THE BLOG
10/27/2014 02:28 pm ET Updated Dec 26, 2014

On Being Content...

"Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you." -- Lao Tzu

If you believe being content comes from acquiring luxurious material possessions, living in the best homes money can buy, having all the technological gadgets on the market, and so forth, this is not the case. In fact, it is just the opposite. Martin Seligman, bestselling author of Authentic Happiness, writes this on the subject in his new book, Flourish. "...we now have about three times more actual purchasing power in the United States...In 1950 there was one car for every two drivers; now there are more cars than licensed drivers...Clothes-and even people-seem to look more physically attractive. Progress has not been limited to the material; there is more music, more women's rights, less racism, more entertainment, and more books." Seligman goes on to write, "The average Dane, Italian, and Mexican is somewhat more satisfied with life than fifty years ago, but the average American, Japanese, and Australian is no more satisfied with life than fifty years ago, and the average Brit and German is less satisfied. The average Russian is much unhappier." (Martin Seligman, Flourish pp. 79-80)

Despite all these great advances and material well-being there is more unhappiness and discontent now than fifty years ago. Perhaps this is because there is a serious lack of connection and communication in our society these days. Most of these things we often think will improve our lives, do not necessarily lead to a sense of lasting contentment. There are some simple actions that cost nothing and yet have a profound effect on how we can achieve a good sense about ourselves and our lives, some of these ideas are:

1. Live in the Present. Appreciate your accomplishments, enjoy your surroundings and good times with family and friends.

2. Laugh. Laughter is truly the best medicine. Sometimes, we take life far too seriously. Laughter makes a difference in our attitude in many ways. We feel energized and optimistic, hopeful and engaged in whatever we are doing. We are definitely friendlier, feel more attractive and brightly alive.

3. Identify Your Personal Virtues. They will guide you through life, and help you make decisions that are right for you. Live your values and your actions will speak more than words. Treat others with respect. People will forget what you did for them but will never forget how you made them feel.

4. Be Aware of Your Thoughts. Our thoughts become our actions. Without even knowing it, you might be caught in a vicious cycle of negative thinking and pessimism. Replace your negative thoughts with conscious positive thoughts.

5. Practice Forgiveness. At times when we feel we have been wronged, there are better ways than direct retribution to ease the anger and the pain. Instead forgive and forget, move on. Forgiveness is noble and it is the path to our peace of mind and happiness.

6. Practice Gratitude. Being grateful for the ordinary things and events in our daily lives contributes in a profound and practical way to our well-being and happiness.

7. Practice Kindness. Even the smallest kind action counts, whether it's a smile, a thank you or a kind word. We can teach others what they need to know, lend a helping hand, encourage with our words, listen, give our time, and visit someone at a shelter or nursing home.

As long as we appreciate what we have and not worry about what we don't have in terms of material possessions spending time pursuing the right priorities, remaining connected with family and friends, life will certainly be filled with contentment.