Yesterday, I joined Peter Anthony to record the "Men of Spirit" radio broadcast "Optimism as an antidote to negativity."
During the course of our conversation before the show, Peter shared a comment on the importance of contentment that could have channelled my mother Lilia Perton. Her view was that contentment is more important than happiness.
I found one of Lilia's newsletters "Yoga: The Importance of a Good Mental Attitude" in which she wrote, "Most people taking up yoga are looking for ways to rid themselves of excess stress and tension in order to lead a happier and more contented life."
Contentment is a state of mind that is not dependent on external circumstances. It is a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment that comes from within and can be experienced in difficult situations.
While happiness is desirable and can enhance our quality of life, contentment is more important because it is a long-term state of mind that provides a deeper sense of peace, meaning, and purpose. Contentment enables us to appreciate what we have, be grateful for the present moment, and focus on what truly matters in life. Contentment is a more reliable and sustainable source of well-being. In fact, contentment is often a prerequisite for experiencing true happiness, as it allows us to cultivate a positive mindset and appreciate the simple pleasures in life.
In an interesting comment in her essay "How to be Happy and Optimistic?", Anna Glynn wrote, "those who constantly chase happiness can end up being less content with their lives."
One could argue that contentment can lead to optimism, as being satisfied with one's current situation can make it easier to see the positive aspects of life and to feel hopeful about the future. On the other hand, optimism can also lead to contentment, as a positive outlook can make it easier to appreciate the good things in life and to feel satisfied with one's current circumstances.
Being around optimistic people with positive energy and outlook can help reduce stress and anxiety and promote feelings of contentment.
In Sikhism, chardi kala is the Punjabi term for aspiring to maintain a mental state of eternal optimism. Sikhs are ideally expected to be in this positive state of mind as a sign of their contentment with the Will of God, even during times of adversity.
Is contentment in good supply?
Mum thought it was worth repeating to me and her students that it was important.
In an essay entitled, "Our struggle to find contentment and optimism" published in 2016, Dick Meyer wrote, "Social science shows that Americans on the whole have found it harder to garner contentment, connection and optimism during these prosperous years — and it has felt that way. This fluke of modernity has come to be called the prosperity paradox: Beyond minimum level of material security and means, human contentment and happiness has not increased in proportion to increased material well-being — income, wealth, consumer options, luxury and “stuff.”