Strive for Contentment Rather Than Joy

A yellow flower popping up from a sandy beach

Are you content?

Or are you dissatisfied with your life, envious of what others have or experience? Are you always telling yourself, “If only I had a better job …..” or “When I can lose those pounds……” – only then would you be happy.

If we’re constantly looking to the future or to others for our happiness, we’ll never find contentment. Contentment, as author Deborah Adele writes, “can only be found in acceptance and appreciation of what is in the moment.”

Santosha is one of the niyama’s on Patanjali’s eightfold path. Comprised of two Sanskrit words, Sam: completely, and tosha: acceptance, contentment is closely tied to the ideas of vairagya, (non-attachment), and gratitude.

Contentment is not the same as joy, which, like pain, is fleeting. Contentment is deeper.

The Bhagavad Gita teaches us that happiness can’t be found outside of ourselves but that it resides within us. We experience joy and happiness when we get what we want. Those feelings won’t last because they’re based on an external experience that is fleeting – we regain the weight, lose the job, or a loved one dies. And so we begin to yearn for the next thing to make us happy. Our ego experiences joy, pain, loss, desire, greed and happiness, and we ultimately become attached to these experiences by either attempting to push them away, or by clinging to them.

This achieving and yearning becomes a cycle. Everything we do to try to bring fulfillment into our lives actually prevents it because we’re so caught up in the effort. Only when we step back out of that endless cycle will contentment find us.

It sounds easy but it isn’t. It’s human nature to avoid pain and pursue pleasure. But keeping a feeling contentment during both the ups and the downs of our lives is a goal worth chasing.

Here are some things you can do to bring santosha into your daily life:

  • Practice gratitude
  • If something comes, let it come. If not, it doesn’t matter
  • Practice remaining calm in both success and failure
  • Practice mindfulness, being fully in the moment