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Developing contentment

sun and trees

What is meant by being content? By being happy? It is difficult to pin down what it means to be happy or content. It seems to be the case that contentment is a by product of what we do, rather than something we can set out to achieve directly. It is probably not possible for us to wake up in the morning and say “I am going to be happy to day!”  Rather, by focusing on other things, a sense of contentment and peace can emerge. While different people will find different ways of reaching contentment, there seems to be a number of common routes.

Here are a few suggestions to get started:

Connect - with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. Think of these as cornerstones of your life,  and invest time in developing them.

Be active - try to discover a physical activity that you enjoy, something that suits your level of mobility and fitness. Step outside, go for a walk, play a game.

Take notice - be curious, notice the unusual. Savour the moment. Rather than rushing through the day on automatic pilot, take a moment to pause. Be aware of what is going on around you, and your own thoughts and feelings.

Keep learning - try something new, or rediscover an old interest. Sign up for that course that you keep thinking about as learning new things can help to increase self confidence.

Give - if you can, volunteer your time or join a community group. Perhaps take an extra step to help a friend... or a stranger! Look outwards as well as inwards.

Seeing our happiness as being linked to the wider community can be very rewarding and can help to create connections with the people around us.

The above suggestions are based on the findings of a high level government report. You will find more details at: www.bis.gov.uk/foresight. Follow the links to “Mental capital and well-being” under Published Reports.

You might also like to visit www.actionforhappiness.org or view Ron Gutman speaking on the hidden power of smiling.

If there are any particular subjects that you would like to see covered in these pages, please contact the well-being team at wellbeing@aston.ac.uk.