How to be content in any situation
There's a sure way to be happy that is taken straight out of the Stoic handbook – don't immediately flee from discomfort.
When you find yourself in an awkward, agitating, or adverse situation, sit in it for a while. Linger there just a bit longer than you normally would and meditate on the moment. Because once you do pull out of that negative situation you'll have a greater sensitivity to the seemingly small positive things that you typically take for granted. They won't seem so trivial after all.
This doesn't mean you should initiate or invite unnecessary drama into your life. You don't need to play into the extreme and put (or keep) yourself in a highly stressful or painful state just for the benefit of this exercise. I'm referring to the minuscule things that we give more energy to than is warranted (by the way we react to them).
That silly situation we tried to ignore but still ended up allowing to turn our perfect day into a disaster. The awkward exchange that we fled from but had us feeling self-conscious for the next month. That tinge of hunger that so easily broke our will to eat well and led to a binge fest.
When we run from our discomforts it keeps us from learning how to manage them and they end up having more impact on us than they should. We also lose sight of just how special the small pleasures are. It's hard to truly appreciate things that you always have at your disposal.
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Instant gratification often leads to perpetual dissatisfaction when we can't get our way, and this is the antithesis to minimalism. That’s because dissatisfaction is an intense emotion that indicates an inability to be at ease with your current lot in life. So you continuously seek something else or desire something more. Or you lose resilience and start to buckle at any minor challenge you are faced with.
This puts you in an agitated state which can potentially lead to conditions like depression and nervous breakdowns. But you don’t have to coax yourself into being content in any situation. You merely need to be aware of how the inability to be content can escalate to the extreme, so you can bring your desires back into balance. Here's how:
Live in the present — you can’t change the past or predict the future, so try not to let what was or what could be disrupt what is. Be mindful and appreciative of this moment, since it’s one you can control.
Check social influences — we are quite impressionable when it comes to social judgment and comparing/contrasting is a human dilemma. So be aware of anyone who stirs up envy, so the situation doesn’t steal your joy.
Learn from adversity — to the main point above, when you do go through hard times be sure to linger in them a bit and draw out insights. What you learn can help you better manage and direct the outcomes of other tough circumstances.
Seek simple pleasures — small things can have a big impact. Indulge in the little things and you’ll find a newfound appreciation for what you normally take for granted.
Have patience — instant gratification is a modern-day phenomenon and must be kept in check if you want to be more contented. Learn how to master it.
Practice gratitude — you’ve probably heard this a million times before, because it works. It’s an incredible happiness booster because it changes your brain.
What situations do you find yourself fleeing from (and inadvertently giving more power to when you do)? What if you addressed them instead of ignoring them? Lingered there instead of running?
You can easily contrive contentment out of the contrast to subpar conditions. Stay in that uncomfortable place for a couple of more minutes than you normally would, and see how it enhances your perspective.