My husband and I lived in a small studio apartment for the first 10 years of our marriage. Most of the time I was happy with our little place. It didn’t cost a lot of money and it was easy to clean. But then, in one year, several of our friends bought houses and I started feeling dissatisfied and jealous. It felt like hanger and nobody likes that feeling. Did we move that year? No. But I did learn how to cultivate a feeling of contentment with the simple life.
This post is from Jessalynn at Doable Simplicity. On her blog and Instagram she helps inspire her readers to live a simpler life and enjoy what matters the most!
What is a Feeling of Contentment?
Contentment isn’t talked about much in our culture. We talk about bigger and better. Our minds are consumed with the idea of keeping up with the Joneses and we tie our self-worth to our bank accounts.
But you aren’t here because you want to stay on that road. You are here because you want a simple life. And to lead a simple life you are going to need to cultivate a feeling of contentment.
The dictionary defines contentment as a state of satisfaction and happiness. It is said that the difference between happiness and contentment is that happiness is a temporary state tied to circumstance but contentment is a permanent mindset. It is a feeling of deeper satisfaction and gratitude.
Contentment can be cultivated regardless of how much or little you own. In fact, without a feeling of contentment, you will never learn to enjoy the simple life. So let’s talk about how to have and maintain a feeling of contentment.
To Have A Feeling of Contentment Don’t Compare Yourself With Others
The first thing I had to learn when my friends were buying houses was that their lives were not my life. They had different goals and circumstances than my husband and I had. We could not compare ourselves with them just because we had all been married in the same year.
If you want to cultivate a feeling of contentment you are going to have to stop comparing yourself to the proverbial Joneses. You can’t compare your life and goals to others. Don’t compare yourself to your friends, or your parent’s expectations, or your neighbors, or the idea of the American dream. Your life is unique and beautiful in its own way.
Cultivate A Feeling of Contentment By Disconnecting Money and Self-Worth
I clean houses for work. I feel like Cinderella. I may look like a mousy little girl mopping floors but when I leave I am a princess. Why do I say that? Because my self-worth is not tied to the job I have or the money I earn.
What is my self-worth tied to? It’s tied to my goals and where I am in achieving them. I measure my self-worth by the love I receive from others and the way I help them. And most of all I tie my self-worth to the fact that I live with integrity to my beliefs and values.
Benjamin Franklin said; “Contentment makes poor men rich; discontentment makes rich men poor.”
If you want to have a feeling of contentment with the simple life then you will need to disconnect your self-worth from the money you earn, the house you live in, the clothes you wear, or what other people think of you. Instead value yourself based on a solid set of internal values.
Love People Instead of Things
Jesus, Mother Theresa, and Ghandi became examples to the world because they loved people more than things. If fact, all of them had very little in the way of material possessions. But what they did possess was of far greater value. Contentment and inner joy.
If you want a feeling of contentment and joy nothing will bring it to you more quickly than doing good for others. When you love people and look for ways to help them and care for them you will have the inner joy that comes from giving.
When I was feeling discontented I had more game nights in our apartment and threw myself into my volunteer work. Soon I was too busy and happy to feel jealous.
When you focus on the people in your life you are building a real and meaningful life that a big fancy house or a sports car will never bring you. Think about it. At the end of your life, on your headstone, will it say “Loving Mother, devoted sister, caring daughter.” or will it say “Her shoes were always super cute!”?
What If The People Around You Don’t Foster A Feeling of Contentment?
I know you love your friends and family. That is what I want you to focus on. But what if your family and friends do not help you foster a feeling of contentment? What if they like to talk about their latest purchases and flash their fancy stuff in your face all the time? Maybe they tell you that you should buy a big house or a nicer car…
First of all, you can’t blame them. As a minimalist you are living a counter-cultural lifestyle. It’s not their fault you like to sit in the grass and sing about flowers all day (cause that’s what they think). The norm of our culture is consumerism and that’s where your family and friends are used to living so don’t get mad at them for making you jealous.
What you can do to cultivate contentment while you are among friends and family is change the conversation.
Eleanor Roosevelt said; “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.”
When you are with your family and friends help everyone have a great mind. Discuss ideas. Ask deeper questions. Take a true interest in how they are doing and feeling. Talk about goals and big picture ideas. Take the conversation away from the mundane consumption of goods and towards big ideas and true connection.
Look for Meaningful Experiences Instead of Fancy Things
We all want to treat ourselves sometimes. When I realized that I wasn’t gonna buy a house like my friends I wanted a consolation prize. I wanted something to make me feel good about my decisions. I mean, I knew we were working towards big picture goals but who cares about that when your feeling discontented?
So if you are living a simple life, what is your treat? How can you mend a discontented heart? How can you regain a feeling of contentment?
Instead of buying something think about an experience, you have always wanted to have. I had always wanted to go to the Dominican Republic. So we did! It was the most amazing experience and it became a cherished memory. I made a good friend there and I hope to get back soon!
Think about it, when you buy new things they soon become old things but when you have an experience you remember it for the rest of your life.
It doesn’t have to be a big trip. You can treat yourself with a day at the lake, a coffee with a friend, a cooking class, a ziplining adventure, or a concert.
No matter what you pick you are going to value that experience more than anything you could ever buy. And if it’s like my trip to the Dominican Republic it might just change the way you look at the simple life.
Don’t Look For Discontentment
I will say it once and I will say it again. We live in a consumer society. That means that unless you’re buying all the things you are a failure. That’s what they want you to think. But here is an interesting fact.
“While basic living standards are essential for happiness, after the baseline has been met, happiness varies more with the quality of human relationships than income.”
WORLD HAPPINESS REPORT
That’s right. No amount of stuff is going to change your level of happiness. Once you have what you need your happiness will not be changed by getting the new iPhone or a nice car. You are not a consumer. You are a social animal and your joy depends on good relationships, not things.
If you want to avoid a feeling of discontentment then you need to resist the consumer culture that surrounds us. How? By avoiding things that make you feel like you need all the things. Unsubscribe from your favorite store’s e-mail list. Don’t go to the mall just to window shop. Go to the bathroom during the commercial break!
Be Creative and Take Care of Yourself
You know how sometimes you think you are hungry but you actually just need water? Sometimes you feel empty but you don’t need things. You need to be creative, rest or take care of your spirituality.
For me, creativity has been a vital part of cultivating a feeling of contentment with the simple life. When I feel bored or my life satisfaction is down being creative lets me bring new ideas and feelings into my life. When you live a simple life it gives you more time to learn creative hobbies that will bring you hours of enriching entertainment.
Another thing that may be making you feel discontented is a lack of rest, self-care, or spirituality in your life. Before you go looking to buy things to fill a hole, take a minute to consider if you need to take care of yourself in one of those ways instead.
Cultivate Contentment By Having an Attitude of Gratitude!
Your life is simple. You don’t have a ton of stuff. Maybe your house isn’t fancy and your car isn’t the best. But instead of looking at what you don’t have, stop and notice all the abundance in your life.
You have a home, clothing, food, and some kind of device to read this on. Your family and friends love you and you have a future full of possibilities. When you stop and really think about it you have everything that really matters.
Developing an attitude of gratitude takes practice. It’s scientifically proven that we notice the negative more than the positive. Maybe you need to write down something you are thankful for each day, or maybe just write down three things that were good each week. The more you look for the good in life the more you will see it and that will help you cultivate a feeling of contentment.
Learn to Recognize A Feeling of Contentment
Now that we have discussed 8 ways you can cultivate a feeling of contentment in your life you should start to notice contentment growing in your heart. But how will you know when you truly feel content?
My grandfather was a first-generation Italian-American so to me, contentment feels like a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs with a glass of wine. Do you know what I mean? Contentment is that safe, satisfied, and comforted feeling you have when you know that you are where you want to be.
But even though I love spaghetti and meatballs that much I can only eat so much of it before I feel gross and regretful. I have to stop eating when I reach the sweet spot. In that same way, you can only consume, or buy, so much without feeling weighed down and miserable. That’s why it’s important to know when you are full.
When I worked hard to feel content with my small studio apartment it became my dream home. When you have a feeling of contentment you can stop accumulating and you can start to truly enjoy the simple life!
Jessalynn Jones want to make simplicity a doable way of life for you! She writes her blog Doable Simplicity to help you find motivation and tips that will help you simplify life and enjoy what matters most!