As I mention in my slow living guide, “contentment is about loving yourself and allowing yourself to be proud of where you are in life.” The first time I truly felt content with my life was when I was 53. Some may say that is sad, but I consider myself fortunate to finally feel that level of happiness while there was still time left on the clock to enjoy it, lol.
When we are content, we are truly blessed.
Through slow living, I learned to focus on who I am and what I want and how to design a unique lifestyle for me that lends itself to a healthy, well-balanced life.
When we can live our lives based on our values and beliefs, we can find ways to become content with our life. When we are content with our life, we are truly blessed.
Table of contents
These are some practical ideas I found helpful in becoming happier and more content in life.
8 Ways To Feel Content and Happy
Being happy and content in life doesn’t happen auto-magically. It will take a little work, but it is worth it.
1. Align Actions With Values
Before practicing slow living, I lived life on autopilot. This meant I went through the motions without regard to how I felt or what I believed in.
It should not come as a surprise to learn then that I never felt content with my life. Honestly, how on earth could I? I didn’t know what my values and beliefs were; therefore, I couldn’t tell if I was on the right track or not.
The first step is defining what you stand for and how you feel about things. An essential step to becoming content in life is getting in touch with your emotions. To kindle some ideas, you should read my free Emotional Self-Discovery Workbook.
Once we know how we feel about things and what we believe in, we can align our actions accordingly.
Aligning our actions with our values requires thought as well as some persistence so that we stay on track.
For example, one of my life values is “I may not be the most talented, but I am passionate about what I do, which I value immeasurably.” Although I keep working to improve my content, being passionate about what I do is the beacon I use to navigate my work. (By the way, read more of my values on my About Me page).
I find contentment in my work not because millions of people read and consume my content or because I make a fortune doing it, but because neither is the case. I am content in my work because I believe in it, I try my best, and it is what I am passionate about.
When we work through each aspect of our lives and apply this reasoning, we align our actions with our values and beliefs. Over time this will naturally lead to a feeling of contentment and happiness in many areas of life.
2. Learn To Live With Less
The times in my life when I was most happy and content were oddly the exact times I made the least money.
In my early twenties, I had no money yet somehow always took trips with friends to a party at a lake, climbed a mountain, or learned to surf. We were all young and thought it was ok to be broke, so we carpooled, shared rooms, and slept on each other couches because the material things didn’t matter as much as the experience.
When I was in my forties, I bought a charming 3/2 house in a gated community. I redid the kitchen, had Ethan Allen come in and update my furniture to match the wall coverings and added a pool and jacuzzi. I also had a job where I made more money than ever. Sounds fantastic, right? But there was a problem.
I was absolutely miserable with my life.
I worked long, high-stress hours to make that money, and I wanted to leave for a more straightforward job with less money. Of course, I could not do that because I built a lifestyle that demanded the current monthly income. A high mortgage and car payments will do that.
So I forced a reboot in my life. I quit my job, sold my house and most of my possessions, and moved into a small one-bedroom apartment.
I started a new career path making far less money, but I was learning and passionate and felt wonderfully alive. I also worked reasonable hours and had more free time each day than I had in many years. It was glorious, and I was happy because having fewer things allowed me to focus on what was truly meaningful to me.
I am 54 now (at the time of this writing). Six months ago, I sold everything I owned to slow travel around the world, living out of a backpack, and I’ve never been happier.
Now, I am not saying having nice things is a problem. What I am saying is having more possessions does not mean you will be happy and content.
And the less you require to be happy, the more content you will be with your life.
3. Become An Optimist
This is one of my favorite lessons since I started practicing slow living; Whether something is good or bad has more to do with perception and less with reality.
Here’s an example.
When I first started traveling, I was making videos for YouTube on the different locations I visited. When I was on the island of Paros in Greece, I was trying to use my GoPro to film a section of the marina. I held the camera while filming myself in front of the marina when someone walked right behind me and was in the shot.
I shrugged it off and moved closer to the dock’s edge so others would walk in front of me and not behind me. As I started filming again, another person walked behind me, and it happened 2 more times.
Frustrated, I decided they were doing it on purpose because they didn’t want me filming in the area, so I left. And I was disappointed in the behavior.
I set up the same arrangement at a new location down the road and started filming again. Not long before, a couple stopped at my side, and the man clearly didn’t know whether to walk in front or behind me. I stopped filming and waved them by with a smile.
Then I realized that the people at the marina were not walking into my shot to interrupt it; they walked behind me to avoid getting in the way.
They were being nice; I was being an asshole. Why did I assume the worst? It was hot outside, I didn’t get enough sleep, so I was in a bad mood.
When our default view of the world is one of optimism, then we are more likely to feel happy and content in our daily routines.
Here are a few things I consciously try to be more optimistic about.
4. Pause Before You React
Let a second or two pass when something happens before you react or form an opinion. Sometimes our knee-jerk reactions are adverse but go away quickly.
When I was walking back to my hotel the other day, it was starting to rain, and a fellow traveler stopped me to ask where the mini-mart was. I was bothered by being stopped for the first few seconds because I wanted to get back before the heavy rain started. But after a few seconds, I realized I had been on the other end of this conversation, so I smiled and took 30 seconds to get him on the right track.
5. Negative Things Are Singular
Negative things will happen in life; when they do, we should realize that it is not necessarily permanent or all-encompassing. Train yourself to look at that one negative thing as an island; not all islands are hostile.
When I get a negative comment online, it hurts. But, I only let it hurt for a few seconds, and then I go on with life. A nasty statement from one person does not reflect how everyone feels.
So don’t assume because one thing sucks that everything sucks.
6. The Past Is Not The Future
In case you didn’t know, just because something did not work out in the past doesn’t mean it will also fail in the future.
For example, after 30 years of smoking, I could finally quit for good in 2018. As life-changing as that was, I must have tried hundreds of times unsuccessfully to quit. But, just because I failed in the past didn’t mean I would fail in the future.
So if you have failures in the past, give yourself a break, and leave them in the past. Walk into the future with your head held high.
It is impossible to be content with life and think the future will suck. So, we need to unsuck how we view the future, and a good start is to only learn from the past; never live in the past.
7. Enjoy The Simple Things
When simple things can pleasure you, you will feel content more often during your day. The more you feel a sense of contentment, the more likely you will become content with your life for the long term.
Before I chose to live a slower life, I was in a constant rush to get things done. By the time I reached the end of the day, everything had happened so fast that I could barely remember everything.
Now that I practice slow living, I go through my day at a slower, more deliberate pace and consciously notice and appreciate the things I encounter.
The next time you order a cappuccino, take a second to look at the foam pattern the barista made before diving in. Allow the aroma of the coffee to reach your nose, and take a moment to let that set in and savor the coffee experience.
The other day I went for a jog around a lake where I am staying. Instead of walking back to the hotel, I got off the trail and walked to the water’s edge. Then I started walking around the lake and noticing all the different flowers, birds, turtles, and insects. When I was jogging, they were out of view, but when I slowed down and looked closer, there was so much to see I spent 30 minutes just exploring and looking.
When I was finished, I started walking back to the hotel with a big smile. Exercise always makes us feel better about things, and slowing down to appreciate all the little things in nature I saw was the icing on the cake.
I felt happy, at peace, and content.
8. Stop Comparing Yourself
When I was younger and saw someone rich and famous on TV, I used to think they had it made. Now that I am older, when I see that same type of person, I smile and am thankful I am not them.
Being rich and famous means working long hours and putting up with the media tracking your every move. Plus, worrying about your image and having everything you do publicly scrutinized.
Yuck. No thanks.
Through slow living practices, I learned to focus on myself and figure out what I want out of life. Therefore, I know who I am, what I want, and the direction I want to go in. I have no need to compare myself to others because my life is mine.
There was a time in my life when I did things because I thought that was what I was supposed to do, what was socially acceptable, and what proved I was getting ahead in life.
As we scan our social media feeds and see everyone with fancy expensive things, we start to feel we are being left behind. So we need to start competing with them.
Then we start looking at other people’s successes as negatives because the bar has been raised. We need to outdo that person, so more work for us, and we resent that person for no reason.
But all that logic will not lead to happiness; it will probably lead to a lifestyle that causes wellness issues like stress, anxiety, and other health problems. That’s what happened to me.
We are all unique, and we all want different things in life. When we spend time figuring out what we want out of life, we can pursue those things without worrying about what others do or have.
As a closing thought, we find true contentment in life when we learn to embrace who we are and stop comparing ourselves to others.
When we are content, we are truly blessed.
Thanks for reading.
P.S. Below is some footer stuff to consider.