In the Western World, which is an achievement-oriented environment, our society is conditioned by the mindset, “We are the sum of our accomplishments.” This mindset can find us linking our level of happiness and fulfillment to our level of achievements and accomplishments.
We can also find ourselves falling into the habit of destination-thinking where we tell ourselves (and believe) things like, “I’ll be happy when I get married,” or “I’ll be more satisfied at work when I get a promotion or raise.” We can convince ourselves that running a marathon, losing weight, climbing a mountain, or buying a luxury car will bring joy and happiness to our lives.
What would happen if, instead, we believed that we could create feelings of joy and happiness right now, regardless of our circumstances? I now manage to do it EVERY DAY, and I’m happy to share my strategies to success with you!
How I Cultivate Contentment
Social conditioning (a drive for achievement) helped to feed my progressive addictions for much of my life. When I finally decided to make a change, I joined 12-step groups, but then I spent eight years relapsing every year.
And, I wasn’t the only one. Many of my peers were not returning from their relapses, and I knew it was just a matter of time before I didn’t return from one of mine.
My search for a more secular program of recovery brought me to a group called SMART (Self Management And Recovery Training), founded in Mentor, OH more than 25 years ago.
SMART introduced me to CBT ~ Cognitive Behavioural Therapies. I’m grateful to say that cognitive therapies have helped me to not only maintain my freedom from addictions, but to also break free from the stresses of social conditioning.
Cognitive (thinking) therapies help me to be:
- aware of the present moment,
- aware of my thought patterns,
- aware of my self-talk,
- aware of my emotions and feelings, and
- aware of my abilities to manage all the above, by taking effective actions that will bring me the results I seek.
I think happiness can be fleeting, but contentment comes from making conscious choices AND being keenly aware of our thoughts.
Here are a few things I do to cultivate contentment EVERY DAY:
- Pause.When I’m conflicted with someone or something, I practice ‘the pause.’ Give it a try. Take a deep breath ~ or 2 or 3 ~ and observe your thoughts. This brief pause can help you gain perspective, extend unconditional acceptance to yourself, others, and life… and this pause can propel you to take actions that will bring the best outcome for the situation.
- Stop buying stuff.We’re inundated with messages that keep telling us we’re never good enough until we buy something or take something to feel and look better. Put a lock on your wallet, and resist marketing manipulations.
- Learn to enjoy simple things.Meaningful conversations. Walking in nature. Reading a good book. A trip to the beach. Listening to your favourite music. These things are free and can bring more joy than expensive endeavors.
- Show appreciation.Offer kind words and actions. Build up your emotional bank account. The more kindness you put out in the world, the more you will receive.
- Attitude of gratitude.I start and end each day with a ritual used by Tibetans (and other Buddhists, I’m sure). The Cup of Life and Death helps me stay focused on the present. I’ve attached it for you to consider using as a daily guide.
- Live in the moment.We have a saying in recovery circles. We can’t go back to create a new past, but we can start from today to create a new future.
Give yourself the gift of contentment. It’s a gift that will keep giving back to you for the rest of your life.
May the force be with you, and remember… YOU are the force!