Post by Erin Long, contributor
The couch is covered in unfolded laundry. The kitchen sink is pilled with dirty dishes. My unchecked ‘to-do’ list mocks me, my weekly goals are untouched. It’s already half an hour past bedtime and the kids are still running around, not even in their pjs. My husband asks where his work clothes are and I hear a child scream out through hot tears, ‘He hit me!’
What I want to do in this moment is scream, cry, run away. I want to be as far removed as possible from the responsibilities and pressures of managing a home and raising a family.
But what I need to do in this moment is to choose joy. To choose love for those entrusted to me. To choose contentment.
Choosing contentment is hard. Our society tells us our lives should be easy, they should be beautiful, we should have everything. Eventually all these things converge and our lives will be perfect. When that happens then we can be content.
Doesn’t work that way, does it?
Our sense of entitlement can hold us back from embracing the beauty in our lives and seeing the blessings that are in front of us. We experience contentment when we choose to reframe how we look at our circumstances and ground our expectations in reality.
Yes, life is challenging. Yes, things don’t always go our way. But we can be content if we choose to be. It’s not an easy choice but it does get easier when we choose it minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, day-by-day, year-by-year.
Here are 6 practices that can increase your contentment.
1. Express gratitude
Intentionally identifying things to be grateful for helps us recognize just how blessed we are. It can be hard to see the blessings when we rush past them without stopping to notice. By slowing down and searching out the bright spots in our days we can see the aspects of our lives that we should be content with. It can be simple things like a hot cup of coffee, a giggly baby, ripe strawberries or a note from a friend.
While identifying things to be grateful for is good, expressing that gratitude is even better. It can be saying ‘thank you’ to a child for completing a chore or responding politely to a sibling, telling your husband you think he’s a great dad or letting a coworker know you enjoy working with her. Our gratitude only increases when we share it with others.
2. Keep a thankfulness journal
In the same vein as expressing gratitude, writing down what we’re thankful for can greatly increase our contentment. Either keep a running list or at the end of every day write down three things you’re thankful for. This keeps your eyes open for things to be thankful for and helps you to remember your blessings when you’re having a hard time seeing them.
3. Be generous
Giving generously of our resources affords us the opportunity to learn to manage what we have well and possibly realize that we don’t need as much as we think we do and we can be content with what we have.
Whether it’s time, money or our listening ear, giving of ourselves to others allows us to share our blessings. Instead of focusing on where we lack we can look at the needs of others and how we can make a difference in their lives. In doing so we might realize just how good we have it.
4. Stay away from what makes you discontent
Even our best attempts at contentment can be sabotaged when we enter into situations that expose the areas where we lack contentment. It could be certain stores, social media, toxic relationships or magazines. Personally, I do better when I spend as little time as possible on Pinterest and I avoid West Elm like the plague.
While we can’t remove everything that makes us discontent, especially if those things are people we have to interact with on a regular basis, we can limit exposure to messages that tell us we’re not good enough and instead choose to find the blessings in our present circumstances.
5. Take care of yourself
It’s hard to be content when we’re stretched thin and worn down. Self-care is an important aspect of contentment because it gives us the energy necessary to see the blessings in difficult circumstances and the ability to respond positively to them. Having the time and space to do what we enjoy is something to be content about in and of itself!
If you’re the praying type, prayer can have a huge impact on your contentment. CS Lewis said, ‘I don’t pray because it changes God. I pray because it changes me’. While God might change our circumstances if we ask him to, it’s more likely that he’ll change our hearts.
Being in conversation with God about our discontentment might help us understand why God has us in certain circumstances and what lessons he wants us to learn through them.
Soooo here is where I get caught up… #5 “take care of yourself” -But what if (for me) taking care of myself means going to get my hair colored? IF honesty I have worked enough on myself to know that getting my hair done makes me feel more confident, refreshed and helps me to jump start creativity on my wardrobe, is it worth it? I mean at some point in the cycle I have to say “I am no longer content with my hair. I should make an appointment this week” -How can I navigate this?
We all have our own individual definitions of success, & self care. I think getting your hair colored can absolutely be self care. Is there something negative or bad about it to you? Personally I color my own hair because it’s self care to me too & it makes me feel good to save the money. For me, the best splurge for self care is other things like getting a massage!
If it makes you very happy & you feel it gives you self care, then absolutely it is! I’m a licensed Cosmetologist & that’s why I became one. I loved how getting my hair done made me feel. I wanted to help others feel that way too.
Thank you for sharing this. As I was reading, I kept thinking, I hope she tells us to seek God. So glad you did! No matter how bad “the hand your dealt”, the cross gives us FAR more than we deserve. Sometimes I forget how weighted those scales really are. I completely agree with the idea of getting those blessings out on paper. Again, thanks. And I’m LOVING your blog!
Love your comment! I agree! I love this article too! It also made me think about my “Send Out Cards” account. I love using this tool to actually express my gratitude & make others feel good in such a simple & inexpensive way. I’m new to Beth’s blog. Just stumbled upon this article on Pinterest. I bet she’d love it! SendOutCards.com/u/54994 if you or Beth ( or anyone) would like to send a card on me.
The ones that I find I need to put into practice most is #4 and #6. Choosing to not give into those things that make me feel discontent and bowing my heart in prayer more are crucial. I love how you shine the light on how we can get caught up in thinking we deserve certain things and that holds us back from being content and letting God meet us where we are.
Oh man, do I ever know that trap. The entitlement mentality: I wish I were immune to it… but sadly I’m so not! Hope you find peace and joy today, Lindsay. xo.
Heather @ My Overflowing Cup
I love #1 and need to work harder on #4. This is such an encouraging post and a great reminder that we are truly blessed no matter how things may seem.
Thanks for reading, Heather. I agree that #4 is tricky. Hard to remember sometimes!
brother mfc-9970cdw toner
I used to be proposed your blog by way of our uncle. I’m just now not specific whether or not this posting is published by method of him or her as nobody comprehend these unique in relation to my difficulty. You will be amazing! Thanks a lot!
Sigh. Spam alert.
At least the spammers are kind sometimes. Awwww, so cute, right? In a mostly nonsensical sorta way?? Lol!
Oh wow! Lori, I feel for you and will be praying for you today. I hope you find some rest and wisdom in the direction you need to go. What a stressful situation to have to deal with!!! (((hugs)))
First of all, number 4 reminds me of this lovely/hilarious print I saw in Emily McDowell’s shop: I will not compare myself to strangers on the internet.
Being more generous would certainly benefit us the most, but as I’m sure you know, this can be one of the harder things to accomplish when you’re financially strained. I am, however, at least working to be more generous with my time when I’m struggling to be generous with my money.
Thanks for the awesome post, Erin!
I definitely think that being generous can have a wider definition. There are so many things we can be generous with… not just money. I hear you on that one!
Personally #4 for me is almost unavoidable, I’m a grandma who is in the middle of a very delicate situation, where I’m sometimes pushed to the breaking point. My daughter-in-law was removed from the home from CPS over 3 years ago because of let’s say toxic parenting, she’s has a personality disorder, basically narcissism, unfortunately because my son for whatever reasons, doesn’t see or chooses not to see what others do, has refused to stand up for himself and the children and eliminate her from the children’s life and for 2 years from the home (the kids were in foster care for this long), so 2 years ago when both of their parental rights were about to be terminated, she moved out of the home to another state and CPS thought this was permanent,(which they soon learned in 3 months was not their plan, they wanted her back in the home as soon as CPS dropped the case) so they allowed the children ages now 4, 10, and 12, to come home on a trial basis. So since we had all lived in a home together, I stepped into the MOMMY role,(one they were not familiar with unfortunately) and since my son works too many hours usually 12 hours a day, 6 days a week I have become the primary caretaker much to my daughter-in-laws upset, so since CPS is still involved to for the children’s safety, and are grudgingly working on reunification, in which she seems to find fault with anything and everything I do or say, and although he says I’m doing a good job and everyone thinks the kids are doing great, when she launches her assaults everyone cowers and I’m the first one they throw under the bus, not once in over a year has my son stood up to her in my defense or the children’s only his own when she says he can’t do something, and last night I guess now, I can’t sleep and it’s almost 4am. I blew it when at the end of our intensive family therapy, she went after something my son and I and the children had just agreed on the day before, about the children walking to the library by themselves, it’s less then a block away, and when at first her first argument didn’t work, they weren’t responsible enough, she launched into the thing about stranger danger, he just gave up and said ok maybe she’s right, which now has all the kids scared to go anywhere, instead of saying something to eliminate their fears he let her compound them, it’s bad enough the world we live in is not always real safe, but to bring that up when it’s one of the safest things in our area for kids to do and they have special activities for them, to further her agenda that everything I do or Dad for that is not good, so she can feel better about herself is so wrong, we are put here to foster independence, pride, and yes awareness that things are not always safe and to be careful out there, but not fear that they can’t do anything on their own. My time with these children weather they are being “good” or not is always a blessing to think that I almost lost my grand-daughter when her medicated her cause she was being a “chaty-kathy”, there’s times I want to say go away your driving me crazy, (and I do in an appropriate way sometimes), but to drug a child so they leave you alone is unconscionable, especially when there were others she could have asked for help, but didn’t want to because she didn’t want to let anyone else near “her children” she says, but then says she did it cause she was so over-whelmed cause my son was working out of town extra hours (to support her spending habits and get break from her), cause he was the only one who would listen to her pity parties, and come home from work and clean the house and cook dinner and take care of the kids when she really did spend all day in bed on the computer, or watching tv, the problem was she didn’t want the help others offered her cause we also expected her to do something to, so she has my son believing that it was partially his fault for what happened, ok I’m sorry I aired my laundry on this comment I just meant to say that #4 was tough for me, and yes we still need to be grateful because although life and children can be trying if you approach it in the right way every day the are blessings even if we have to look hard, like me and my grandkids had a wonderful day, and we learning new things all around us and how reward new things can be like even eating healthy and how good it makes you feel. I’m sure you will want to delete this comment, and I will not be upset if you do, but at this time it’s the only place to put my upset, I hope you have great days I enjoy your blogs and wish you well I raised 6 kiddos and I know what a challenge but also what a reward you will reap even if you mess up if your hearts in the right place, and if you do pray please keep me and especially these kiddos in them they are doing great considering their start in life, and I love them to pieces and will always do all in my power till my dying breath to keep them safe.
Lori, I am so sorry to hear of the struggles you have faced. It sounds like you are an amazing woman, and a strong and loving Grandma to those kiddos. I will keep you and your family in my prayers, and I hope that the peace and love of Christ finds you today and gives you strength. xoxo.
Thank You I appreciate it, trying to stay positive and counting my blessings really helps me, if I dwell on the problems it blocks out all the wonderful times I know have with them, most of the time their wonderful, but you know their kids so it’s not always that way. LOL, but as you I love them without conditions.