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Chase Contentment, Rather than Happiness

Happiness is a mood state; so is joy. But contentment? Now that can last.

Read on for the why and the how.
meditation photo

When I was in my twenties, I was definitely a happiness chaser. A joy chaser. A whimsy chaser. And you know, that’s what your twenties are for. Now that I’m past 40 and a mom, I still want all those things in my life, but I get that they can’t last, no matter how carefully I curate my experience.

In fact, they’re less likely to last BECAUSE they lead you to curate your experience. To analyze it. To dissect it. To think often about how you’re feeling. “Am I happy today? Am I having enough fun? Are other people living better than I am?” You might also be asking, “Am I enough, period?”

That kind of analysis is the enemy of contentment, because contentment is about accepting that happiness is fleeting. There will be more of it again someday, but there are a million other experiences that need to occur in the interim, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Contentment involves cultivation. It takes work to develop a mindset that allows happiness to occur, but doesn’t get too freaked out by its absence–i.e. by the normal tasks of life. Contentment is knowing you’re okay, just as you are, through whatever present experience you’re having. And those experiences are fleeting, both good and bad.

I know, I’m feeling sort of philosophical and existential today, so this is a little different from my usual blog post. It’s not full of lists and suggestions.

That’s intentional. Because contentment is the opposite of that. It’s about embracing what is, and not trying to change anything at the moment. It’s about knowing that you’re resilient, and no matter what, you’ll be okay.

If that’s not how you’re used to approaching yourself and your life, that’s completely okay, too. Take a deep breath and know that you’re okay as you are right now, as a work in progress.


Chase Contentment, Rather than Happiness

Holly Brown, LMFT

Holly Brown is a marriage and family therapist in the San Francisco Bay area. She has a private practice in Alameda ( ). She is also a novelist ( Her latest is HOW FAR SHE'S COME, a workplace thriller which received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly: "This provocative tale will resonate with many in the era of the #MeToo movement."

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APA Reference
Brown, H. (2017). Chase Contentment, Rather than Happiness. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 28, 2020, from


Last updated: 4 Aug 2017
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