A content life refers to a state of satisfaction, peace, and fulfillment with one’s existence and current circumstances.
Contentment is a state of mind that typically includes a positive outlook, acceptance, and gratitude for what one has, rather than constantly seeking more or comparing oneself to others.
Contentment does not mean that life is perfect or free from challenges. Instead, a content life means you have the ability to find joy and fulfillment despite the hard challenges of life.
That’s a hard thing to master. Philosophers, scholars, and other thinkers have been trying to unlock the secret to a happy and content life for thousands of years. Thankfully, they’ve made plenty of progress toward answering the question, “How do I be content with life?”
Before we get started, there is one important point to understand when learning how to be happy and content: There is no one answer. Different circumstances evoke different emotions from one person to the next. One person’s contentment is another person’s discontent.
Many gurus will insist that theirs is the best way to teach you how to be content with life. And you know what? They aren’t entirely wrong. Their way will be the best way for some people. But their way may not work for you.
The truth is that learning to be content with life is a personal journey of developing self-awareness, understanding, and work. There are bits and bobs of truth everywhere if you look for them.
Don’t look at this article as a definitive resource. It’s not. It’s a resource to help you identify opportunities, avoid hazards, and find ideas to create a content life for yourself.
Contentment or Happiness?
Do you want to be happy? Of course! Who doesn’t want to be happy? Happiness is the goal that most of us are trying to attain.
But is it the right goal?
Many people confuse happiness with a content life because they don’t understand the difference.
Happiness is a fleeting emotion that you feel for a little while and then it moves on. People chase happiness because it feels amazing. In doing so, they lose the contentment of their life in the present.
Fleeting is a variable word in this context. Fleeting may be a couple of minutes, or it could be a couple of months. In the greater scheme of things, a couple of months is fleeting over the course of an entire life.
You may feel happy until life deals you a hand of sadness or anger. Then you’ll feel sadness or anger for a while until it eventually transitions to something else.
Of course, that also assumes good mental and emotional health. A person who is navigating trauma, depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues may find that their emotions are much different. In some cases, negative emotions may linger for years instead.
Contentment, on the other hand, is a persistent state of satisfaction, peace, and fulfillment. It is understanding that you have enough within yourself to be okay, regardless of the circumstances you face.
You can’t know what life is going to throw at you in the future. It may be wonderful and warm; it may be tragic and terrible. A content life doesn’t mean that you won’t have problems, experience tragedy, or feel negative emotions. None of us are that fortunate.
Happiness is the wrong goal. The more you chase happiness, the more elusive it can turn out to be.
“If I just had this stuff, I would be happy.”
“If I just had this relationship, I would be happy.”
“If I just had this money, I would be happy.”
You know what? Those statements are true. Things, relationships, and money can make you happy or allow you to enjoy life again—for a little while. But if you want to learn how to create contentment, you need to be aware that it is not the same as happiness.
Happiness is a fleeting, temporary emotion typically caused by external factors like money, stuff, or a relationship. Contentment is a longer-term attitude and mindset that is caused by both internal and external factors.
You can feel content for much longer than you can feel happy, though it may not last forever. A content life needs to be nurtured and maintained, much like a garden.
The Benefits of Contentment
What are the benefits of being content with your life? That’s a question with a fairly obvious surface answer: “I want to be content because then I can be peaceful and happy with myself and my life!”
That’s certainly some of it, but that’s not all. There are several other benefits to learning how to be contented with what you have.
While you ought not to aim for happiness, contentment can certainly make it more likely.
Contentment leads to acceptance. Acceptance is letting go of the past, embracing the present, and greeting the future for what it is. That frees you to experience and enjoy the moment you’re currently in, which is the only time you can enjoy it.
By accepting the present and whatever situation you find yourself in, you invite happiness in.
Peace of Mind
Contentment brings positivity and peace of mind.
Many people confuse peace of mind with complacency, but the two are not interchangeable or related.
You can be content in the present but still want more for yourself. You can still want and work toward a better future.
Unhappiness in the present makes it more difficult to grow, improve, and look toward a brighter future.
Contentment improves physical health. The mental benefits of contentment trickle down into your physical health.
Less anxiety and stress improves your sleep. Improved sleep allows your brain and body to recover more fully as you reach the deepest stages that facilitate the replenishment of your body for the next day.
Lower stress also translates to better cardiac health, less physical illness because your immune system is stronger, and more energy during your day. It’s easier for content people to lose or maintain weight because they aren’t stress-eating.
Contentment leads to simplicity. Learning how to be content brings with it the wisdom to understand what you want and need.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting things. However, too much wanting can lead you to focus more on what you don’t have rather than what you do. That perception can leave you feeling empty and hollow because you’re looking to fulfill what you perceive to be needs.
However, wants are not needs.
Certain needs absolutely must be met for you to live a content life—food, shelter, a means to provide for yourself or the people you love.
But how you get there does matter. Do you need the fancy car or the expensive house? Or do you just need a reliable car and a modest home?
Contentment allows you to accept others as they are. A big issue with relationships is that many of us try to fill some gap within ourselves through them.
But what if the other person isn’t exactly what you need? Or isn’t filling the role you hoped they would fill? Well, then you start putting unreasonable expectations on that person to be someone they’re not.
Contentment, on the other hand, is the radical acceptance of the right now. You don’t spend your time looking to fill those gaps, subconsciously trying to fill them, and relying too much on other people to do it.
That acceptance of others allows you both to trust more, love more, and accept more of one another.
Of course, that doesn’t extend to abusive relationships. You should never just accept someone treating you poorly.
How To Be Content With Life: 12 Tips
Contentment is not something you find; it’s something you create. The creation of contentment centers around changing different aspects of your life that rob you of your peace.
Once you learn how to be satisfied with what you have and how to be contented with yourself, the doors to a content life will open up for you.
The following list is an exploration of aspects of a content life that may help you get closer to the kind of peace and satisfaction that you’re looking for so you’ll stop feeling so miserable.
Do keep in mind that everyone is different, so some of these things may not resonate with you. What is right for you may not be right for the next person, and vice versa. Try what feels right to you, ignore the rest.
1. Develop and nurture your social connections.
Friendships and relationships serve an essential role in happiness and contentment. Humans are social creatures by nature. Being involved with other people causes the brain to produce endorphins and a variety of other hormones as a reward for socialization.
This is one reason why some people feel recharged after socializing—extroverts more than introverts.
Healthy, quality relationships improve your peace and quality of life. Ask yourself, “Does this relationship bring positivity or negativity to my life?” The answer isn’t always black and white. You may find that a relationship brings both.
In that case, you want to look at the long-term arc of the relationship. How has it been for you mostly? Because if it’s been a few good times dotted into years of bad times then it’s likely not healthy for you.
On the other side of the coin is solitude. We don’t always get the option to have quality relationships with healthy people. Sometimes you may find yourself alone. In that scenario, one must learn to be content while being alone. Times of solitude are a great opportunity to focus on yourself, your self-improvement, and doing things that you want to do solo.
For example, some people want the experience of solo traveling. That’s much easier to do when you’re not in a relationship or tied down to a location.
2. Practice gratitude and an abundance mindset.
Gratitude is one of the most powerful tools you can use to build your happiness and feel content with life. An abundance mindset goes along with it.
People often spend their time looking around and mourning what they don’t have. They look at other people who may be doing better and think, “I want the big house. I want the fancy car. I want to be happy. I want to be content.”
That’s not entirely bad. It’s normal and healthy to want things. You should want to be able to support yourself, be healthy, be happy, have a roof over your head and financial security. But you need to try not to be envious of others who have more or are doing better.
It’s hard to notice the signs that you’re doing well in life when you’re focused on what you don’t have.
The person who spends much of their time pining for what they don’t have, angry at other people for doing better than them, and thinking about how happy they will be once they have those things are robbing themselves of peace and contentment in the present.
An abundance mindset goes along with gratitude. An abundance mindset shifts your thoughts from, “I’ll never get ahead.” to “There are opportunities all around me. I just need to find them.”
If you’re fortunate to have good things in your life, an abundance mindset helps you appreciate them more. “Life may not be perfect right now, but at least I have a roof over my head and a full stomach.”
The cynic will point out that, “It’s easy to be grateful when everything is going well. Much harder when your life is in the gutter.” Yes, they are correct. But it’s during those latter circumstances that things like gratitude are most important.
After all, not many people are trying to shift their mentality in a more positive direction when everything is going well, are they?
3. Do more satisfying things that challenge you to grow.
While contentment involves the acceptance of what is, it is often tied to working toward goals.
Working toward goals gives endorphin boosts which helps you feel happier, makes you healthier, and facilitates personal growth.
The important thing is to undertake tasks that challenge you. And if you don’t succeed? That’s okay! A failure doesn’t mean it’s the end. It just means you’ve learned what doesn’t work and now you can pivot to attempting something new. That lesson is wisdom; and the best way to gain wisdom is by experiencing things.
Satisfying challenges can also point you toward a purpose that offers fulfillment and peace. It may not necessarily be a peaceful challenge, so don’t mistake the two. Some people feel called to help disadvantaged people in difficult situations, which is fulfilling but not peaceful much of the time.
Not challenging yourself may be one reason why you aren’t satisfied with your life. Challenge yourself. Get out there, set some goals, and crush them!
4. Develop your self-love and self-esteem.
You are an imperfect person living in a difficult world that often expects more out of you than you can deliver. That can harm your self-love and self-esteem.
An acceptance of your imperfections lightens a heavy burden. You will always come up short by expecting too much of yourself.
Perfectionism is a problem. How can you be happy and content in the moment if you are constantly fretting over being perfect? There is no such thing as perfect. Not at all.
Let’s use writing as an example. The writer can agonize over their planning, words, and edits to get everything absolutely perfect—and the reader hates it because they just don’t like it.
“You can be the ripest, juiciest peach on the tree; but some people just don’t like peaches.”—Dita Von Teese
Instead of striving for perfect, allow yourself to strive for high quality in what you do. The best place to stop is when you find yourself starting to go back over fine changes you were making; trying to tweak the tweaks that you’ve already made.
5. Practice mindfulness and focusing on the present.
Mindfulness is an important practice to help you find peace in the moment and build a content life. The simplest way to think of mindfulness is to have your thoughts focused in the present moment.
But what does that look like?
Are you mourning the past? Grieving opportunities long gone? Missing people that you once had connections with? Well, your mind is in the past.
Are you telling yourself that you’ll be happy once you acquire that new thing? Are you hyping yourself up for some opportunity that may present itself? Are you worried about something that may or may not happen? Well, your mind is in the future.
Mindfulness is neither of those things. It focuses on the here and now because that’s all you truly have.
The past? It’s gone. There’s nothing you can do to change it. Of course, it’s easier said than done to let go of regrets, stop missing someone, or mourn lost opportunities. Still, we must try because that’s life. Not everything works out. Not everything has a happy ending.
The future? You have no idea what’s going to happen tomorrow. The best-laid plans can be shattered in an instant. The person you thought you’d spend the rest of your life with could die in a car accident on the way home from work. A turn in the economy could wipe out your job. A medical emergency could annihilate your savings. You have no control over any of them.
What you do have control over is what you do right now; what you can appreciate right now. Being able to live in the present moment is to discard those griefs of the past and not dwell on the worries of the future. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider the future at all. You should. You just don’t want your mind to live there.
6. Improve your physical health.
Good physical health is tied to mental wellness, happiness, and contentment with life.
Exercising produces endorphins and stimulates the production of healthy hormones that help your body stay in good working condition. It can also help relieve depression, anxiety, and stress.
A good diet provides valuable fuel to your body instead of empty carbs and junk food that is only calorie-dense with little nutritional value. Energy drinks, sweetened drinks, and caffeine can overstimulate your nervous system causing additional anxiety, which creates more stress and worry.
Physical health also extends to practices like good sleep hygiene. Quality sleep is a cornerstone of good health as your body and mind replenish themselves from one day to the next. Anything you can do to improve your sleep will pay dividends for your health.
Your body and brain are machines; and it’s hard for those machines to run well without proper fuel and maintenance. Take care of them.
7. Improve your mental health.
The journey toward a content life starts in your mind. That’s a difficult journey to make when your mind is unquiet or unstable. Therefore, seeking help for and addressing one’s mental health concerns should be at the top of your list of priorities.
The best way to address your mental health is to speak with a certified mental health professional. Trauma, grief, depression, anxiety, and mental illness are all difficult challenges to overcome by yourself—mnost require professional assistance to get under control, manage, or resolve.
Do seek professional help if you find you can’t make progress on your own or you have self-destructive or suicidal thoughts, feelings, or impulses.
8. Develop and enforce boundaries.
A content life is a managed, often predictable life. Poor boundaries disturb that peace. By having poor boundaries, you are allowing external forces—other people—to dictate what you’re doing with your time.
The ability to say no determines how you get to use your time. It allows you to keep yourself out of situations and environments that aren’t right for you as well as avoid stressing yourself out with over-commitment.
“No.” is a complete sentence. Learn to use it when you need to protect your time and space.
Of course, life and people aren’t always that simple. For example, if you’re at work and your boss is trying to give you more work on top of everything else you have to do, a blunt “no” is likely to do more harm than good. You’ll need to find a better way to approach more sensitive situations.
A hard “no” can also disrupt your personal life. It may cause you to lose good friendships and relationships. In many cases, assuming the person doesn’t have ill-intent and isn’t trying to manipulate you, you’ll likely want to have more of a discussion than their request and your “no.”
Communication is an essential part of healthy friendships and relationships.
9. Don’t stay in situations that are wrong or unhealthy for you.
Environmental circumstances are often responsible for anxiety, depression, and stress. It’s difficult to feel calm, relaxed, and content when you’re surrounded by chaos, living in fear, or living around people who stress you out.
But it may not be that you’re choosing to be in that kind of situation. Some people find themselves trapped in poverty, in abusive relationships, or with unkind family members who don’t treat them well. You may be in a situation where changing your circumstances is far easier said than done.
Still, if you’re living in a situation like that, try to do whatever you can to create or find a new environment in which to relax and be content.
10. Simplify your life.
A complicated life is rarely a peaceful, content life. The more things you are juggling, the more anxiety it causes, the more difficult everything tends to be.
Simplifying your life encourages contentment because you’re not spending an excessive amount of mental and emotional energy juggling all the balls that you need to.
How can you simplify your life? Look for the complicated things that take up your time and emotional bandwidth. Trim down the time you spend on them or remove them altogether.
A few suggestions include: developing a morning routine, setting simple monthly goals, planning meals for the coming week, buying a crockpot for simple delicious meals, and pre-planning workouts before you hit the gym.
Less is often more when you’re creating a content life.
11. Balance ambition and materialism.
There is nothing wrong with ambition and some materialism. Preachers of anti-materialism are often taking a completely unrealistic stance in that all materialism is bad. Well, if you want to go by the dictionary definition of materialism, it’s to value physical comfort and possessions over spiritual needs.
What about people who aren’t that spiritual? What about spiritual people who enjoy having a roof over their heads and a full stomach? Sure, some people can have a content life on minimal possessions and hard circumstances. But can everyone? No. Even monks generally have a monastery or temple to live in.
You’re allowed to want and accomplish things. You’re allowed to have stuff and things you enjoy. The problem is a lack of balance. What you should avoid is burning yourself out to accomplish these things, valuing possessions as a path to contentment. You need to learn how to appreciate the things you DO have.
Things can make you happy for a while, but sooner or later they lose their luster and you start wanting more things. Pursue what you need, and enjoy the things that you want or have, but practice moderation. Don’t hinge your well-being, contentment, and happiness on things that are transitory.
12. Reduce your consumption of negative media.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “If it bleeds, it leads”? It’s a long-used phrase in news and media that talks about the penchant for people to be invested in the terrible things.
By “it leads,” they are saying that the story about the terrible thing should be front and center because it grabs the viewer’s attention. By “if it bleeds,” they are saying that the story needs to be something bad or negative, like someone getting hurt or something terrible happening.
All you need to do is turn on the news or tune into whatever rage-bait is floating around on social media to see it in full force.
Media, social media, and internet personalities often sell discontent because discontent sells—and it sells easily. If you want to grow your peace and create a content life, you need to tone down the chaos and anger you put into your brain.
That doesn’t mean you need to stop watching the news or withdraw altogether if you want to stay informed; but it does mean limiting how much you put into your brain.
Some people live their lives on social media or follow angry voices on the internet because anger helps them feel something. It’s easier to be angry than it is to admit you’re sad or fearful because a lot of people see sad and fearful as weakness.
You must limit the anger and disquiet that you subject yourself to if you want to feel content.
Leading a life you can feel content with.
The pursuit of a content life is a worthy goal—a difficult goal, but a worthy goal. The more you work on what disturbs you, the greater peace and contentment you can create for yourself.
You are the creator and shaper of your life even though certain actions may be dictated by outside forces.
Still, you shouldn’t let that stop you from learning how to create a content life so you can create peace and happiness for yourself.