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Happiness vs. Inner Contentment

Updated: Dec 21, 2020

It is a time where many of us may realize we are feeling unhappy. So much of our lives have been turned upside down from Covid-19 which has many of us feeling just plumb worn out. We are tired of having to stay home, tired of the mask debate, worn out from handwashing, and constantly being on alert for those who may seem ill. In case the typical modern American lifestyle was not stressful enough, let’s toss a pandemic and social unrest into the mix. The pandemic’s additional distressing side effects also take a toll with economic as well as mental/ emotional health pain and suffering for many.

If we are looking in laser light fashion only at our circumstances, there is a lot to be miserable about.

Is it even possible to think any of us could actually be happy right now? Knowing that so many people are suffering either with the illness itself, the death of a loved one, and/or all the aforementioned effects, is it any wonder that more and more people are reporting increased feelings of stress, loneliness, anxiety and depression.

The answer to the question can we be happy right now, will depend on your definition of happiness. I would offer that for most, happiness is actually by its very nature, fleeting. Many people feel happy when they land the perfect job, get the promotion, buy the house they want, find the relationship that “makes them happy”, or discover other tangible things or events they temporarily feel happy about.

However, I think we would do better, to consider the idea of inner contentment. Without getting too Zen on you, here is the difference. Finding our inner contentment means we are not so dependent on outside things, people and circumstances to “make us happy.”

Cultivating inner contentment means as circumstances change in our external environment, i.e., the world, the virus, happenings in our community, our relationships ,etc., becomes less important than what we choose to have happen inside of us.

Allow me to illustrate. I may experience the feeling of elation, or happiness on a vacation, or when I obtain a sizable business contract, but ultimately, the day will come when that vacation is over, or my work with that client is complete. If I am truly only content when the sun is shining, my bank account is robust, or my children finally thank me for something, I am essentially a victim to external events- things that happen outside of me that I cannot control.

I can either live my life on what is known as the hedonic treadmill, looking for that next “thing” that delivers a jolt of happiness ( it actually does deliver a squirt of happy neurotransmitters)

And then wonder why I can’t maintain that feeling, or I can begin to intentionally cultivate inner contentment.

Inner contentment involves practicing habits daily that allow for experiencing a steady stream of satisfaction in our lives, despite current circumstances.

Here are some ideas of things you can begin to do today to experience this inner state of being.

1. Question your thoughts- Increasing awareness of your thoughts is crucial. Tune in to listen to whether your first thoughts are based in reality, whether they are judgmental or negative, or they are positive, realistic and truthful. Change the thoughts that drag you down into accurate statements such as, “It is true I am feeling lonely right now, and I can choose to…”

2. Practice moving your body daily- Just the act of doing something that moves your body will also bathe the pleasure center of your brain in some good neurochemicals that can help you naturally feel great consistently.

3. Engage in a spiritual practice daily- whether you read your bible, take a walk in nature, talk to God, go to a mosque, read a devotional, meditate or pray, engage in spiritual time daily. This practice will keep your faith strong and help keep you centered.

4. Keep a gratitude journal- Practicing gratitude daily helps keep our focus on our blessings, rather than our depressings. Take time every morning and night to consider 3 things you are grateful for.

5. Limit your exposure- to bad news, chaos and mayhem. Our brain takes in all of this distressing news, and our body reacts to it in the form of secreting stress hormones. I’m not suggesting putting your head in the sand, rather just limit what media/news you take in and for how long each day.

6. Find beauty in each day. Don’t let a day pass by where you have not been intentional to find, make or create some beauty in your life. Whether you take a walk in nature, listen to music, look at some beautiful art, draw, dance, sing or engage in a hobby, find beauty daily.

7. Get plenty of shut eye- We are more likely to experience inner contentment when we are not cranky from lack of sleep. When we get (typically) less than 7 hours we open ourselves up to general fatigue, brain fog, and other challenges.

8. Choose a beneficial attitude: keep material things, achievements and accomplishments in their right perspective. These things can add joy in our lives, however, we don’t want to rely on them for our contentment.

9. Get off the hedonic treadmill- Do not allow yourself to be seduced by the next best, greatest things that only bring fleeting happiness. Rather, choose the self care and resilience practices that keep you experiencing inner contentment.

10. Cultivate solid stable relationships- learn the difference between emotionally safe people ( romantic or friendships) that support your desire for wellbeing. You’ll know these people by how you feel when you are around them. If it generally feels good to be in their presence, chances are they are enhancing your life by the energy you feel when you are with them.

There is a verse in the bible that speaks of inner contentment. It states, “I have learned to be content whatsoever my circumstances”. (Phillipians 4:11)

Given that this is not something that comes natural for most of us, and given that we largely live in a society that tells us we have to have certain things to “be happy”, creating inner contentment that does not wax and wane with the tide is something we must choose for ourselves. In your personal as well as business or professional life, consider a leap off the hedonic treadmill and a new start on the path to inner contentment.

Enjoy the journey.

Note: If you are needing some help with your health and wellbeing journey, give us a call. We want to help you thrive regardless of your circumstances. Reach out at or call 360.509.0345 We offer complimentary consultations for both individual coaching and counseling, as well as help in your business to help shift your culture to one that is vibrant, energetic, cooperative productive and profitable. Executive and Leadership coaching is available as well.


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