I was having lunch with a friend the other day, & she talked about contentment, in a personal way. About how you may not have all you would like, but still being content with what you have, rather than moaning, or being down about what is missing.
I have been musing about it ever since. My friend is also very practical & is the person who does do things to make life good, so it wasn’t as though she was saying that her life is terrible & she is determined to be content with it.
Most of us do have aspects of our life which we can be content with. We live in a lovely country…New Zealand is just beautiful. If we suffer sudden financial or medical misfortune, there is always social welfare here to help us get by. We are not in a war zone, nor are our children starving in a refugee camp. We have clean water. If we are poor in NZ, there are also food banks & some of the churches do soup & bread evenings.
But when our life is not good…. & for many of us, we will have times when this is so, it is a very positive step to find ways to make it better. If this is difficult, maybe you don’t have much time to make big changes, or maybe there is resistance within yourself &/or around you…but even so, you still want things to be better, little changes are easier. Such as in the 5% system: change something by 5% & you will get a 20% effect. Change a few things 5%, & the overall effect can be quite a surprise! Because you end up with far more than a 20% effect from your 5% change, instead you end up with several 20%s!
So, how do we work out what a 5% change is? I certainly don’t. It would drive me a tad nutty trying to do the maths! I just make a wee change. An effortless one regarding what I’m working on, & then I just make a concentrated effort to do it. It is the doing something over & over that makes it a habit. And if it doesn’t feel good…I change it & try something else!! Two of the 5% changes I’ve made that I’m quite happy with, are to have 2 glasses of water between dinner & bed, which stops night time munchies; and the other is to use cleanser & a night cream each evening, rather than a rub with a baby wipe then nothing on my face: I saw positive results within a week.
Am I content with the results? Well, I would prefer not to have sun damage & wrinkles, but I can’t deny that the skin care results have been nice, so, yes, I can be content with that. Am I content with the evening water? It has led me to down water when I’m out at a café, sometimes lots of water. I now usually have a glass of water with my meals. I’ve learnt to have a bottle of water within eyesight at home, which usually means that I drink more water. It feels good, & I’m not actually totally content here, but, hey……I’m working on drinking more water overall & being content with my water intake, so that’s a bonus.
But, getting back to the more serious aspects: even in financial hardship, we can make 5% practical changes. We can read books & use the internet, for free, at the library. We can take the kids to a park to play. We can walk more, rather than spend money on transport, we can take homemade sandwiches when we go out……there are so many wee changes we can do, that add up to lots of 5% changes which give a bigger effect. If we are lonely, we can visit an elderly neighbour, or get out & about just to meet people. When we do nice things for others…we get really good hormones being released in our body/brain complex…..& these hormones certainly make us feel good & help with contentment. And when we do things that reduce stress…such as changing how we use money when we don’t have much……our health improves. The stress hormones, they make us overweight, they also make our body go out of kilter in other ways.
I was talking with a man who was in Narcotics Anonymous for years. He said that at meetings he would listen to some of the unbelievably awful & sad stories of other peoples’ lives, & that would make him realise that his own life was good, & that, in comparison, his own troubles were nothing.
Sometimes it just takes hearing another’s story to make us realise that we have a lot to be content with. But if life is awful, try wee changes. If this doesn’t work, you might have to rethink your situation. For example: I can tell you from hard & painful experience that when you keep making what you believe are positive changes in maybe an abusive situation, whether at home or at work, or elsewhere……sometimes a way bigger change is needed. If this is your situation, ring Lifeline, or go to the Citizens Advice Bureau, which is usually within the local library complex, or, if it’s really bad…Vivianna/the women’s refuge. Sometimes we actually have to step out of a horrible situation & rebuild our lives to come to contentment. But, it can be done.
Contentment is wonderful to strive for & achieve, & all human beings deserve to be able to be content, whether yours’ is a difficult situation, or quite good really.