Recently many of my friends have been asking how I am doing since I have had many serious health issues in the past two years that have been stressful and challenging. I have learned through these how many dear friends I have who have provided ongoing support both verbally and in all the ways they have cared for me. I am highly aware of how grateful I am. From that came my thoughts about whether I would say I was happy and deciding instead to say I am feeling content.
There are many excellent articles on the web that provide information about the differences between contentment and happiness. If you ask people what they want out of life, many will say that what they want is to be happy. But happiness and contentment are different things.
Some of you may remember the 2013 song by Pharrell Williams entitled Happy. It is the kind of video that generates happiness when you watch so many people being happy. A reported 1.1 billion people have watched it! It starts like this…
… It might seem crazy what I am ’bout to say
Sunshine, she’s here, you can take a break
I’m a hot air balloon that could go to space
With the air, like I don’t care, baby by the way
… Huh (Because I’m happy)
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
(Because I’m happy)
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
(Because I’m happy)
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
(Because I’m happy)
Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do
To differentiate, according to Examiner-Enterprise.com: “Happiness is a bit different from a feeling. Rather, it is an experience, usually hallmarked by positive thinking, joy, pride and even laughter. Contentment, on the other hand, is a long-lasting feeling accompanied by peacefulness, gratitude and satisfaction. In other words, happiness is a temporary feeling whereas contentment possesses the ability to last indefinitely.”
The article goes on to say: “If you type the search words ‘How to be happy”’ into Google, you will receive more than 7 billion results in less than one second. However, if you search the keywords, ‘How to be Content,’ Google only produces a little more than 18 million results. Clearly, this indicates society’s lust for a happiness high — the euphoria which comes with laughter, fun and excitement. Furthermore, although far from a scientific study, this experiment demonstrates a lack of interest in the much calmer, peaceful, albeit longer lasting, expression of contentment.”
In an article published in 2021 by Sarah Kristenson, she says that these terms (happiness and contentment) are often “… conflated, confused and used interchangeably. This is not a problem in normal day-to-day conversation… but a concept that needs addressing nonetheless if we mean to live intentional and meaningful lives, rich in value and grace.”
She goes on to define happiness as “a state of being satisfied, experiencing pleasure or enjoyment and/or an absence of pain.” When googling synonyms for happiness words like bliss, delight, elation, ecstasy and joy pop up.
Kristenson defines contentment as “the state of satisfaction that transcends the allure of basic needs and desires.” Most other definitions stress the importance of peace when defining contentment.” She notes that it is possible to be content without being happy, saying, “Even if we dislike our job very much, we may find meaning in it if we use our earnings to feed our children, support our families, fund a charity or promote a noble cause…Meaning, importance, purpose and a sense of a life mission being accomplished is a key ingredient in real, lasting contentment.”
As much as we all enjoy our moments of happiness, it’s nice to know that contentment is a much deeper and longer lasting experience that does not require happiness. I think we can choose to be content, as I have done, and yet still be motivated to achieve things that will bring happiness to ourselves and others.
I recommend you take a few moments to ponder how you experience happiness and the degrees to which you are content. Claim your power to decide to be content!
Invitation for Reflection
- What were some of your thoughts, feelings, sensations, images and memories as you read this blog?
- In what ways are you motivated to pursue contentment as a state of mind while enjoying moments of happiness?
- What specifically can you do to achieve higher levels of contentment in your life?