The way of the world constantly teaches us to desire more… to long for what we do not have… and the lie that until we acquire these things, we couldn’t possibly be happy.
This is simply not true guys, I have been to countries where the average family has little more than a shack on a dirt floor, and yet most of them seem happier than your typical American family.
Why? Because STUFF doesn’t make you happy.
But how do we teach ourselves this? How do we unlearn what modern day propaganda drills into our minds, with the goal of brainwashing us into believing we need material things in order to experience joy?
It does take practice and discipline, but it is possible to be content with what you have.
The lack of ability to be content is, in all honesty, a heart issue, so we must look at our hearts and determine how to cultivate joy instead of envy and desire for more.
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These 7 strategies have helped me tremendously, and I know they can help get you there too.
1. Prayer and time in God’s word.
This is #1 for me. I try hard to start every day doing these two things first and foremost. Building on my relationship with Christ, every single morning, reminds me what He has done so that I can have life, and the incredible love that he has for me.
It fills me with gratitude before I even start my day, which is a huge step in learning to be content.
I also have written down a few verses on sticky notes that talk about contentment and thankfulness, and I have stuck them in different areas of my home. I have some in my kitchen (because as a mom, that is where I spend most of my time!) I have one in my bathroom to look at while I am getting ready, and I have some on a cork board in my office, all serving as constant reminders to me throughout my day, to be thankful for what I have.
If you have enough room in your brain, (hard to find room up there these days…) it is also very helpful to memorize these verses!
If you click the images, it will take you to a PDF version of the pictures, and you can print them out and pin them to your cork board too if you’d like! 🙂
2. Practice Gratitude
When we become aware of what we already have, and how blessed we are, it then becomes easy to sit down and reflect on what we are thankful for.
A great way to become more aware of what we have is to write down a few things that you are thankful for every single day. If you are a planner lover like I am, you might like the Day Designer Daily Planner. It has a section to write down a few things you are thankful for each day, along with sections to plan your entire day as well. This is my all time favorite planner! I highly recommend it.
If you’re not one to keep a planner, but you’d still like a tool to prompt you to journal and write down daily gratitude’s, then you should definitely check out The Five-Minute Journal. This journal encourages you to focus your attention on what is GOOD in your life.
Improving your mental well-being is a wonderful way to start the day, and this is an EASY way to do it.
3. Be Patient
Oh man, this is a hard one for me.
I have struggled with patience since the very day I was born guys… But it is imperative to discipline yourself in patience if you want to learn contentment.
There are times when I will see something in a store, or read about something online, that I just KNOW will make my life SO much easier, or it would be the perfect finishing touch to a room that I am decorating in the house… but then, I check the budget, and realize I am out of money for the month in this particular category.
In these situations, it is VERY hard for me to control my impulses and not purchase whatever it is that I think I need RIGHT NOW.
But the fact is, when I do practice patience and self-control and reign in my desires for this material thing, sometimes weeks or months will go by and I forget about ever “needing” this particular item in the first place.
If I give in to my desires, I usually feel guilty, and then realize I didn’t really need this thing. Therefore, it didn’t bring me joy or happiness or convenience at all… All it gave me was a messed up budget and buyer’s remorse!
When you are patient, and say no to your impulses, you can learn to be grateful for what is already in front of you, while also building self-discipline to find joy in your present circumstances and belongings.
4. Quit Complaining
This is another tough one… I think it is difficult for most everyone! Circumstances can be rough sometimes, and life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows! (Especially in the North East!) But complaining about your negative circumstances, or your bad lots in life, is only going to make you feel worse, and can ultimately send you into a spiraling depression.
Words are super powerful. Your mind and heart will begin to believe the words that are coming out of your mouth. Negative speech and complaining will teach your heart to be ungrateful and discontent with life. Whereas, if you choose positive words, affirmations, and gracious speech, your heart will be built up, and retrained in gratefulness.
If you can teach your heart to respond positively even in the worst circumstances, then I promise you, you will find contentment.
It is easier said than done, but practice whenever you can.
Next time you start complaining about something, you need to stop yourself, and make a conscious decision to say NO to the thoughts your mind is trying to have. Then choose life-giving words instead.
Man… it’s hard guys… but it is so good.
5. Create a no-shopping goal and stick to it.
When I am having a hard time with contentment, I typically have thoughts like these running through my head:
“I only need these three pieces of clothing to complete my wardrobe for winter.”
– no, I don’t need them. I WANT them
Or “I need the same computer and home office set up as so-and-so in order to be successful.”
– Nope… I don’t
Or “I would be so thrilled if I could redo my kitchen to look like all the kitchen Pinterest pins I have saved.”
– Ya, maybe I’d love it, but the reality is, it’s not in the budget right now, and my kitchen is perfectly functional just the way it is… I don’t NEED a new kitchen. I WANT it.
When your thoughts are consumed with things that you want, instead of thankfulness for the things that you already have, then it is time to take a step back from shopping and take some time to reflect and learn to love what you have.
In order to help myself do this, I set a no-shopping goal. If I can’t stop thinking about new clothes, maybe I decide to not buy any new clothes for three months. Or if I can’t stop thinking about how I want to redo my whole house Chip and Joanna Gaines style, (because who doesn’t right?) then I take a step back and steer clear from hobby lobby and target for a while.
I pick a goal and stick to it.
It’s not easy, because these are the times that the itch to go shopping is at its worst…
If you can control your impulses when they’re at their worst, then you can control them in any situation.
Some things that help me stick to my no shopping goals are:
1. Taking a break from Pinterest (and sometimes all social media)… I LOVE me some good Pinterest scrolling, but it is BAD for my love of all things pretty and farmhouse. Social Media makes you play the comparison game and you start thinking that what you have is not good enough.
2. When I put my clothes on, look around at the décor in my home, or when I use my prehistoric dishwasher, I begin thanking them, out-loud, for what they do for me on a daily basis, instead of wishing they looked different, or wishing I could replace with something new.
That one sounds kind of silly and crazy, but it WORKS.
Instead of wishing I had a black turtle-neck sweater to go under my camel colored coat, I put on my dark green turtle-neck sweater, which also looks nice with my camel coat, and I thank it. I thank it for keeping me warm, and for keeping me covered, and for not falling apart after I have worn it so many times.
Instead of complaining about my dinosaur of a dishwasher… I thank it for washing my dishes so well, and for saving me precious time, so I can be with my kiddos more… And it’s old guys. Real old. But the stinken thing works… So, I thank it.
3. I spend more time with family and friends. Spending time building relationships with loved ones is food for the soul. You can find true joy in being around ones you love, and it will get your mind off material things that do not bring true happiness.
Shopping in general is not bad, and I’m certainly not telling you to give it up completely! But if your mind is consumed with desire, and it isn’t in the budget or savings to purchase whatever it is that you are consumed with, then you need to take a shopping break, and be thankful for what you have in that area already, and then after your break, reevaluate if you still want the item.
If you still really want it, then continue to take a shopping break until you have saved enough to get it!
Learn to be content with what you have FIRST, and then you will have better perspective on what you really want and what you actually need.
6. Don’t play the comparison game.
It’s hard not to compare ourselves with others these days. Social media is overwhelming and so many people seem like they just got all their crap together. You hop on Instagram to see what everyone is up to and suddenly you find yourself filled with feelings of discontentment and longing for the fashion, home décor, or experiences that you see others enjoying in the pictures.
It is easy to make life look really good in a bunch of little photos, but no one is perfect, and stuff does not make you happy.
Listen, I lived in a house that I LOVED when we were in NC for a year. It was beautiful and looked great in Instagram pictures… But… What you didn’t see in those pictures was that the house was infested with ants, and in the entire 7 months that we lived there, not a day went by that I didn’t have ants in my kitchen and on my counters. It was disgusting guys. We even had exterminators come spray every 3 months and they still didn’t totally go away.
So be thankful for what you have, because pictures are NEVER as perfect as they seem.
Take healthy breaks from social media so that you can have time to reflect on what is truly important in life, and what actually brings you joy.
7. Live life in the NOW and spend time with loved ones.
Be Intentional. Be Present. Find Freedom… That’s the tagline on my blog if ya didn’t know. 😉
Being present is an extremely important factor that goes into learning contentment. If you are living for the future, or stuck on something that you regret from your past, then you will never be able to live in present happiness.
You cannot speed up time, you cannot slow it down, and you cannot travel back in time. Learn to enjoy the moment and be present in the moment. Put your phone down and sit outside on your porch and just take in everything around you with your five senses, or pick up a book, or sit with your kids on the floor and help them put together a puzzle. Whatever it is. Just be fully present in the moment. Take your mind off of your to-do list, soak up your surroundings, smile, and be thankful.
Also, side note… enjoying the moment is usually more fun and more memorable if you do it with people that you love. So you know… Hang out with people you love!
It’s not easy guys. Contentment is something that I struggle with big time, but with the right tools, discipline, and practice, you can be happy with your life, and find joy in the every-day moments!
Do you guys have any other advice, or different ways that you practice contentment?
Let me know!
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