1) Start your day awake and alive in the bed, mindfully being IN your body, feeling your skin, the warmth, the awakening process, the air around you, looking out the window, noticing yourself awaken, NOT jumping to what you have to do in the next hour or later in the day. Prioritize this moment, being here, now. “You’ll prevent the duststorm in the next moment from truly being in THIS moment.” You may flash on what you need to do next, without focusing upon that. Right now, remind yourself that no matter what happens today, you’ll stay present in the moment, you’ll guard your contentment. You really want this. You want to live a life of contentment, not succumbing to stressors. Commit to going through your day this way. You’ll be more efficient. Not distracted. Clarity will come more certainly here and there, throughout the hours. You can then end your day this same way, allowing time to check in with your Self about where you are right then, how you went through the last 12 – 14 hours. Then recommit yourself to living mindfully tomorrow. Mindfulness fuels contentment.
2) Do a 4- lines check. Heart, Body, Mind, and Soul (or Self). Simply take a deep breath, and ask yourself to use 3 words to describe your current status, in each of these 4 areas. Go to the heart first, because most of us don’t tune into what we’re actually feeling. Then check in with your body. Heart and body checks provide pure data for us. Mind is third, because what we think is secondary to what we’re experiencing in our emotions or bodies. Soul or Self can be last. For example: I’m feeling excited, worried, and confused. I’m tired, in my body, and my neck is tight, my quads are sore. My mind is racing, yet questioning and focused. My soul is hopeful, connected, and slightly doubting. Just allow this awareness, this experience. Remind yourself that contentment is a complex place of allowing a variety of seemingly opposing experiences which can all be true at the same time, as long as our minds have a framework for that paradigm. Awareness colors contentment.
3) Commit. There’s no magic wand that is suddenly going to make you more relaxed, solid, less chaotic in relationships, or less reactive. Change takes commitment. No one can do this but yourself. Put supports for yourself in place, via: reminders, like sticky notes to the mirror, a magnet on the frig, a notebook you keep in your car. Set your phone alarm for 1-2 times each day that you check-in, and go through B-O-A-R (see below), such as whenever you get into your car, or walk to lunch. Take 2 minutes and run through B-O-A-R, or do a 4 – lines check. Ask a friend to be your accountability partner. Commitment solidifies contentment.
4) B-O-A-R: Be strong, like a Boar. Use this acronym to check-in throughout your day:
B: Breathe. Take 3 deep, mindful breaths. Notice the air filling your lungs, going into your nostrils, then leaving your nose, your chest relaxing.
O: Observe what’s going on in you, from the Self within. Just be curious, without judging yourself. Notice what you’re feeling, what your body is experiencing, watch your thoughts, your behavior, and go to your spirit to see what you’re believing this moment.
A: Allow it. It’s just your experience. Accept it. This too shall pass. But only if you allow it, not stuffing feelings, denying, avoiding, projecting, etc. Just invite whatever is going on, right this moment. Allow it for 1–3 minutes, and it will likely change. When we accept whatever IS, we are not creating a story about it from a place of fear or anxiety. We stop the monkey in our mind from going from tree to tree. We are unattached to a particular outcome, open and receptive.
R: The R is your opportunity for any number of R’s, you choose: Reframe, Relax, Re-do, Release, Recover, Recommit. Use this moment to re-allign your thoughts or experience, coming mindfully back to what actually is, not your Story about what is. You may be experiencing fear. Review your beliefs. Allow for continuous adjustments throughout your day, and things will change. Steer your course with awareness that the unexpected will occur, and you’ll manage as you go. Rely on a process of trial and error. This helps to stay in a place of contentment, because you aren’t telling yourself what “should” be or “could” be. Tools like B.O.A.R. solidify contentment.
5) Be adaptable. Create other practices that work to keep your heart open and your mind in gratitude. Offer thanks for everything in your life, exactly as it is. This is tough work. Perhaps, pretend you chose your life, exactly as it is right now. Gratitude helps you have vision for the future, with motivation to put forth energy to work on only the things you can change today. Create or review an intention or mission for the day, first thing. For my part, I then get up, make a cup of tea, light a candle, do breathwork, chant 3-5 om’s, read, pray & meditate. Morning is the foundation of our day, our awakening. Rituals sustain that awakening. Many things will change throughout the day; challenges will present themselves(circumstances, interactions other people) but your stasis will come from within. Not from anything or anyone else. Adaptablity feeds contentment.
6) Reverence: We see the people we love, and the Beloved (or higher power) in our mind’s eye. Sending metta (lovingkindness) to them, and to ourselves brings reverence within us, and we come to a humble and joyful place of appreciation for who we and they are. Self-love is not ego, it is seeing ourselves as we are, not above or beneath anyone else. From that, we extend compassion to others. We live in reverence. Every prayer can be a “thank you.” Reverence builds contentment.
7) Gutsy, raw persistence. Re-starts are part of the process. Start , stop, step to the side, get back on the path, start again. If you’re afraid, feel and face your fears. Self-soothe, then continue on, or fears will come back in your dreams, in awkward moments, or in a panic attack. In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert says to invite your fears to sit in the back seat of your vehicle- they’re coming along on the ride anyway. But they don’t get to mess with the radio, and they never, never get to drive. Whatever you put your time into, you’ll get better at. Courage and perseverance are contentment’s best friends.
Pamela W. Brinker, LCSW