Should You Seek Happiness or Contentment?

Should You Seek Happiness or Contentment?

by Kara Ferreira

Humans are naturally wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain, so it is little wonder that many of us are constantly in search of feeling more “happy”. The issue becomes that happiness is an emotion, and emotions come and go – so if we cannot feel happy all the time, how can we feel more positively about ourselves and our lives?

This is where contentment comes in. notes that happiness is “a state of being satisfied, experiencing pleasure or enjoyment and/or an absence of pain.” Contentment is “a state of satisfaction that transcends the allure of basic needs and desires.”

While happiness is dependent on our immediate surroundings and the events in our life, contentment is more our state of being as we navigate through them. Because of this, you can be happy without being content, and you can be content without being happy.

Finding contentment can help you avoid what Psychology Today calls the “myth of happiness”. These are the thoughts that you will be happier when you achieve your goals. Many people think they will be happier when they make a certain amount of money, lose a certain amount of weight, or achieve a certain milestone. However, our happiness levels tend to return to their baseline a short while after we achieve our goals. Our level of contentment with our circumstances, however, can be strengthened.

Dr. Robert Puff notes that contentment is a mindset, and it’s mostly about accepting our circumstances and not fighting them.

The Mayo Clinic provides practical advice for cultivating more contentment in your life. Quickly summarized, they are:

  1. Invest in relationships, rather than in material goods

  2. Practice gratitude and being grateful for what you have

  3. Live in the present moment instead of focusing on the future

By practicing acceptance, giving gratitude and being more mindful of your present experience instead of dwelling on the future or the past, you can cultivate more contentment in your life. Contentment can help carry you through both happy and unhappy times.

If you’d like to explore working with a therapist, contact us at (734) 323-4897 or for more information. Our practice, based in Novi, Michigan, is home to a team of psychologists with a wide range of expertise. We also offer teletherapy and can see anyone in the state of Michigan.

Kara Ferreira is a G3 Contributing Writer.


Psychology Today, What Is Happiness?

Psychology Today, The Value of Contentment

Happier Human, Happiness Vs. Contentment

Mayo Clinic, Tips for Cultivating Contentment