Friday, July 22, 2011

About Contentment

And now, it’s time for some rare insight into the contributing factors of general contentment. Although happiness as a whole varies widely between individuals, there are some basic core elements which we can all share and utilise.

Personally, I have always found that some immediate contentment can be gained by combining the following factors:

Music + Pastel Colours + Blanket + Sugar + Cat/Game/TV Series/Reading

However, long term and overall happiness would usually require more ingredients to be thrown into the mix. Some of these will be touched on below, in order of perceived priority.

Human Contentment

Self acceptance

The most important aspect in the path to contentment is to be satisfied with yourself. A good way to begin is by writing down a list of your own qualities. From there you can pick out any areas you wish to improve on, or alternatively make peace with all your minor faults. You may not be able to change the person you are, but a few points of self improvement is always an option. If you find it difficult to deduce the facets of your own personality, simply invite the people you interact with the most over for a casual lunch. From there, you can convince them to participate in some light-hearted character assassination.


Another crucial factor is the ability to understand yourself. Having a clear sense of who you are and what you truly want will prevent you from conforming to the conflicting standards of others. With the understanding of self comes true honesty, which can prevent you from believing that you are content if you really aren’t. For example, if a kind old lady asks you to dig an Olympic pool in her backyard, but you would really much rather be eating dinner. Here you would refuse because you embrace your healthy degree of selfishness, rather than pretending to be nice. There’s that, and it’s most likely a job suited to a team of qualified muscle-men. 


Being ill or injured can severely limit the potential for happiness. The effects do vary considerably though, ranging from a minor cold to a permanent affliction. For the more minor illnesses, you might actually gain some benefits in exchange for a bit of discomfort. Such positives include time off to relax, family and friends fussing over you and having a valid excuse to sleep in all day. But on the flip side, a major health issue could leave you in agonising pain for the rest of your life. Aside from the physical discomfort, a serious illness can also affect other crucial aspects of your life, causing the loss of your independence or inability to work towards ambitions.


This refers to a sense of belonging and continuity. The more significant part of this is having somewhere to call home. With this, at least you know that if it all goes pear-shaped you still have a place to recuperate and start over. Aside from your fortress of solitude, you should have some sort of routine. Things that need to be done daily, places where you should be, people you need to be talking to, or some central reason for your regular existence. At the end of the day, predictability is reassuring and therefore will make you feel content. The effects of uncertainty and conflict will build up over time to make you uneasy. A steady flow of income, people you can count on, and finding a place in the world are all fundamental to a satisfying life.


Yes, good food is the basis of living a comfortable life. You would feel utterly miserable if you ate nothing but cabbage soup for the rest of your days, and for good reason. Out of all five senses, taste is the one that is coupled most closely to an essential requirement of contentment. So, eat whatever you’ve always wanted to while you still can. As long your health is still acceptably maintained, that is. You’ll also need all the essential nutrients and vitamins to sustain your well-being. Remember to eat when you actually feel hungry, not just to comfort yourself or because you can. 

This is the most relaxing state you can be in. Nothing is more comfortable than fluffy pillows and a warm quilt, especially while the cat is already providing extra warmth. Sleeping too many hours is detrimental, but not sleeping enough is much more damaging. You may not feel the ill effects the day after, but the continued lack of sleep will build up and eventually cause you to crash. Not sleeping also makes your outward appearance terrible, causing the dreaded eye bag phenomenon. If you have trouble getting a solid 7-8 hours of sleep a night, consider getting a more spacious bed and appealing quilt covers. Should the reason for your lack of sleep be stress related, find a way to alleviate or remove the source.


You should have some sense of being able to do what you want, when you want without negative consequences. All within reasonable, law abiding limits of course. Such activities include hobbies, going for a walk, having lunch with friends, shopping, skydiving, relaxing at home, patting the cat, etc. It is important to have some interests or something rewarding to occupy your time with, otherwise boredom will ultimately cause mental restlessness and physical illness. Note that ‘doing nothing’ can be considered a rewarding activity, and is recommended on occasion.


This really refers to the positive relationships with others in your life. It could be having a close-knit family, supportive friends, dependable significant other, or loyal companion pet. Some folks require all of these connections to live a satisfied life, while others are happy to settle for a few or even just one. The essential part of having positive interactions with others is to preserve or improve them. Deepening a positive relation is always more favourable than just maintaining one, but this is not always achievable. For those who don’t get along, it is a balance between the poor compatibility between personalities and compromise. If you are not able to be on good terms with someone close to you, the next best thing is being on neutral terms. An example of this is attending an annual Christmas dinner to see distant relatives, and then leaving after having a fun day. There is little opportunity here for major arguments or disapproval due to the short time span. In this way, close bonds between conflicting family members can endure for the years to come. However, if there is no way to remove yourself from a terminally negative relationship, relocation and possibly cutting off contact with the source is your last resort for peace of mind. It is very rare for a functional, sane person to have no bonds of affection at all. Even that crazy hermit living in the dilapidated shack owns a few cats for company.


You may not notice it, but your surroundings have a background impact on your sense of contentment. Ideally, you want the ambience around your house to be peaceful and natural. I would suggest cream or pastel coloured walls, large windows and wooden floorboards. A light colour scheme seems to do better at brightening up a room. Having clutter lying around subtracts from the clear atmosphere, but some people do become immune to untidiness over time. You should probably at least make sure that you can still see 70% of the floor. It is also advised that your yard and neighbourhood are abundant in greenery, flowers and wildlife. I have found the most gratifying contributions to be trees, green lawn and a clear view of the open sky. Some accents which will build upon on these basic points include brightly coloured flowering shrubbery, fruit trees and a water feature. These additions will often attract wildlife, which can keep you entertained for hours. Even seeing and hearing the distant chirping of birds provides tranquillity to the soothing atmosphere. Living near the coast will further provide you with a lovely ocean view, but be mindful of the sudden storms and seaweed stench.


Apart from owning your own home, which is the most vital possession you can have, there are other material goods that can make your daily life more enjoyable. You’ll definitely need basic essentials such as a decent dinner table, desk, chair, bed and refrigerator. The second most important item you can own is probably a computer with internet access, as this allows you to do an immense variety of things, while linking effortlessly with the outside world. But there are also a great number of other obscure items that you own which you never really notice until they are taken away. Examples include socks, scissors, bread clips, sticky tape, rubber bands, glue, nail clippers, light bulbs, lamps, coat hangers, music players, wall clocks, portable doorbells, decorative knick-knacks, loofahs, liquid soap dispensers and toilet paper holders. All of these things add up to dependence on material wealth for comfort. This is perfectly acceptable, although it means you will have to earn an income to afford them. 

Having an ambition or idea for your purpose in life is advantageous. Working towards this goal will give you a feeling of steady achievement. However, your objective must be determined solely by you. There are many other people in your life who may try to convince you to take a different direction, which might not suit your wishes. Some feel fulfilled by socialising with friends, family life, travel, or participation in sports. For others it may be caring for a pet, building a career, or volunteer work. If you are spending most of your days suffering in an unrewarding job, look elsewhere. Improving your skills, accomplishing your goal and enjoying what you do will result in long term personal fulfilment.


This factor varies in priority, and is optional for some individuals. It is the gratification gained from visual beauty. Aesthetics can benefit both yourself and others in many ways. The first aspect concerns physical beauty, which can be enhanced by the use of cosmetics and healthy eating. Outward attractiveness can also be improved via clothing and accessories. Putting effort into your appearance can help you build more confidence whilst giving others a better first impression of you, and vice versa. The second aspect is in regards to viewable beauty. In a similar way to how food is related to taste, anything visually pleasing is coupled to sight. Paintings, ornaments, decorations, art, food, nature, cats, and video media are all examples of this. Contact with such pleasant things will always enrich your day. The effects may not be so obvious, but each small visual stimulus will add to your overall contentment. A few everyday aesthetic triggers include:

1. Silhouettes of trees against the skyline, viewed from a train window.
2. The constantly changing shape of a fluffy cat.
3. Sunlight striking glass figurines on the mantelpiece.  

Cat Contentment

The happiness of a pet is much simpler to attain than that of a human, but still has many of the same underlying factors.



The cat may sleep for 16 hours a day, so somewhere that is soft and warm should always be available. Sudden loud noises will disturb the cat, although music seems to have no effect. Generally the cat will seek to sleep somewhere elevated, on soft fabric and with a good view. If your cat likes you enough, it will choose to sleep on your lap or next to you as first preference. 


Sometimes the cat prefers dry biscuits, and other times in the day it wants to eat wet food. Usually the option of wet meat is favoured first. If you start by feeding it higher quality meat pouches and then later switch to cheaper canned food which resembles ash and chalk, the cat will ignore the latter offering. It is advised to feed your cat foods with a high meat content percentage listed in the ingredients. This is especially true for wet foods, and it would be preferred to only buy varieties where you can clearly see the pieces of meat yourself. Even then, your cat may still leave the poorer cuts of meat uneaten. Human foods your cat may enjoy include milk, bread, cooked chicken or beef, and cheese. Many cats appear to be very fond of cheese in particular. There are also many supplements and treats available that your cat will enjoy more than the taste of regular biscuits.


A heated home is more ideal for most domestic cats, but any shelter from the elements is appreciated. Some cats like to take refuge in an old shed or garage roof. 


The cat will not enjoy feeling sick, but it appears that most are very hardy and rarely become ill. A common problem is parasite control, which can be effectively dealt with by a monthly spot on treatment. Although the cat may resent you for a short time, chasing it around for an hour once a month is still a far better option for all involved.


Cats enjoy being near heat sources, especially their owners. Other warmth generators include sunbeams, heaters and fireplaces. Despite being able to retain their own heat by crawling under blankets, cats seem to favour the experience of warmth and human attention applied at the same time.  


Cats like to run about the house and through the garden. The main attraction of the outdoors is largely due to the existence of prey. Your cat may bring you gifts of half dead insects, rodents and reptiles. I usually receive mostly eaten butterflies and crippled dragonflies. Aside from the exercise, the cat will have a more varied diet if allowed to roam outdoors. Lockable pet doors are ideal.


Pretty much the only real love a cat is going experience is towards humans. A domestic cat will feel very lonely without an owner to keep it company. This bond is very important, as it keeps the cat from turning feral. You can gauge the depth of this connection through the cat’s behaviour. If your cat follows you around everywhere and complains bitterly when you leave it, the devotion is steady. There are cats that get along with their own kind too, but for single cat homes, a meeting with another cat seems to always escalate into a territory fight.


Cats are much less picky about their surroundings, and generally like having a wide space to sprint in. They also enjoy climbing onto high ledges and hiding in small, dark places. Having a grassy lawn to play in seems to make many cats happy. For indoor environments, they like to peer out of windows to observe any visiting birds or other rival cats.


Most of a cat’s play is actually just practicing to kill. This aspect consists of chasing, stalking, pouncing, biting and clawing. The rest of it can be random depending on the cat in question. Some will frolic, run about aimlessly, jump, spin or roll. A playful cat indicates that it is active and happy.


There are some cats that will disregard all commercial cat products, and instead decide to play with bits of newspaper or take naps in your bed. The two store bought possessions that they seem to enjoy the most are tall scratching trees and string-on-wand toys.
Clean Litter-box

Cats really don’t tolerate dirty litter-boxes. They will sniff one, turn around and complain loudly if it needs cleaning. It is recommended that you remove all poop within 8 hours, if not immediately after each deposit. This is especially important if you have a cat that refuses to bury properly.

1 comment:

  1. This is my favourite article to date. You seem to have thought a lot about the subject. I sincerely wish you much contentment.