Benjamin Franklin said, "To the discontented man no chair is easy." What is contentment? Is contentment happiness? Contentment has been defined by words like satisfaction, happiness, pleasure, gratification, ease and peace. So I would express the thought that contentment is basically happiness but maybe not entirely all that happiness may contain.
Happiness is now being defined in two ways. The first way is happiness as it relates to having good humor. The second is happiness as it relates to inner satisfaction. It is here under the second definition that contentment is properly defined. Smiling and a sense of joyfulness are some of the things that happiness contains. You can be content without showing signs of a smile or feeling joyful. These aspects of happiness are not exhibited in contentment, yet contentment still remains a strong aspect of happiness.
Contentment is a strong sense of well being. It could be a state of being satisfied, or a source of satisfaction, such as the contentment of seeing children playing.
Contentment is happiness with one's situation in life. When we talk about satisfaction regarding contentment, we have to make sure we are receiving satisfaction from our own feeling of liking something; as opposed to the satisfaction we would feel from getting approval from someone else. This is an important distinction because in one case you know how you feel about yourself in relation to anything else. Doris Mortman said, "Until you make peace with who you are, you'll never be content with what you have."
Seeking approval from other people in order to feel satisfaction, creates many problems. We have all heard about people who try to become famous so they can be happy. They are trying to feel good about themselves through the approval of others. No matter how much approval or fame you receive, it will never be enough. The more you get, the more you think you need. So satisfaction is never found out there, or by the approval you receive from other people.
Lillian Eichler Watson said, "...true happiness stems from a quality within ourselves, from a way of thinking of life. Of all the millions of words written on happiness, this is the oldest and most enduring truth. If the principles of contentment are not within us, no material success, no pleasures or possessions, can make us happy."
Pleasure is certainly an aspect of both happiness and contentment. But many people think that pleasure is happiness and contentment. Although it is certainly a part of both states of being, it is not all of it. Pleasure can never be all of it because pleasure is a passing thing. Once it is gone the question becomes, how do I get it back or how do I get more of it. So pleasure in this sense very quickly becomes an addition, unlike happiness or contentment. The fact that you need and want more, and you are not content, proves that it is an addition.
Socrates said, "Contentment is natural wealth, luxury is artificial poverty." Contentment means that you feel you now have enough of something and you are enjoying what you have, rather than needing any thing more. Happiness is the very same thing, when you have enough, you have enough. As Benjamin Franklin once said, "Content makes poor men rich; discontentment makes rich men poor." Gratification is another word for contentment. It also means satisfaction, fulfillment, indulgence, enjoyment and delight. These are all words that mean and describe happiness and contentment.
Another word that describes contentment is the word: ease. This is one of the reasons that contentment and happiness is so important to practice. The benefit of being content is to enjoy all the things that you already have when you practice ease or contentment. Ease is a really great word because it means effortlessness, easiness, no difficulty, straightforwardness and simplicity. All these characteristics can be yours with "ease," when you practice contentment. "For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." - St. Paul: Philippians 4:11
Finally the word peace has been used to describe contentment. This is one of the most powerful words of all. It is true that peace is also happiness as well as contentment. Look at the opposite of the word contentment: discontentment. The word and the state of discontentment are actually the state of experiencing dissatisfaction, unhappiness, restlessness, displeasure and disgruntlement. Not a very pretty picture of what can happen when we are not using contentment and happiness as strategies for better living. As Doris Mortman said, "Until you make peace with who you are, you'll never be content with what you have."
We have words, like: self-content, self-satisfaction and self-gratification to describe what we can choose to do and to be. Maybe this is a good time to introduce you to self-happiness. Og Mandino has said, "Realize that true happiness lies within you. Waste no time and effort searching for peace and contentment and joy in the world outside. Remember that there is no happiness in having or in getting, but only in giving. Reach out. Share. Smile. Hug. Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting a few drops on yourself."
Happiness is like a do-it-yourself project. Like self-contentment, you can do it for yourself and help yourself to as much as you'd like. If you get too much, you can always give away a little happiness and share it with others. Greg Anderson said, "...the supply of misery, pain, and suffering is unlimited. But so is the supply of pleasure, contentment, and fulfillment. It is we who do the rationing. Ration no more! Capture wellness this instant! This instant is all there is. Live it!"
I read this article in an online magazine called Happiness, and found it informative.