“It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy that makes happiness.”

Charles Spurgeon

I love the idea of happiness, but as with many other things in my life, it is a choice I must make in order to attain it. When I define the word it shows me that the idea of happiness is a feeling that releases both pleasure and contentment. I’ve never really thought too much about the definition, but as I look at it I am drawn to the word contentment.

Contentment, or lack of, is probably the reason that happiness does not come as easily for me as it may for others. Of course I strive for joy and happiness in my life, but I admit that discontentment has been a recurring theme throughout my life. If I am not careful I can unintentionally start looking for greener grass or find myself striving to keep up with the Joneses. I am reassured by these quick one liners though. They assure me I am not alone in my plight.

One of the reasons I enjoy looking back through my old journals is because I

often come across old entries that have meaning for my current circumstance. They are often entries that I have forgotten about. Personal contentment is something that I have been working on for the last couple of years. It is the key to my happiness and I have spent a significant amount of time reflecting and journaling about it.

A couple of years ago I took seven days and focused and journaled entirely on contentment. A treasure trove of reflective thoughts and a much needed reminder for myself as to just how important it is for me and my happiness.

Being content is a state of peaceful happiness. In the past I have had difficulty figuring out how to achieve it. I found myself preoccupied with thoughts like “if only” and “what if.” “What if I hadn’t gotten sick?” “If only I hadn’t lost my job.” When I allow my mind to get lost in these questions, being content feels very distant to me. Being content falls right in line with the many other attitudes and perspectives that I have. They all need intentional focus.

What I find invaluable, as I read my past entries, is when I see growth in myself. A couple of years ago I felt that one of the reasons I was so discontent was because I was not living life fully. My chronic illness completely derailed my so-called life and for a period of time I was not completely present in it.

I was surrounded by a lot of unhappiness. Before becoming ill I always strived for excellence in everything I did. I didn’t just do life part time. I find a lot of happiness in knowing that I have given my all to something. As I have journeyed beyond my illness I feel I am able to give all that I am capable of and because of that I have found growth in my life and once again feel happy.

I know I can’t be alone when it comes to being caught up in the crazy people pleasing dilemma. You know -- that conundrum when your outside voice is saying an enthusiastic YES before you have a chance to stop it, while at the same time your inside voice is screaming a frustrating, absolute NO! I know we all have felt the weight from a misspoken YES before.

My happiness is definitely tied to the contentment I feel about my true, genuine self. For years, much of my life was focused on being a people pleaser. Saying NO to people has always been difficult for me. My chronic illness has made this a necessity for me. I don’t have the mental or physical energy to continuously focus on pleasing others. I have learned a valuable lesson in this.

Being a people pleaser causes me to feel a lot of discontentment and unhappiness. I feel the opposite when I am being true and genuine with myself. It is authentic and reveals who I really am and I no longer feel I am hiding behind a facade. It feels great to not feel obligated in an unhealthy way. I feel genuinely happy and content.

Being accepting of the difficulties in my life is not always an easy process for me. I have had to work hard to find contentment and happiness in my trials. One of my old journal entries is reflective of this very thought. In my writing, my words are a blend of sadness, frustration and anger toward becoming ill. But even in the midst of these emotions, I focused on hope. I wanted to believe that there was a reason for my illness. I wanted to have confirmation that the difficulties I was experiencing had a purpose and would make me stronger.

I am so thankful that even in the middle of my suffering I held onto hope. I have come a long way since that journal entry. I do believe there can be contentment and happiness even in the midst of suffering. I always need to remember that my life does have meaning and purpose and no matter what the circumstances may be I can never give up.

When I look at my day to day existence I see how my life is full of many different things that bring me contentment. They are often small and may appear insignificant to others, but to me they bring a tremendous amount of happiness. I am very grateful I am now able to see them and treasure these moments. For a long time I glossed right over them. Being discontent has been driven by my inability to see the happiness which has been right in front of me all along.

My happiness looks much different now than it used to. I am no longer searching for the bigger and better things of life to bring me happiness. I am much more aware and attentive to the smaller things I already have. I am happy and content when I wake up early in the morning and the house is completely quiet. I love the quiet time and the space it creates for me to reflect and journal my thoughts.

Happiness is that first morning sip of hot tea and a greeting from my Betta fish Barney. Good conversations, especially with my grandchildren, fill my heart completely. Happiness is my schnoodle and all of the goofiness that makes him who he is. Seeing his happiness as we walk in the sunshine fills me with the same.

Even my chronic illness has brought me happiness. I am happy for the strength it has given me and the abilities that I now have to live beyond it. Even in its presence I feel I have overcome the biggest challenge of my life!

Our happiness beyond our present moment can often feel overwhelming. Especially when we are in the midst of a difficult season. Our future contentment grows from the little things that bring us happiness now. Be encouraged to know that we all experience discontentment at one time or another and that you are not alone. Take action! Discover the things that bring you happiness and create a life that is filled with contentment.

Find a little bit of contentment today. What are 5 small things that bring you happiness?

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