Feeling Good: Are You Happy. . . or Contented?

by teresalaynebennett

photo of two small girls sharing a book in a library

Sharing library feel-good

Do you often say, “I’m so contented today!”?

Right. Me neither.

Contentment isn’t a trendy concept in our society, though there is much ado about happy. In fact, since our Declaration of Independence says God gave us the “unalienable right” to pursue happiness, we fervently pursue happiness. After all, it’s our birthright.

But in my humble opinion, happiness can take you only so far. Contentment? Now that’s another matter. Contentment takes you way deeper. Why?

Because happiness comes
from outside,

contentment from within.

At least, that’s what I think I’ve sussed out after 65 years on this planet. Things that come from outside, things that happen to us (that European vacation or a nice fat raise) can make us happy – for a while. What comes from within, how we decide to be (thoughtful or thankful) can give us deep contentment that lasts our lifetimes.

Often, you’ll hear people speaking of happiness when they’re really talking about contentment, about a way of being, an attitude from within. Regardless of whether you make this fine a distinction between happiness and contentment, would you agree they’re both about feeling good?

And would you agree that
our rigorous pursuit of happiness

is almost always based
on our desire to feel good?

Determined to feel good, the less reckless among us:

  • go on shopping splurges to feel good,
  • pay to attend overpriced concerts to feel good,
  • sign away our paychecks for that new-car smell to feel good,
  • nest ourselves into McMansions to feel good,
  • and on and on.

Determined to feel good, the more reckless among us:

  • jump in and out of other people’s beds to feel good,
  • drink ourselves under the table to feel good,
  • snort a little to feel good,
  • shoot up to feel good,
  • Botox® our way to feeling good.

I confess – and I’m not proud of this – to thinking that feeling good was my purpose for living, so I lived in hot pursuit of happy for a while. It didn’t work out. But I did learn some valuable lessons because – eventually – I started paying attention.

True to my promise (when I first began this PayAttention! blog) to share embarrassing epiphanies, I intend to pass on two 2 x 4-between-the-eyes lessons I’ve learned that directly relate to contentment. Just so you know, trillions had already learned these lessons before I sorted them out! What can I say? Some of us, namely me, are just slow.

If you, too, have been doing a bang-up job of going after happy, and it isn’t working out, stick with me. Neither of my painfully learned lessons require the demanding work that hotly pursuing happiness demands. Both can increase your contentment, though and, happily enough, they’re not particularly difficult.

So watch for the next feeling good post and and as always, dear ones, pay attention.

© 2014 Teresa Layne Bennett

red box with white text: "The world is full of people looking for spectacular happiness while they snub contentment." – Doug Larson

A Wisconsin newspaper columnist’s wisdom