Contentment vs. Happiness: What’s the Difference?
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Originally published on August 31, 2018; Updated on August 24, 2022
The terms happiness and contentment have become more or less interchangeable.
While they both have to do with feeling happy, there’s a difference between the two. There are reasons to strive for contentment vs. happiness in the grand scheme of things. Let’s take a look at the two terms, what they mean, and most importantly on what sets them apart from each other.
What Is Happiness?
We all know what happiness feels like. It’s that giddy feeling in your stomach that puts a smile on your face. Happiness is a bubbly, active feeling that comes and goes in waves or spikes. We don’t feel happy all the time and that’s OK.
Without times of indifference, and even sadness, we wouldn’t be able to recognize happiness and feel it as deeply as we do.
What Is Contentment?
On the other hand, contentment is a steady feeling that’s a little different from being happy. While we also don’t feel content all the time, it’s something that lasts longer. It’s a steady feeling instead of a spike of emotion.
When we say we want to increase the happiness in our lives, what we really mean is that we want to feel more content. We aren’t looking for those big moments of excitement and laughs. What we want is to feel positive, content, and comfortable for long stretches at a time. That’s what we really mean when we wish for a long and happy life.
What Sets the Two Apart?
Happiness and contentment work together but aren’t the same emotion.
Think of happiness as something similar to falling in love. It’s exciting, it’s fun, and it’s a very strong emotion. Contentment is more like a good, long marriage. There are little ups and downs, but overall things are comfortable and we’re happy in the relationship. The initial excitement wears off with time, but it’s replaced by something steady, comfortable, and very positive in its own right.
To live a happy and fulfilled life, we need happiness as well as contentment. Increasing contentment is the name of the game. It’s not as fleeting as happiness, yet we need to start with increasing how often we feel happy to fuel our contentment.
What can you do today that would bring joy and happiness into your life? How can you then extend that into a feeling of contentment? Maybe it’s decluttering your home to have a more inviting space to come home to. Maybe it’s working on a relationship and rekindling the passion. Maybe it’s making a change in your career that gives you more work that feels fulfilling. Find the things that bring you happiness and contentment and go after them.
It’s perfectly fine to focus on happiness. It’s easier to define and grasp. It’s also easier to notice than a small increase in contentment. Thankfully, focusing on more happy moments in our lives also increases our overall contentment. The same people and things that make us happy also make us content.
5 Small Ways to Increase Contentment When Life Gets Tough
There are always times in our lives when it is harder than usual to stay happy and content. We experience loss, we get stressed out, and life just throws us a curve ball. When you find yourself facing these challenges, it’s important to take the time to find little ways to increase happiness. It will give you the energy and will to persevere until things get better.
With that in mind, here are 5 simple ways to increase contentment. Try them now, get in the habit of doing them, and they will serve you well during tough times. At the very least, I hope you remember this article and come back to it when you need these simple tips the most.
Get Some Support
When life gets hard, we often feel alone. It doesn’t seem possible that anyone else is facing what we’re facing. While this may be true when you focus on every little detail, it isn’t true when it comes to the big picture. We all face challenges, and we all go through periods in our lives that are hard. You aren’t alone in this.
To stop feeling like you have to carry all the weight and do it all on your own, lean on your support network. Call a friend just to talk about what’s going on. Ask someone close to you to watch the kids for an hour or take one little chore of your plate to give yourself some breathing space. Find a support group locally or online to exchange ideas and “war stories”. Find and build your support network and then don’t be afraid to lean on them. It could make all the difference.
It’s easy to push too hard when we feel backed into a corner or trying to get through a rough time. Often the first thing we stop is self-care. We don’t think we can afford the time, energy, or money to rest, relax, and do something nice for ourselves. What we forget is that these simple little things are what gives us the drive to keep going. They rejuvenate us and put us into a better frame of mind.
Make yourself stop and do something every single day to take care of yourself. Think of it as required maintenance to keep you from breaking down further on. It doesn’t have to be expensive, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot (or any money). Go take a warm bath or sit quietly for half an hour enjoying a cup of tea while thumbing through a magazine or reading a few pages of a trashy novel. Find what makes you feel better and put it on the calendar regularly.
Focus on Destressing
Self-care helps us de-stress and that’s important. The hard times in life are also the most stressful ones. One of the big problems with stress (aside from causing all sorts of health issues) is that it tends to blow things out of proportion. Every problem looks bigger when we’re stressed out.
Think of some simple things you can do to de-stress. Go for a walk, have a good cry, take a hot shower, do some yoga. Do something to help you reduce the stress you’re feeling. You’ll come back more relaxed and with a clearer head. You’ll be much better equipped to deal with your problems.
Take A Nap
Not getting enough sleep is another issue many of us face during hard times. Our minds keep going, making it harder and harder to fall and stay asleep. Yet getting adequate rest is crucial to keep up our focus and energy to keep going.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but when you’re working as hard as you can to dig yourself out of a hole, often the best, and most productive thing you can do is take a nap. You’ll come back refreshed and able to work harder and more effectively.
Get Outside and Exercise
Last but not least, make yourself get out and exercise. This could be as simple as going out for a twenty-minute walk on your lunch break or doing some yoga or stretches in the backyard while the kids play. The fresh air, sunshine, and moving around will help you de-stress and relax. It will also make you sleep better. Try it and see if you don’t start to feel better.
These are some suggestions – there are other methods that I may touch on a future post.
But it’s a good place to start, right?
Loving Life—The Reboot!
This article provides general information and discussion about health and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this article, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. Consult your own physician for any medical issues that you may be having.
It’s so important to know the difference between contentment and happiness! Thanks for sharing this and for the tips!
I never thought about contentment before to be honest, and I didn’t associate it with happiness. Your comparison of contentment with a long marriage is fantastic, I think. It explains very well how it differs from happiness.
I never stopped to think the two are so different! How true it is though! For me, decluttering my home has made a huge impact not only on my contentment, but my family as well! There is nothing like that initial feeling of happiness that extends to feeling content every time we walk into our clean organized home!
This post is helpful for someone to understand the difference between contentment and happiness. Those are good tips for increasing contentment in your life especially destressing. Being less stressed and being content goes a long way in life.
A great insightful post. I too agree that contentment is very important to channel happiness. Sometimes ambition does get in the way of staying happy!
Oh my, yes to taking a nap and going outside. It works for me when I am feeling down or stressed.
I’ve never really thought about the difference of happiness and being content, but I definitely notice the difference between one and the other. Happiness is great, but often in my day to day life I feel content and it’s a very nice feeling on it’s own as well! 🙂
Liked the differentiation between the 2. More like one’s a fleeting feeling and the other a more longer staying emotion
Self-care is super important and something that I am realizing these days. I started taking naps again as they are a great opportunity to reset your brain after a day. Content is something that is easy to speak about and harder to feel. These are great tips!
I agree that each of these can help you feel more content. For me it is more about getting outside and exercising. I need to try and push myself to go outside more.
I am very fortunate in that I have both. There is definitely a difference between them though!
This is really indeed post! In this situation do the simple things that you make you feel better 🙂 Lovely post from you.
There truly is a difference between contentment and happiness. I love to practice self care. Once I added it to my daily routine, my happiness level grow.
What an awesome post! Often times we forget about the differences between the two and focus on happiness which last less. I agree, doing things that makes us happy, fulfilled will allow us to get that place of contentment. Self care is indeed the way to get there…
Sharing with <3
There was another similar post that I read not very long ago somewhere else…but The point that I agree with 110% is self care!
Although I don’t agree with using the word “contentment” for this article, I understand your message and agree that there is always a balancing emotion to great happiness. Self care is the road to self love and that is the way to true joy in life <3