We've all had the feeling before. You know that you have everything to be thankful for: a great significant other, a loving family, a pretty good job, and a healthy working body. Still, you keep having this nagging feeling that what you have just isn't enough. Sure, you can be happier by making some life changes, but the easiest way to be content with your life is to adjust your perspective and daily actions, which will make you more likely to appreciate what you have. So how do you start enjoying that sunshine instead of complaining about sunburn? Follow these steps.
Part 1 of 3: Changing Your Perspective
1.Live in the present. The people who are the happiest with their lives are able to enjoy and embrace the present moment instead of being stuck on the past or obsessing over the future will look like. Though thinking of the past can help us learn from our mistakes and thinking of the future can help you set goals and be a good long-term planner, if you want to be happy with what you do have, then take some time to enjoy exactly what you're doing right now. Focus on what the day will bring you instead of what happened yesterday or what you'll be able to change about tomorrow.
•Close your eyes and take some deep breaths. Focus on being in the moment and you'll feel all of your worries melt away. Be patient: this takes practice.
•You can also meditate or do yoga to help yourself focus on the present moment instead of worrying about what the future may bring.
See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil
2.Be grateful for what you have. Instead of focusing on all the things you don't have or all of the things you want, take a minute to think about how lucky you are compared to most people out there. Though your life may not be perfect in the moment, there are surely some things that you can be very grateful for, whether it's your loving family, your amazing friends, your great relationship, your health, your cool new job, the awesome city where you live, or your amazing home. You probably don't have all of these things (most people don't!) but surely there are a few things you can remind yourself to be grateful for every single day.
•Write a gratitude list every Sunday to remind yourself of all the great things in your life.
•Take the time to thank people for helping you, whether you do it in person or you write a "thank you" card.
•Spend more time in nature. This will make you feel more grateful for the beauty all around you.
3.Appreciate the little things. Be thankful for the air you breathe, the food that nourishes you, the quiet home you live in, the sunshine that brightens up your day. Every little detail in your life counts. Focus on those little things and be thankful that you are still alive. You could focus on the love of your pet, the amazing bakery down the street that spruces up your breakfasts, the perfect climate in your region, or your awesome library with an endless supply of books. It doesn't have to be anything earth shattering, but it does have to make you realize how much happiness is all around you.
•Even if you've had a horrible day, try to think of three little things that made it worthwhile. Maybe it was the unexpected kind email from an old friend, a great conversation with your neighbor, or the amazing new coffee you had with your breakfast.
4.Take time to reflect. A lot of people aren't content with their lives because they don't take the time to sit back and consider everything that's going on. You can do this by writing in a journal at the end of each day or week, going on long walks to decompress, or just by sitting still, staring out at nature, and considering everything that happened to you that day. This doesn't mean you should mope, over-think things, or consider all of the things that went wrong. Instead, you should take the time to rationally assess everything that's going on with your life.
•Making a habit of reflecting will help you think rationally when a problem arises and will keep you from being blind-sided by problems that are lurking in your life.
5.Stop comparing yourself to others. This is another way that people can easy keep themselves from feeling truly happy with their lives. Stop thinking about how big your neighbor's house is, how great your friend Jack's job is, or how perfect your best friend's relationship is when yours is riddled with problems. You can't change what other people are doing, and you'll never get anywhere if you compare yourself to others instead of thinking about your life on its own terms.
•You will always be able to find someone who is happier, healthier, richer, prettier, and just more together than you are. But why look?
•Remember that, even if you're really jealous of your friend's relationship, she might be really jealous of your awesome career. There are always reasons to be jealous of others, and reasons for others to be jealous of you. But if you drop comparing completely, you'll only be doing yourself a favour.
•If you only go on Facebook to see who is getting engaged, who just got an awesome new job, or who just went on a vacation of a lifetime, then it's time to disconnect. Social media can make you feel like whatever you have just isn't enough.
6.Fake it until you make it...Even if you're feeling down in the dumps, you shouldn't go around moping, complaining, telling your ten best friends how awful you feel, and looking like you're about to cry. Instead, you should try to be extra cheerful, extra friendly, and make an effort to talk to other people and make them laugh. This doesn't mean that you should hide any serious reasons of deep sadness, but it does mean that if you're just generally in a bad mood, that you should make an extra effort to seem happier. You'll be surprised by how quickly this will actually trick your mind into feeling happier!
•Sure, sharing your problems with a good friend can help you work them out. But being upset and complaining to everyone in earshot about it is guaranteed to make you feel worse.
7...but also take the time to feel your sadness. David Spiegel, MD, the medical director of the Center for Integrative Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine, reminds us that "Happiness is not the absence of sadness." This means that you can still confront your sad feelings and allow yourself to cry and consider your unhappy feelings while still being a happy person. Pretending to be cheerful when you're really upset over something serious will not make you more content with your life or a happier person.
•Some suffering will make you appreciate the good parts of your life and will make you even more grateful for what you have.
•Talking to friends about your sadness can also make you feel like you have more control over your life, which will make you a happier person.
8.Know that money won't change as much as you think. Sure, some more money will change the wrapping paper over your life -- but not the gift that's inside. You can be driving a nicer car, own nicer clothes, or have a nicer home with three extra bedrooms, but in the long run, it won't do much for making you more content with your life. Once you have enough money to pay for the basic necessities and some fun on the side, having a salary increase will not have a dramatic effect on your happiness.
•Sure, a new wardrobe will make you feel better in the short run. But in the long run, you'll still be the same person, just with nicer clothes.
9.Feel true compassion for others. Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, once said, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion; if you want to be happy, practice compassion.” Part of being happy means building connections with other people and recognizing that other people are also suffering. Building compassion for others will help you forge strong relationships, stop obsessing over yourself, and to feel less alone in the world. The next time you're with another person, consider things from his point of view instead of worrying over how you come off and see how much happier you feel.
•It takes practice to develop compassion for others. The more time you spend with other people, the quicker you can do this.
10.Remember that happiness is a choice. Some people gauge happiness by having a successful career, luxurious car, or a huge savings account. Happiness cannot be determined by the money you earn or even with material things. It is a choice that we are happy, despite what life may bring. Start it with yourself and say, "I'm happy to be me".
•Being happier now, according to one study, is also a stronger indicator of how happy you'll be in the future. So, making the choice to be happy affects you beyond the present moment.
•Studies also show that happier people have less health problems. This decision can affect your physical well-being, too.
Part 2 of 3: Changing Your Actions
1.Do let the sun go down on anger. Some people think that if you're mad about something, that you should say it right away to avoid letting your angry feelings fester. Sure, that's true some of the time, but other times, your anger may be fleeting and it will be better to simply go to bed and let things go. The next time you're annoyed about something relatively minor, ask yourself, "Is it really worth it to mention this right now?" or, "Will I really care about this once I'm in a better mood/have more coffee/get my work done?" If the answer is no, then move on.
•Sure, one school of thought is that you shouldn't go to bed mad. But another is that, if you stop mentioning every little thing that sets you off, that you won't be mad to begin with.
2.Simplify your life. People who are content with their lives typically don't have many things to worry about. They have only the possessions they really need instead of a wardrobe full of clothes. They have one car for their family instead of two so they don't have to worry so much about the cost and maintenance. They have one credit card instead of three, four close friends instead of forty acquaintances, and they focus on doing the few things they really love instead of committing themselves to lots of things they only kind of like.
•Look around you -- do you really need to have so many pairs of shoes? Two types of iPods? Three calendars hanging above your desk? Any time you can eliminate something, go for it.
•De-cluttering is another form of simplifying your life. Go through your workspace and your home and rid all surfaces and drawers of the things you don't really need. You'll be able to breathe more easily and will be happier with what you do have.
3.Pursue your passion. People who are content with their lives feel this way because they spend time doing the things that they love. If you have a passion that you're not pursuing, then yeah, you're not going to be content with what you do have. And if you don't know what your passion is, finding it can lead you to be more content with your life. Make a habit of doing the thing you love as much as you can, and to find the thing you love if you can't find anything to be really happy about.
•If there's nothing that gets you going, then you won't feel fulfilled.
•In some cases, you may be able to turn your passion, like photography, into a career. This will be even more rewarding and will make you happier.
4.Stop insisting on having the best. If you want to be content with your life, then you have to be happy with what you do have, whether it's a great home or a great family meal, instead of always looking for ways to make your life a little bit better. Striving for perfection is guaranteed to make you less happy with what you have and will make you feel even worse and less adequate, no matter what you do have.
•As The Rolling Stones once said, "You can't always get what you want/but if you try sometimes/you get what you need..." These are words to live by. Don't obsess over having the nicest or most amazing things, and focus on being happy with what you do have.
•And guess what? You can always find a better version of something, whether it's a new Apple device or a new car. Striving for perfection will exhaust you and will make you perpetually unhappy.
5.Take the time to connect with people. Connecting with people has been proven to make people feel more content with their lives. Meaningful relationships are one of the most important things in life, and they will make you feel less alone and more able to deal with your problems. Whether you're connecting with your best friend or chatting with your neighbour, even the little gestures and conversations can make you feel better.
•Stop making excuses. No one is too busy to have some sort of social life. Try to really connect with people at least twice a week.
•If you have a significant other, don't take him or her for granted. Take the time to make truly meaningful memories and to have real conversations with the one you love.
6.Make time for yourself. Having a good warm bath, a scented candle while listening to your favorite music or just lying on the couch and watching your favorite television show are good examples of a quality time for yourself. Those are the times that you do not need to spend money but it is a way of enjoying your "me" time. Remind yourself that you are important and you deserve to be pampered.
•Treating yourself like you are worth the extra time and care will make you feel better about your own life.
•Don't let a friend's last-minute plans take away your "me time." Guard your alone time like it's time you were planning on spending with Brad Pitt.
7.Make major changes if necessary. Sure, changing your perspective and your actions can go a long way in making you feel content with your own life, but what if there is a major obstacle standing in your way? If that's the case, then you won't be able to be truly content with your life if you don't do something about it. Think long and hard about the thing that is in the way of you and your happiness. If it's something you can fix, then make a game plan for doing so. Here are some examples:
•If you're miserable because you feel completely uninspired or unappreciated in your current job, then ask for a raise, find something new, or consider switching career paths completely.
•If a terrible relationship, whether it's your love life or your complicated relationship with a close friend, is standing in your way, then it may be time to cut ties.
•If you're seriously overweight and it's keeping you from doing the things you want to do, then it may be time to find a healthier routine for yourself.
Part 3 of 3: Developing the Habits of Happy People
1.Help others. Happy people are known to not only be content with their lives, but to love improving the lives of others. You don't have to work in a soup kitchen if that's not your thing, but you should make a goal of helping others regularly, whether you're volunteering at your local library, helping a friend study for her maths test, or helping your little brother find a summer job. Even the little things can make a big difference in someone else's life, and you'll feel more content with your own life because of it.
•Helping other people will also make you less focused on yourself and all of the things you don't have.
2.Love yourself. This is an important factor on how you are be able to sustain the contentment in your life. You should love yourself first, before you can love others. The first step on loving yourself is you have to know yourself. Define who you really are and what makes you happy. This will go a long way in making you love yourself and every little thing about your life.
•It's okay to recognize that you have flaws and that you aren't perfect. Working to address as many of these flaws as you can, though, can make you feel even better about yourself.
3.Try something completely new. Doing something completely new and out of your comfort zone will make you open up your mind and have a less rigid view of how things should be done. Whether you're learning to cook, taking dancing lessons, or sky diving, mixing things up will make you feel happier because you'll be less set in your ways. Find a new hobby, hang out with a new friend, or just walk around a new area in your neighbourhood, and you'll feel more content because you'll be changing your perspective.
•One of the reasons people can feel unhappy with their lives is because they're sick of doing the same old thing. Doing at least one completely new thing a week can help you to keep a fresh perspective.
4.Enjoy failing. That's right. If you want to be content with your life, then you have to completely fail at something. It can be trying to cook an elaborate pasta dish, throwing an animal-themed party, or making a clay pot from scratch. Failing more makes you more accepting of failure, and more eager to try new things. Failing in front of others also makes you take yourself less seriously and will make you face life with a greater sense of humour.
•Failing once in a while reminds you that you don't have to be good at everything you try, and this will undoubtedly make you more content.
5.Hang out with people who are content with their lives. If you want to be content with your life, then you have to surround yourself with people who are good influences. They will teach you how to approach your own life, show you that there are a variety of ways to be happy, and will maybe even give you some tips for how to approach difficult situations. If you surround yourself with people who are also happy, you will be happier by association.
•If you spend all of your time with people who are nagging and looking for reasons to be upset with their lives, you'll be much more likely to come up with some reasons to be unhappy, too!
6.Avoid gossiping. Gossiping and saying bad things about others may make you temporarily feel better because you can focus on the ways that other people are messing up or doing things wrong. But if you're really content with your own life, you won't need to use other people's bad situations or bad behaviour to make yourself feel better; in fact, gossiping will just fill you with venom, make you look like an untrustworthy person, and won't make you feel any better about your own circumstances.
•Whenever you open your mouth to say something bad about a person, ask yourself if you can say something positive about that person -- or nothing at all -- instead.
7.Get regular exercise. Maybe you're feeling too tired or too cranky to go to the gym, but you have to get over that. Getting regular exercise, even if you're only walking 20 minutes to the store, will instantly make you feel more content. All of those endorphins will help you have a more positive perspective and will give you more energy to carry on with your day.
•Try to work out for at least 30 minutes a day, or one hour every other day, to make yourself feel happier and healthier.
8.Address your personal problems. Happy people know when they have problems in their personal lives and they go about addressing them. Unhappy people let problems fester until they reach a boiling point and are unbearable. If you know that you're struggling with a family member, significant other, or friend, address it so that you can feel better and move forward instead of spending weeks feeling bad until things reach a breaking point.
•You don't have to have a big confrontation to have an adult conversation about the things that are upsetting you.
•At the same time, you should let go of resentment. Don't be angry about the things people have done to hurt or upset you in the past. If you've already dealt with them, then work on moving on.
9.Find a purpose in your life. Sure, this is easier said than done, but at the end of the day, this is the ultimate habit of happy people. If you want to be content with your life and what it has to offer you, then you have to find a meaning that makes your day worth living. This doesn't have to be some fancy, high-powered career, either. It can be to be a loving wife, a great mother, or to be an amazing part-time teacher. It can be to grow a gorgeous rose garden, or to travel as much as you can. Whatever that thing is, it'll make you excited to wake up in the morning and content whenever you go to bed.
•This won't happen overnight, of course. But you should make finding a purpose one of your life's goals.