The official definition of contentment is “freedom from worry or restlessness: peaceful satisfaction”. I would define contentment as a state of inner quiet and peace, and a satisfaction with oneself and with life. This is not linked to material satisfaction, which is usually temporary and unsubstantial, but more of an acceptance of who one is and a coming to terms with choices and situations in one’s life. This is usually linked to how a person perceives themselves, others and the world. One example would be the ageing process. Some people may struggle with getting older, and all the changes that our bodies go through. Others may see ageing as a natural process and one that can be embraced and even enjoyed.
How can we practice contentment in our everyday life?
As said above, contentment is linked to how we perceive ourselves and others. Freedom from worry or restlessness comes by cultivating patience and working on how we perceive things. It is also linked to an ability to trust in oneself and those who are close to us. Building and maintaining good relationships, spending time in nature and engaging in meaningful activities are some ways of achieving contentment.
Can external factors (politics, economy, capitalism etc) affect how we can feel content?
Contentment may sound like a luxury when there are serious external factors affecting our survival. However, if our basic needs are met and there is no imminent threat to our life or livelihood, contentment can be cultivated and maintained despite the ups and downs of political and economic factors. Contentment comes from within, so although external factors impact how we feel about the world and ourselves within it, it is also important to hold the bigger picture in mind and remember that we live in an ever changing world with no ultimate guarantees or certainty. I have seen people who are very content and live with very little under difficult circumstances. I have also seen people who have everything they can wish for materially but live in a contact state of anxiety and worry. This is not to say that environmental factors do not impact the way we feel and I believe that improving social and political factors can and will lead to a better society with is happier generally.
Feeling contentment in a materialistic world
I hope there is a movement towards prioritising contentment over material gain, however the rise in inequality around the world tells a very different story. Maybe there are certain sections of society who are able to make the changes they need in order to live better lives. Mental health has been in focus for a while now, and some people are realising that living a stressful life comes at a high cost.
If you want to cultivate contentment…
Start looking at what causes you discontent. Then look at these feelings in some depth – are these feelings about self-perception or external changes that you need to make? Work towards cultivating qualities and activities that lead to more contentment. And finally, simplify your life.
Further reading by Sam Jahara