26 May 2014

Food For Thought // #09

The Golden Sunset // Personal Picture

It seemed you liked the latest Food for Thought post, with less links but more explanation as to why I was inspired. I decided to adopt the same form for this latest iteration, questioning happiness versus contentment, and how to find the inner strength to weather life's more difficult moments.

On Slow Your Home - Contentment: the Underachieving Version of Happiness?

Creating a life of constant, quiet contentment means you are in a strong place from which to weather the storms of disappointment, setback and upset and you are better prepared to experience those joyful moments when they do arrive. 

A bit like Perfection versus Adequacy, it may seem that happiness versus contentment is a game of words. But it is so much more than that. As Brooke explains in this article, looking for happiness could be "aiming for the best experiences possible to reach the highest levels of happiness". Nobody can live "the best experiences" all the time though, life has its ups and downs.

To me, it is exactly the same as the concept of perfection - constant happiness isn't achievable on this basis, and one can waste much quality time running after happiness instead of enjoying the present moment, no matter how flawed it may be.

What I really found interesting in her presentation of contentment, is that she says it doesn't wait for the best moments to manifest itself, it provides energy and confidence to overcome harder times too. And I find this point very important, as it is "easy" to be happy when you're living a fantastic experience, but it is during the lower times of life that you really need the inner strength to see the bright side of things and move towards better days.

Finally, the list of changes she made to reach her current state of contentment are a great resource if you are looking to cultivate quiet contentment as well.

On Be More With Less - 7 Things to Do When You are Really Sad

In my experience, one of the benefits of simplifying your life is more happiness, or time to enjoy more happiness, but it doesn’t prevent sad things from happening. Maybe being really sad helps us fully appreciate the real sweetness of life. Don’t judge yourself for crying or feeling down. Take time to be sad, and then get back to the sweetness.

Courtney Carver likes to make some lists of simple things to do to simplify our lives. I like this concrete, step by step approach of a simple life, especially when I find myself not knowing where to start. In this very timely post, Courtney lists down 7 simple things to do in order to avoid feeling overwhelmed by sadness.

This article is also a good reminder that, even when we are on a simplification journey, leveled up and cultivated a more joyful life, it is alright to feel sad, it isn't a failure or a setback. On the contrary, we can see it as a challenge that will help us appreciate the sweeter moments to come.

On Zen Habits - What to Do With Your Life

Focus on what you can do right now that will be good no matter what the future brings. Make stuff. Build stuff. Learn skills. Go on adventures. Make friends. These things will help in any future.

In this post, directed to young people wondering where to take their life and career, Leo Babauta reminds life lessons useful for any age: we never know what the future will be made of, no matter how carefully we plan it. We need to learn to be OK with discomfort, with uncertainty. And, most of all, we shouldn't let ourselves be paralyzed by these things.

Instead, we can focus on spending our time now on doing things that will matter for any future - honing skills, making friends, growing as human beings. A good reminder, for young adults searching their way, but also for not so young adult wondering if they have lost their way...

Picture: The Golden Sunset, one of the first sky pictures taken with my proper camera, as a test for luminosity and colours.


  1. Love the post on sadness. A family member has a huge health scare last week and I was pretty much just a lump under a blanket for three whole days. You just have to accept how draining these things are on both your mental and physical energy and go with the flow of it (within reasonable limits). Resisting will only make things worse. Thankfully the scare ended up being just that - a scare :)

    1. The same thing happened to me last week-end actually - hospital, taking a train in urgence to be there etc. In the end it was also only a scare, but the rush of emotions is overwhelming. I agree that we have to accept that we are feeling like this right now, and let the emotions be processed. I'm also at the beginning of a phase of change in my life and it feels disorienting and scary. Maybe that's why these articles in particular caught my eye. As I've been working on growing and being more content for these past years, it sometimes feels like a failure to feel overwhelmed by the evolutions and obstacles of life. But it's a part of life, to feel all of these things, it's a good reminder that we can be content while having more "down" moments in our lives :)

    2. That's so interesting, about feeling like a failure when you get overwhelmed. Through my dealings with depression and anxiety I have found that it now feels like a huge victory to be able to just accept the sadness and fatigue when it's there instead of "powering through" and pretending to be superwoman. That's how one ends up sick, I find - the body needs to deal with things, one way or another. We're supposed to be sad and tired and worn-out sometimes :)

  2. That contentment vs. happiness post is really interesting, thanks for sharing. I read a quote once that said something along the lines of "You can either lead a happy life or an interesting one, but not both" and while I'm not sure I entirely agree, given the choice I would always, always, always choose interesting. I am a person of extremes and I can't imagine ever being content with moderation. Although maybe that is 19 yr old Emma talking and I'll be back in 20 years time with a more balances approach :P

    It's very interesting to consider where that comes from. Our society doesn't really value averageness or contentment. It's the extremes that are celebrated and talked about most often - the richest, most powerful, the ones who run the fastest, work the hardest. This is reflected in the whole "productivity hack" trend that has been around for a while, where getting the most done in the least amount of time is seen as super valuable. It's also shown in the medias focus on celebrities and other public, which are especially talked about when they go to extremes on both ends of the spectrum. The extremely talented musicians that die of overdoses, the politicians that are involved in sex-scandals. These are the things we focus on and glamourize, not the person who is quite content with their day to day life.

    1. It's true that media and public information etc. favour extremes, special events and extraordinary experiences over the ordinary or average everyday stuff. I think that's because readers/viewers are not interested in ordinary things when they read media. Especially with books or films, the scenario would be pretty boring if there was nothing extraordinary happening. I think that's because people want to see or read things that distract them from their everyday life, or learn some different things.

      But it's true that the consequence of that, is that ordinary things of life are underrated, people end up believing that their life can't be interesting unless it's extreme. I'm not sure I agree with this quote you mention either, but I'd definitely choose interesting as well. The difference being, I don't think things have to be extreme all the time to be interesting. You can be curious about things, talk with people, discover their vision of the world, travel, read, grow, all the while enjoying peaceful contentment. In my opinion, at least.

      But one thing I can note, is that I'd be pretty bored if everything was some plain, even contentment all the time. I like the occasional extraordinary experience, and, believe it or not, I also like to have life difficulties. Well, I don't exactly "like" it, especially when I'm in the middle of it - but experiencing a rush of emotions, being pushed to change, to question, to evolve, makes me feel alive. And it makes me feel all the more grateful for the other parts of my life, the ones that are not difficult at the moment...