3 easy ways to build contentment TODAYMay 13, 2020
Contentment doesn’t always come naturally to me. An argument with my teenager leaves me frustrated with my parenting skills. My husband works late, and I inwardly groan about having to handle bedtime solo–not to mention the loss of an evening with my favorite person. A friend’s new car makes me glare at my van’s odometer (which is just getting ready to hit six digits). I drive longingly past a local bakery, wishing I weren’t trying to lose weight. I listen enviously to friends’ conversations with their elementary-age kids, while Joey still struggles to answer basic questions like, “Who did you see today?”
I mean, sure, I could say that the problem is my circumstances. But really? The bigger issue is in my perspective.
So how do we break free from this cycle of negativity? How do we build contentment? What can I do right now to change the course of my day? Here are my top three tips to be more content today…
Care for Your Body
I’ll admit, when I’m feeling down about life, I want to lay on the couch and eat ice cream. But after an hour or two (or, ahem, more) of laziness and overindulgence, I rarely feel happier about my life.
I know that diet and exercise don’t seem related to our contentment, but they absolutely are. We are body, mind, and spirit–and they all interconnect. When we take good care of our bodies, our spirits are lifted and our mindsets start to shift to healthier, happier thoughts. Life feels just a little more manageable.
So take care of your body. Maybe that means hitting the gym or taking a walk outside. Maybe it means eating a banana instead of a handful of M&Ms (I’m looking right in the mirror on that one…!). Maybe it does mean you need to rest your body–with a nap, an earlier bedtime, or just a few moments to sit down with a good book–but don’t mistake plopping in front of TV or social media for rest. Remember that mind-body-spirit connection? What we do with our minds while we rest our bodies is important!
In fact, that leads right into my next point…
Care for Your Mind
When I was a little kid, I had a cassette (Yep, a cassette. CDs weren’t a thing until I was in middle school, and even then I thought they were a passing fad.) with this song…
Catchy, isn’t it? “Input, output / What goes in is what comes out. / Input, output / That is what it’s all about.” As cheesy as it is (the 80s were a wild time for me, clearly…), this song still plays in my head when I am faced with choices about what to watch, read, or listen to.
But this “garbage in, garbage out” goes beyond just teaching our kids to make good choices. Where we focus our attention affects how we think and feel. Or, as Lysa Terkeurst says, “We steer where we stare.” When I tell myself things like “I would be happy if…” or “I just can’t handle today because…” or a plain old “I don’t like myself” I’m not exactly steering toward joy.
Friends, we’ve got to tell ourselves the truth. And what better source of truth than God’s Word? When you are struggling to get into the right mindset, get words of truth and hope in front of you. Read them. Repeat them. Here are just a few to get you started:
- “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
- “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
- “I am with you always” Matthew 28:10
- “Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.'” Hebrews 13:5
- “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.” 1 Timothy 6:6-7
- “A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.” Proverbs 14:30
- “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
I’m not saying that Bible verses are the only way to change our mindset. Maybe there is another quote, phrase, or mantra you find inspirational. Great! Use it!
And since I’m grabbing onto old cliches, we can’t talk about mindset without this gem: “Have an attitude of gratitude.” If you want to kick discontent to the curb, gratitude is the steel-toed boot of choice. Make a list of five things you are thankful for. Go ahead, do it now. I’ll wait.
Got your list? I’m serious. Five things.
OK, now. Take that list and carry it with you. Review it, sure. But add to it. Keep thinking. You’ll find more things. And as your thankfulness grows, your discontent has nowhere to dwell.
Care for Others
Honestly, this one should probably be first. One of the very best ways to break out of a cycle of discontent is to stop thinking so much about ourselves. When we serve others, we think about others. When we focus on loving those around us, we get out of our own heads. And when we sow kindness, we reap joy.
Are you feeling a little blah this morning? Buy a stranger’s coffee, give someone a compliment, or write a note to a friend. Small acts can bring great joy. For more ideas, check out the #SowKind movement started by my friend Alyssa.
But don’t let it end there. Invest in bigger service opportunities through your church, your local schools, a homeless shelter. Consistently giving of yourself for the betterment of others is one of the best things you can do for everyone, yourself included.
So how will you care for your body, your mind, and the people around you today? How else do you fight against the monster of discontent?
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