Mental & Emotional Health
How to Cultivate Contentment
By Mayo Clinic Staff
Do you know how to be happy? Or are you waiting for happiness to find you?
Despite what the fairy tales depict, happiness doesn’t appear by magic. It’s not even something that happens to you. It’s something you can cultivate. Only 10 percent or so of the variation in people’s reports of happiness can be explained by differences in their circumstances. It appears that the bulk of what determines happiness is due to personality and — more importantly — thoughts and behaviors that can be changed.
So, yes, you can learn how to be happy — or at least happier.
Although you may have thought, as many people do, that happiness comes from being born rich or beautiful or living a stress-free life, the reality is that people who have wealth, beauty or less stress are not happier on average than those of who don’t enjoy those blessings.
People who are happy seem to intuitively know that their happiness is the sum of their life choices, and their lives are built on the following pillars:
Devoting time to family and friends
Appreciating what they have
Maintaining an optimistic outlook
Feeling a sense of purpose
Living in the moment
If you have been looking for happiness, the good news is that your choices, thoughts and actions can influence your level of happiness. It’s not as easy as flipping a switch, but you can turn up your happiness level. Here’s how to get started on the path to creating a happier you.
INVEST IN RELATIONSHIPS
Surround yourself with happy people. Being around people who are content buoys your own mood. And by being happy yourself, you give something back to those around you.
Friends and family help you celebrate life’s successes and support you in difficult times. Although it’s easy to take friends and family for granted, these relationships need nurturing.
Build up your emotional account with kind words and actions. Be careful and gracious with critique. Let people know that you appreciate what they do for you or even just that you’re glad they’re part of your life.
Gratitude is more than saying thank you. It’s a sense of wonder, appreciation and, yes, thankfulness for life. It’s easy to go through life without recognizing your good fortune. Often, it takes a serious illness or other tragic event to jolt people into appreciating the good things in their lives. Don’t wait for something like that to happen to you.
Make a commitment to practice gratitude. Each day identify at least one thing that enriches your life. When you find yourself thinking an ungrateful thought, try substituting a grateful one. For example, replace “my sister forgot my birthday” with “my sister has always been there for me in tough times.”
Let gratitude be the last thought before you go to sleep. Let gratitude also be your first thought when you wake up in the morning.