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Beyond happiness: Learn how to be content with life

November 21, 2022 - 12 min read

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What does it mean to be content?

The benefits of being content

How to achieve contentment

Is there a difference between happiness and contentment?

Filling your life with contentment

Spending a day drinking coffee and watching your favorite movie with your closest friends might make you happy. 

But a good day doesn’t necessarily mean a good life. And, while you might be an expert at focusing on the positives, you might still be stagnant. 

Being honest about this is tough, but are you actually content with your life? Do you love what you do? Are your actions meaningful? 

If you hesitated when answering these questions, it might be time to learn how to be content with life. It's something everyone could benefit from learning. Gallup found that 69% of Americans were content with the overall quality of their lives in 2022 — down from 84% in 2020. 

Learning how to be content demands you to dig deep and take a look at all aspects of your life to make meaningful changes. This article teaches you how to learn to be content, the benefits of being content, and the differences between happiness and contentment. 

What does it mean to be content?

Being content with your life means that you're satisfied with what you have and who you are. Instead of comparing yourself to others or wishing you had a different life, you feel you’re living a life you can stand behind. You accept yourself as you are today, and you value all the opportunities and experiences you’ve had. 

Rather than wish that things could be different or resent how your life is going, being content with your life means you:

For instance, maybe you had a career in marketing for a decade before recognizing that marketing wasn’t meaningful to you. After changing careers to pursue your passion for environmental science, you live more purposefully. But you reflect on your past experiences with gratitude because they brought you to where you are today.

What makes a meaningful life to you could be the complete opposite for someone else. Your contentment relies on your specific needs, interests, values, and goals. And you don't need to prove your contentment to anyone else. You don't have to post about it on social media for it to be real. 

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The benefits of being content

The benefits of being content extend beyond having a smile on your face. Being content fills you with positive emotions, helps your self-esteem, and furthers your well-being. 

Here are three reasons why contentment is important:

  1. It fosters healthier, stronger relationships: When you're content, you have greater self-awareness and better understand how to communicate your emotions and thoughts. This improves your relationships because you know how to listen to others, navigate conflict, and show your appreciation. 

  2. You experience less stress: Stress is a key predictor of life satisfaction. The less stress you have, the greater your contentment and well-being. Being content shows you what's meaningful to you, which includes your health. That way, your health can become your top priority, and it’s easier to remain at peace and experience less worry or stress. 

  3. You have better sleep hygiene: When you're satisfied with your life, it’s easier to get a good night’s sleep. Research has found that good sleep hygiene correlates with sustained attention, clear thinking, and emotional regulation. Sleep is when your body recharges and works to fight illnesses, so your physical health is better because of how you sleep.

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How to achieve contentment

Living a contented life isn’t a one-time achievement. It’s something to incorporate into your daily life. You won’t create a meaningful life by putting in work for several weeks. Contentment demands sustained effort, including strategies and habits that’ll become part of your routine. After a while, they might become second nature. 

Here are six strategies to help you learn how to be content in life:

1. Record and share the things you’re grateful for

Practicing gratitude helps you focus more on your positive emotions and reminds you of what’s meaningful in your life. One way to be more grateful is to start journaling, expressing and recording your thoughts in whatever style or voice you want. 

While journaling is often private, you could also share what you’re grateful for with friends or loved ones. Studies have found that sharing positive experiences with others amplifies positive emotions and leads to greater life satisfaction. It highlights what’s meaningful in your life and how enjoying it makes you feel.

2. Stay true to yourself

Everyone finds different things meaningful or purposeful. That’s why when you’re living a contented life, you remain your authentic self. Why try to be someone you aren’t? Deepen your self-knowledge and understand what you love in life to stay focused on what’s valuable to you.

3. Keep your loved ones close

Keeping your friends and loved ones close improves your social health and ability to deal with life’s challenges. Research shows that your support system helps you problem-solve, manage stress, and improve your self-esteem. Your people support you through your highs and lows. Even if you live far away from your loved ones, make an effort to talk to them regularly over the phone, via video calls, or instant messaging. 

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4. Act on your goals

Your goals reflect your dreams and ambitions in life. They contribute to a more meaningful life — one where you feel satisfied with your accomplishments. Try using the SMART goal-setting method to help you set purposeful goals that align with your values. If you’re struggling with life planning, try setting short-term goals to boost your confidence and keep a realistic to-do list. 

5. Take care of your health

Taking care of your physical and mental health is about more than just feeling good for a day. You aren’t set up for a long, peaceful future without a healthy mind and body. Start thinking of mindfulness practices that’ll help your mental health, like meditation and yoga, to keep your stress low and your mood up. For your physical health, think of ways to move your body that feel good and eat foods that fuel you.

6. Let go of the past

Dwelling on your past won’t help you live in the present. But letting go of the past lets you focus on the present and future. Pay attention to what you have to appreciate. It’s not an easy thing to do, but you can let go of the past in small ways. You might do this by forgiving yourself for mistakes or acknowledging that you have lots of life ahead of you to experience.

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Is there a difference between happiness and contentment?

Even happy people may wonder, “Why am I not content?”

Happiness and contentment are often used interchangeably, but they’re different states of being. While happiness is a fleeting moment, contentment is a mindset you carry everywhere. 

Learning about more differences will help you learn how to be content in life. Here are a few ways in which contentment and happiness are different:

  • Happiness is influenced by external factors, whereas contentment is influenced by both external and internal factors

  • Happiness sticks around for a short-term basis, whereas contentment is more long-term

  • Happiness is an emotion, but contentment is an attitude and state of mind

  • Happiness is a reaction, whereas contentment is a lasting calmness that stays with you

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Filling your life with contentment

Discovering how to be content with life may feel daunting. You have to think about what’s meaningful to you and how you want to follow your purpose. Plus, you need to accept who you are as you are rather than try to change yourself. 

Most notably, when you learn how to practice contentment, you learn that being happy for a day isn’t enough. You want to be content with your life as a whole and develop an attitude that stays with you long into the future.

You won’t wake up tomorrow and be content. It takes effort, self-awareness, and dedication. It’s your journey to finding inner peace, so enjoy it. Even though it takes time and demands you to look within, contentment is worth every ounce of effort you put in.

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Published November 21, 2022

Elizabeth Perry

Content Marketing Manager, ACC

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