Let’s face it. Seeing our life as good enough doesn’t come naturally for many people any longer.
We live in a mixed-up and crazy culture where it’s an ongoing commitment to temper greed, jealousy and ambition for more. We always have the options to have more, learn more and do more.
One key to living with contentment is to realize the difference between needs and wants. We allow our desires and wants to take over our motivation until we begin to believe that we really need to live a life of consumption and materialism.
As we gain awareness of this conditioning we can learn to alter our perspective to one that will offer more satisfaction with life.
Here are a few ideas to help you be happier with what you have and who you are:
You wanted a little bit of everything and just couldn’t decide.
You could see the value in each choice or option, and because of this even after making a decision, you had buyer’s remorse and wished you would’ve chosen differently.
Sometimes having numerous options leaves us stuck in our desire to make sure we choose the best and perfect choice.
Unfortunately, perfection is rarely an option, and if we are set on having the best it can truly leave a bitter taste in our mouth as we review the decision.
Does this sound familiar to you? Do you always have to have the best, be the best, and convey the best?
Wanting the best isn’t necessarily always negative, as it allows us to strive to be the best we can be and to reach our potential when it comes to wealth, health, and success, but it can also distract us from the joy and blessings all around us.
For others, they are prone to serving, being kind, and developing spiritually.
Positive psychologists call these attributes signature strengths, and they are what lead people to optimal functioning and performance.
Using our strengths energizes us, and generates enthusiasm and excitement. We will also be more alert and engaged in what we do.
Unfortunately many people aren’t prone to focus on and utilize their strengths. People are taught to improve at areas of weakness. We may be encouraged to work harder at things that are difficult, or feel that our weakness are where we need growth
We may not even be aware of our strengths.
Much of the growth we experience is when we are able to overcome challenges, move beyond our comfort zone, and become a more virtuous and refined person.
Positive psychology offers a few considerations that can help us be stronger in difficult times and begin to look for opportunities amongst challenges.
Here are three ways that we can seek growth and expand as a person.
Growth by adversity
Think back on a time when you experienced adversity. How did you handle this? Did you shrivel up and wilt away, or did you persevere and come away an even stronger person than before?
It’s hard to not want and desire more. We live in a consumer driven society that pushes messages of consumption and materialism.
Though, as the quote implies, if we don’t have something already and are fine, obviously we don’t really need it.
In general, it’s important to be grateful and thankful for what we have in our life. We may be grateful for our overall life circumstances and general lifestyle, or specifically thankful for a gift or benefit someone else provides us.
The catch is that it’s not always easy to really appreciate what we have, and it can be easy to lose our appreciation as we get used to our situation or run into difficult situations.
Though if you’re like me, sometimes these enjoyable activities lose their luster. It’s easy to end up seeking more and looking for something new. What used to give us pleasure and enjoyment starts to become mundane and dull.
When this happens, much of the positive emotion that was elicited from these experiences tends to diminish and we are left unfulfilled and dissatisfied.
So, one way to increase positive emotions and experience more enjoyment is to start savoring the small pleasures in life.
And not only savoring them, but planning out in our schedule when we are going to engage in these activities and consciously consuming the positive feelings that come along.
Our lack of appreciation can come in many forms. We may wish we made more money, were in better physical shape, or were smarter.
These areas where we perceive lack can be consuming and really steal our joy and satisfaction with life.
When things aren’t going well and we’re dissatisfied, we tend to focus on all the things we wish we had or what we wish was different. When things are going well on the other hand, we are satisfied with life and it’s easier to notice things we appreciate.
In this sense, we may be able to experience a positive feedback loop by cultivating gratitude in order to experience greater satisfaction, and by doing so can more easily focus on what we are grateful for and appreciate.
Research has revealed that positive emotions can enhance our relationships, increase our resilience, and even improve our physical health.
Not to mention that people who rate themselves to be happier make more income are more successful by many standards.
It has also been shown that happiness isn’t necessarily a byproduct of success, but that greater levels of success come from being happy. In this sense being happy increases our chances for life success.
There are many aspects that can help us to be more successful in life, such as how we view ourselves, the relationships we build, and being able to stay motivated, persevere, and solve problems.
Below are a few ways that positive emotions can contribute to your success.
A positive perception of self
When we are in a good mood and a positive state of mind our self-feelings and self-concept will be more positive. Think of a time when you were full of positivity. How did this impact your self-perception?
Writing is an amazing creative and emotional outlet. I know not everyone enjoys writing, but there are many different ways to use writing to infiltrate positivity into our life and to focus on more upbeat and encouraging things.
I know that since I’ve been writing here for PsychCentral, and for my personal development blog Shake off the Grind, I have had an opportunity to develop greater awareness and mindfulness about the thoughts and emotions that pervade my life.
Writing therapy has been utilized and shown effective to help people process and regulate emotions, particularly for dealing with past trauma.
Research has also shown that writing can increase peoples’ positive emotions and moods. One research study revealed that when a group of participants wrote about positive emotional experiences it related to a significant increase in measures of life-satisfaction.
Writing can help people gain a sense of mastery over the topic they are writing about, offering a greater sense of control, and can help them to identify preferred outcomes, and establish goals and solutions for problems they may be dealing with.
So, how can you start incorporating positive writing in your life? Here are a few suggestions.
Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman are the two researchers whom created the ‘Values in Action Inventory of Strengths’ (VIA-IS), which consists of 6 virtues and 24 character strengths.
If you take the survey it will provide you with your top 5 signature strengths, along with other strengths in order from strongest to weakest. The more you are able to use your strengths in daily life the more fulfilled and happy you will be.
The 5 strengths below are adapted from the survey and may not be your most valued characteristics, but I wanted to offer a general group that provides a good overall approach to thriving and flourishing in life.
Work to enhance these 5 traits and you will find more life-satisfaction.
Gratitude – Making it a habit to appreciate what you have has been shown to be a very effect way to increase life-satisfaction. One infamous exercise is to write a letter of gratitude to someone, and then deliver and read it to them personally.