Contentment. Not happiness. Contentment.


It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, wondering how to achieve it (or, better, perhaps, how to keep it for a bit longer when it does arrive), because contentment always feels, to me, like something that goes beyond happiness, calling, as it does, to a deeper, a more stable, state.

I’ve been deeply unhappy, very unsatisfied, for many years, whilst managing to find pockets  of happiness in my life (a life which, for many reasons, is being lived way below parr).

These pockets of happiness include seeing my littles grow up and witnessing their growth and their joy in life, moments of beauty that arrive to me as and when I open my ‘heart eyes’ and moments of creative stimulation and pure creativity when I feel I’ve reached my flow and what I’ve managed to realise approximates, somewhat, my ideal of it.

But, together, and overlying, as they do, my sense of deep dissatisfaction, these moments of happiness never seem to reach what I’d label a satisfactory level of contentment.


So I set out on a journey, to try and discover what I’d class as contentment (after all, if you want to get to point b, you need to know the coordinates for point b).

For me it looks a lot like freedom, includes a lot of beauty (external and self-made) and includes – most definitely – love (in heaps). All mixed with kindness and jumbled around with light [you can move over darkness; I’ve had enough of you already]

Then I started to examine where the lack was, to examine which areas of my life were lacking (in any or all of these ingredients for contentment). I also dusted off my dust-smeared glasses and rubbed them clean; after all, you can’t see you way forward if you’re being blocked by poor vision and bogged down by poor perspective. It was important that I come to the search with fresh, hopeful, eyes.


Upon reflection….

I suffer from a lack of freedom: I’m stuck here, in a place I don’t want to be, a place that’s dangerous, where frightening incidents happen frequently, where I don’t want to be raising my children…. freedom is definitely the weak link in my contentment equation. That’s an immovable fact at the moment, unfortunately [meaning I’m going to have to work double hard on improving the other components….]

I crave more beauty in my life: not only am I stuck here but this place is, in general, ugly as Hell. It’s a typical developing country city, a mess at all and every levels, survival of the fittest on display at every turn whilst the rich strut, peacock-like, shaking their voluminous tail feathers obliviously, over and above it all. Ugly buildings, ugly infrastructure, ugly hearts, small small minds. But I’m a biologist and this place does have lots and lots of beautiful Nature so I make a point of seeking it whenever I can.


I’m deprived of love. But, as Krista Tippetts states – which resonated with me at a very deep level – “I can’t name the day when I suddenly realized that the lack of love in my life was not a reality but a poverty of imagination and a carelessly narrow use of an essential word”. I can’t imagine ever again accepting romantic love in to my life but this sense that I’m lacking love has started gripping me with panic, as a lack of romantic love means, surely, endless days of ‘alone-ness’, of loneliness and a lack of companionship. And that most definitely puts a major dampener on contentment. But love doesn’t have to mean romantic love. Living with love can mean doing all things with love…showing love and compassion in all moments….deciding to live in love – with life itself, with one’s life….to walk in love to make your environment better (be this your home or your community).

My own, personal, life is awash with kindness (as it sort of forms the basis of my own personal religion) and this has helped me to forgive and it helps me to hope, to remain optimistic (despite my circumstances) and to always give the benefit of the doubt. In hindsight, I think my openness to kindness has kept me buoyant during times that should have sunk me. So kindness is definitely compensating for the lack of freedom, beauty and love.

I’ve definitely not got enough light in my life. Not enough laughter, or fun (or, perhaps, too much heavy that weighs everything down, not allowing light to breathe and to propagate). It’s sadly lacking in moments of light, those moments that come when you’re with those you love, those who’ve known you always, those people you just feel totally comfortable with.

And…the list went on….as the reflections went deeper…(I won’t bore you with any more of the stuff…)


What I did discover from this reflection on contentment was that, for me, I could remember what contentment felt like and I could identify what was (is) blocking my pathway to contentment at this place in my life (I hesitate to label it a stage).

Following this reflection, I could then attempt to develop some contentment goals (however strange that sounded to me at first): little steps to take me away from where I am to where I’d like to be (all the while accepting that the maximum level of contentment here will be way below where it would be if I was in more desirable surroundings).

For me, these steps were (are) really important, as depression was starting to take a hold, causing inertia: if I had a set of trackable small steps to follow, which would eventually make me feel better – perhaps even content – then I’d have to force myself to take action (otherwise I’d only have my inaction to blame for my unhappiness, for my situational discontent).

People Dancing Outside That You Have Rarely Seen Today (5)

So what were my small steps? Quite simple things, really. To continue my meditation practice and to live more mindfully (not only in my actions but also in my thought and speech). To go to one new place each week. To make a new recipe (or eat something new) each week. To have guests over more often (not just play dates!). Many of them were, actually, based around self-care: trying new make-up; not skipping runs (I always know I’m in the throes of a depressive episode when I start skipping exercise); getting small treats for myself (going to see a film at the cinema, making time to read or to scrapbook guilt-free etc.).

I’ve been doing this for a month or so and it is having an effect. I feel that, whilst they’re far from being rose-tinted, the glasses through which I now view my life are definitely less dusty and jaded and that, as such, I’m walking around with a new perspective. And I hope this new perspective will lead to new places.

Contentment still isn’t viewable on any close horizon but my happiness levels are rising and that has to be a good thing, doesn’t it?

Helen xxx


I asked, a few weeks ago, for people to contribute to this contentment series and many of you replied saying they’d love to. Thanks so much for that! I know I’ll be very interested to read your perspectives on contentment and I’m sure my readers will be intrigued. (I will be emailing you all back this week; I was very ill with a horrid virus last week, which knocked me for six…)

In these times in which we live, with most of us living on edge (because of world events), busy (because of our hectic lives), unhappy/frustrated (because of a disconnect with self and the environment of inherent ‘comparison’ that social media breeds), I’m sure hearing about how other people consider/reflect upon contentment will be of interest and might stimulate some changes in our own lives.

I hope you all enjoy the guest posts in this series (they’ll be posted on Wednesdays).

[Michelle will be up first on the 6th, then Gabriele on the 13th]

If anyone else would like to contribute a guest post….just email me…I don’t bite and everyone is welcome….iwillbloomblog – at – gmail dot com

10 thoughts on “Contentment

  1. juliekirk says:

    Freedom is … a racing zebra? [Love that photo!] I could do with remembering that myself this week, had a few anxiety incidents this weekend, so maybe I need to start carrying my own zebra again, to help me focus. You’re doing everything you can – and that’s impressive. You can stand behind yourself with a clear conscience knowing you’re doing all that’s possible. And in that way – you have created a freedom for yourself. That’s something to be content about today.


    • iwillbloom says:

      Hia J….knew you’d love the racing zebra! I’ve never had anxiety problems previously (aside from panic attacks after my father’s death) but have been having them recently. It’s a whole new area for me, as I’ve always been so sure-footed. It feels very strange – and is decidedly unsettling – to have to confront this now (my Dr says it’s all part and parcel of the DV/PTSD, so I’m listening to their professional advice). Anyway…all of that (rather egocentric) explanation was to be able to say that I can now understand where you come from when you talk about this (and how very brave you are to talk about it as you do and to face it as gracefully as you do). I think I may have to find my own zebra to combat this and wrestle it down before it gets a good foothold. (And thanks for your beautiful words….they spoke to me very deeply today)…H xxxx


  2. Love reading your heart again, my friend! And, love this “contentment” series you have going here! I know contentment much more than happiness also; and strive to continue to be content in where I am and where my life is at this moment in time. Happiness? Yes, I have that, too; more so when I am with my family and friends, though there are many other things that could add to that happiness!! Today, I am content to stay home and get some chores done so I can plan the happy moments later this week!!


  3. Carly says:

    I love how you’ve identified what makes up contentment and steps to take to move forward towards it. I think even small steps like the ones you mention can make a big difference and I’m glad you’re seeing the difference in your life from having a new perspective. The series sounds great too- look forward to hearing what others have to say about contentment.


    • iwillbloom says:

      Carly, I know my problem lies with continuing to see the big picture as I take small (sometimes *very* small) steps towards it. (In Christian terms I guess you could say that that’s where the devil lies?!). I’m glad you enjoyed the post and, like you, I’m very much looking forward to hear everyone’s take on this – very important – matter. Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment. Helen xx


  4. Helen, you’ve got the seeds of a bestselling book here. This is GREAT.

    Exercise is so important; I can’t do much any more, but I think I staved off the worst bits of what’s now happening for awhile, by trying to maintain a truly mad level of fitness. (To be fair, I was used to it; I had to maintain the equivalent of a perfect score on the USMC personal Fitness Test, with no age adjustment, well into my forties.)

    The mind-body connexion is complex, and I have come to believe the truth in mens san in corpore sano.



    • iwillbloom says:

      Andrew, thou dost flatter me too much, Sire 😉 But, yes, I also thought this would make a **really** interesting – and perhaps more than that – a really *necessary* book….and yes, I’m with you, absolutely…a sound body needs a sound mind and one cannot exist without the other. I’m always amazed, in my own life, how much my health suffers when I start neglecting either my physical health or my self-care routines (which form the basis of my mental health)….I was knocked flat just this last week with a horrible virus which I’m sure only managed to get a hold because I had been feeling depressed and, also, hadn’t slept properly the previous week…..and I’m *fascinated* by all the research that has been done on meditation and it’s link to improving so many aspects of physical health and – even – increasing telomere length (theoretically offering people a way towards a longer lifespan, as its the telomeres that are responsible for cellular ageing). Hoping you are feeling OK at the moment…I would *love* to hear your perspective on contentment and would be so happy if you’d consider writing a guest post….Helen P.S. Am in awe of how fit you have been: passing the USMC test well in to your forties? My my! I should ask you for marathon tips…it’s a sort of on/off goal of mine to run the London Marathon….whilst being well aware that it would test my mental powers for bodily control to its *absolute* limits ;)))


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: