk to your co-worker or the human resources department to find a way to reduce the tension. Inquire about transferring to a different department or position.
Even if you can’t improve the situation, acknowledging the source of your unhappiness may be enough to improve your general outlook. You can’t escape that co-worker entirely, but knowing that you don’t dislike your job duties could lead to more satisfaction.
4. Write down ways to be content that work for YOU
Actually make a list, either on paper or on your phone. Refer back to it when you need a reminder or when you get stressed. When you’re having a hard day, it can be difficult to focus on the good or even remember ways to be content that has worked in the past.
Another way to stay in that content zone is to put a reminder on your phone for daily or weekly activities that improve your life. Scheduling a walk or downtime helps to remind you that you need that break.
Putting “quiet time” on my calendar has been a life-changing way for me to be content. Every day after lunch, I put both kids in bed for quiet time. If I call it “nap time,” they both resist sleep. Quiet time consists of playing in their beds and listening to music… and usually at least one nap. This gives me an hour of peace every day, where I can nap, read, do chores, or work on my blog or bookkeeping business. I love the quiet freedom, even though it isn’t that long.
I also schedule time on my calendar for exercise and meditation. I don’t heed the reminders every time, but having that little window pop up on my phone helps me stop what I’m doing and decide if I have time for a self-care act.
5. Slow down to be content
Take time to breathe, to really look around you. We spend so much time rushing around, staying busy all the time, that it is easy to forget to enjoy life. Take a step back from seeking more and pay attention to what you have.
Go for a walk outside (maintaining social distancing of course). Even when I am pushing a stroller with two dogs tied to it and holding the hand of a slow-walking toddler, a walk outside clears my mind and improves my mood.
Meditate before you even get out of bed in the morning. I recently discovered that the Fitbit app has a meditation section, so I pop in my earbuds and meditate before I get up. I also like the Mindfulness app’s free options.
One benefit my family has seen from the pandemic is a slower schedule. I’ve been taking my oldest to multiple therapies a week, sometimes more than one per day, for over 5 years. We took an 8-week break from everything starting in March, which eventually led to cabin fever. Even after re-introducing her therapies, we have kept the schedule slower, and it’s been really nice. We’re rushing less and both kids have more free time to be themselves and play.
If you’re looking for more ideas, read The Little Guide to Contentedness on Zen Habits
Make time for something that fills your cup. Whether it’s enjoying a cup of tea or reading a book, squeeze that time into your day. Find your own way to be content and do it.