We’re all looking for contentment in life.
Even those of us with the biggest goals and loftiest ambitions are just looking for contentment. The main thing that marks us apart is that some of us need more out of life to feel content. Some of us want to be the next president and some of us just want to hang out at home with our family.
True contentment can be hard to find, but the signs are there if you look for them. You just need to know what contentment actually looks like.
And so while I’m by no means the most content person in the world, I’ve also been doing a lot of work on myself and I’ve learned enough to share a few tips and tricks with you.
Let’s take a look at 11 signs that you’re truly content with your life.
1) You smile a lot
You’ve probably heard of the expression “resting bitch face” to refer to when you look moody by default.
What you might not realize is that the opposite is often true, so if you’re a content person then you probably spend a lot of time smiling, whether you mean to do so or not. It just comes naturally to you when you’re sitting on public transport or idly daydreaming.
The funny thing about smiling is that there’s evidence to suggest that it makes us happier. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy in which the more we smile, the happier we become – and the happier we become, the more we smile.
And so as you can see, if someone’s smiling a lot, there’s a good chance that they’re feeling content with their lot in life.
2) You laugh a lot
Laughter is like smiling on steroids, and so if you’re laughing a lot then you’re probably enjoying life.
I’m British, and a big part of our culture is that we like to laugh at things. This is particularly true for the darker things in life. There’s a saying that we use when we poke fun at something bad that’s happened – “Well, you’ve got to laugh.”
Being able to laugh at things, whether they’re positive or negative, will help you to process what’s going on in your life and ensure that you’re able to greet whatever comes your way with a smile.
We’ve already talked about the science behind smiling, which shows that the act of smiling could actually make us happier. Laughter has similar powers, which is why there are thousands of clubs and groups around the world that are dedicated to laughter yoga.
3) You’re generally positive
Our experiences in life tend to be reflected in our outlook. In other words, if we’re struggling with life then we’re not going to be as positive as we’ll be if we find life to be easy.
This means that if you’re generally a positive person, there’s a good chance that you’re in a good place in life. You’re looking at the world through rose-tinted glasses because the world itself has been good to you.
Of course, some people are simply “glass half empty” people, and I’d consider myself to be one of them. When pressed, I call myself a pessimistic realist, but then that might be because I’m not truly content in life. It’s just something that I’m working on.
And so if you’re not sure how your life is going, consider spending some time looking inwards to see whether you’re positive, neutral or negative.
4) You don’t care about other people’s opinions
This is one that you’ve got to be careful with, because there are different reasons why people don’t care about other people’s opinions.
For example, I know people that don’t care what others think because they’re narcissists and they think that their opinion is the only one that matters. But I also know people who don’t care about other people’s opinions because they’re so content with their lives.
Ultimately, if we want to be happy, the best thing we can do is to let go of other people’s opinions because if we try to please everyone, we’ll please no one. If we want to be truly content, we need to do what will make ourselves happy instead of worrying about other people.
Contentment comes from within, not from without.
5) You’re grateful for what you have
This one is a variant on the last point and another reminder that contentment comes from within.
In other words, people who are obsessed with material wealth and (perceived) status will always end up unhappy because they’re chasing an impossible perfection. Status can be lost and money is just a number in a bank account that can continue to increase indefinitely.
This is another one that I’m trying to work on for myself, because I find it easy to get carried away and to think that I need to become a bestselling author if I want to be happy. Instead, I need to focus more on what I have, such as the relationship I’m in and the health of my friends and family.
I find that gratitude is like a muscle, and that we need to practice it if we want to get better at it.
6) You’re perfectly happy to be alone
Some people I know are so afraid of being alone that they spend every night in the pub and stay until closing time. As you can imagine, that doesn’t exactly lead to the development of positive habits.
But the people who are perfectly happy to be alone tend to be those who are doing the best in life. In fact, you could argue that this is another example of contentment coming from within, because you don’t need other people around you to be content.
That’s basically what contentment is. It’s when you’re happy with your lot, comfortable in your own skin and have no need for further physical goods. It also shows that anyone can be content, as long as they’re having their basic human needs met.
Of course, you might also just be an introvert.
7) You feel like your work has a purpose
They say that if you work a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of people aren’t fortunate enough to have a job that gives their life meaning, with them instead just going to work because they need the money. It helps them to get by, but it doesn’t do much for contentment.
However, if you’re lucky enough to work a job you love – or even just to feel as though you serve a purpose – then the chances are that you’re feeling a lot of contentment. Remember that we spend a huge amount of our time at work, and so if we feel as though that work has no purpose, it’s no surprise if we don’t feel content in life.
And while it’s easier said than done, if you don’t feel that contentment at work then perhaps it’s time to look for another career.
8) You don’t compare yourself to other people
There’s a saying that goes that comparison is the thief of joy, and so you can probably tell where we’re going with this.
The thing with comparison is that there will always be someone that we think is doing better than us. If your goal is to be a musician, there will always be musicians who are better than you. The same holds true whether you want to be a teacher, a writer or a metalworker.
With over eight billion other people on the planet, there’s bound to be someone out there who’s doing a better job than you when it comes to the thing that you love. This leaves you with two options: you could compare yourself to everyone else and leave yourself feeling upset because of it, or you can leave those comparisons behind altogether.
If you’re chasing after contentment, you’re going to want to go with the latter choice.
9) You have hobbies that you’re passionate about
Hobbies can bring us fulfillment and give us a raison d’etre. Despite that, not everybody has one.
They also provide us with a way to accentuate our personality. In my case, I’m a writer and I love books, and so one of my hobbies is reviewing the books that I read. My friend Dave loves music and so he spends a lot of time trawling charity shops to try to find new albums to listen to.
Honestly, it doesn’t matter what your hobbies are, as long as you have them. That’s the important thing.
Of course, just having hobbies doesn’t automatically lead to contentment. Some hobbies can even bring more stress than they’re worth. It’s up to you to try to find the right hobbies that bring contentment to your life.
10) You sleep well
I’m probably the worst possible person to talk about this one, because I’m a seasoned insomniac and a lifelong night owl.
Part of the reason I find it difficult to sleep is that there’s always a ton of stuff running through my mind when my head hits the pillow. I always feel as though there’s more to do, and that doesn’t sit well alongside contentment.
People who are truly content won’t wish there were more hours in the day or find themselves running through everything they wanted to get done. They’ll be happy with what they’ve achieved and sleep like a baby as a result of it.
This ability to reliably sleep well at the end of each day is one of the main reasons why I’m working on being content myself.
11) You forgive yourself for your mistakes
Self-forgiveness is a difficult skill to master, but it’s vital if you want to live contentedly.
There’s a John Lennon quote (that I refer to all the time) which goes, “A mistake is only an error. It becomes a mistake when you fail to correct it.” It’s a great quote, but it could do with a little addition about how it remains a mistake if you fail to forgive yourself.
We all make mistakes, and there’s nothing wrong with that. We should remember that each mistake provides us with an opportunity to learn, and so the real question is whether we’re going to take that opportunity.
And even if we don’t, it doesn’t really matter as long as we own up to our mistakes and forgive ourselves.