5 Things: An Exercise in Contentment

posted by Andrea | 05/26/2015

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I would not necessarily describe myself as an extremely content person 100% of the time… although I also wouldn’t describe myself as someone who is insecure, unhappy, depressed, or not content with my life.

I think there’s a fine line between striving to improve and better my home, life, family, work, self, etc. and continually feeling down in the dumps about everything I want to change about my home, life, family, work, self, etc.

For example:

Dave and I ALWAYS have a list of house projects and we are almost always in the middle of various house projects (some larger than others). This is not because we hate our house and feel depressed living in such a “dump” that needs so much extra work and requires so much of our time and money to fix up. NO! Not at all!

We always have a list of house projects because we bought this house with the full knowledge that it needed a fair amount of work and we’ve been (mostly) enjoying the renovation process for the past 4.5 years. We absolutely LOVE thinking about our next project, dreaming about the finished results, implementing our designs, and then enjoying the finished product.

In the mean time, however, we’re generally very content with the un-renovated areas of our home as we know we will get to them eventually based on our “master plan” of what rooms we’ll renovate when. We love our house and are very content living here… but at the same time, we are thoroughly enjoying the process of fixing it up and turning it into our version of a “dream home”.

Another example: 

I’ve never been one to struggle much with weight issues and I’ve honestly never had low self-esteem. For the most part, I’m happy with myself and my appearance, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to totally “let myself go” or stop trying to improve anything about myself.

As I’ve mentioned before, my daily routine is pretty basic, but there are definitely times when I really enjoy getting all dressed up with hair and makeup and fancy clothes.

I also really enjoy learning more and more all the time… about almost any subject.

And although I do hate shopping, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like getting a few new outfits or a cute new bag every now and then!

I realize I will never look like the airbrushed faces on the covers of magazines, but I truly am (mostly) content with my appearance.

{for those who have requested… here’s my 35 week bump 🙂 }

That said, there are definitely days when I do not feel very content with my home, my personal image, my job, my family, etc. I think that’s probably normal for most people.

The interesting thing for me is that I don’t necessarily see it coming — and then all of a sudden, I’m in a completely negative mood, rapidly spiraling downward as I recount everything I dislike or “need” to change about everything in my life.

It only takes about 30 minutes and I can be totally discontent with my wonderful house, life, family, job, etc.

The bathroom renovation is taking too long. It will never be finished.

I’m gaining too much weight in this pregnancy. I look horrible and won’t ever be able to lose it again.

The kids are so whiny and disrespectful. My friend’s kids aren’t that way.

Dave is so busy with end-of-the-year school stuff. I wish he could just be home more to help out with the kids and housework.

The kitchen is a mess and I don’t feel like cooking.

It’s too hot/cold/rainy/windy so we’ve been cooped up inside all day.

I didn’t get the advertiser or sponsor I wanted for my blog and I’m having trouble coming up with any ideas for new posts.

I’m guessing many of you can relate to these types of feelings at various points in your life. 

I personally don’t love feeling this way, and while I don’t always catch myself in time, I have been getting better at realizing when I’m in one of my negative moods.

In these situations, I often do a simple little exercise I call “5 Things”.

5 things

5 Things: An Exercises in Contentment:

You all know I’m a big fan of lists… right? So it should come as no huge surprise that when I’m feeling less-than-awesome about something in my life, I often turn to list-making to change my mood.

While you might not necessarily think that making another list is the best way to practice contentment… I think you’ll understand after reading a bit more 🙂

Similar to my Top 5 list (in which I list the top 5 most important things for me to do that day), when I’m not feeling very content with a particular area of my life, I make a quick mental list of 5 things I love about my home, life, body, family, friends, job, etc.

Back to my house projects example: 

When it comes to our home projects, there is honestly always more that we’d like to do. However, due to time and financial constraints, we can’t always do as much as we want.

It’s very easy for me to feel discouraged with lack of progress or with the “undone” areas of our home and yard. But at the same time, I know how far we’ve come on our renovation journey, and I honestly do LOVE our house.

So when I start to feel like maybe we should just move or build a new house so we don’t need to deal with all the crazy antics of our old farmhouse, I try to quickly snap out of it by reminding myself of all the things I love about our house.

  1. How awesome our new kitchen is and how I’m so glad we could tackle that project before we had a bunch of kids running around.
  2. How far we’ve come with the landscaping the past few years — and how much we enjoy being outside, playing with the kids, entertaining outside, etc.
  3. How much I love the layout of our house and how perfect it is for our family’s needs.
  4. How much I love the location of our house in relationship to our extended family and all the places we can easily walk to every day.
  5. How much I’ve loved the process of transforming every inch of our house into our version of a dream house.

Back to my self-image example:

As I feel more tired, and seemingly bigger-by-the-day with this baby, I would be lying if I said I was always 100% happy and content with what I see in the mirror each day.

Last week, I told Dave that for the very first time ever, I looked in the mirror and took a double take because of how “old and tired” I looked.

I had a cold and was very congested. Nora had been waking me up countless times every night, and I had been staying up too late at night trying to finish house, yard, and blog projects… so yes, I DID look very tired.

Dave responded by saying, “but at least your freckles are starting to show up again now that you’ve been in the sun more.” And instantly, I realized that it was time for me to come up with 5 things I like about myself and my image.

  1. I do love that my freckles really seem to pop in the spring and summer as I get more sun on my face 🙂
  2. I love my short hair and how easy it is to style. I always get compliments on my haircut.
  3. I’m thankful my parents paid for braces for me so I could have nice straight, white teeth and not feel self-conscious every time I smile.
  4. I’m still in awe of the fact that my body has been growing and/or nourishing a tiny human in some way, shape, or form for the past 4. 5 years!
  5. I’m so thankful for my good health and that, for the most part, I don’t have any chronic pain or illnesses.

I’ll be honest, sometimes it’s hard to come up with 5 things. Sometimes I can only come up with 1 or 2 things I really like about one area of my life… but even coming up with 1 or 2 positive things helps me to instantly feel more content about my home, body, family, finances, career, and life.

I realize this idea might sound overly-simple to some of you… but that’s the beauty of it. It should only take you a few seconds, it doesn’t require any financial commitment, and it can be done anywhere, anytime!

So the next time you’re not feeling super content with some part of your life, take 2 minutes to think of a few things you absolutely love about that part of our life and see if it helps to change your mood around!

I know it usually works for me! 

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24 comments

  1. Debbie

    05/27/2015

    I had to read this blog to my husband the other night. We also like doing home projects and it seems he’s got friends that are asking why we need to do all that since our house is only 3 yrs old. We do it because we do enjoy it, we want to make it “our own” dream house, and get our wish list done that were going to cost us more if we had our builder do it. We still love our house even if we didn’t do all these projects, we’re not discontent at all but very thankful. So thank you for articulating what we were exactly feeling ourselves.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Debbie — glad this article helped!

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  2. Jennifer

    05/26/2015

    This is such a great post! I can get down in the dumps, and when I count my blessings I can’t believe I even let myself get down. So good for you to share this!

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  3. Kelly S

    05/26/2015

    This is a great point! I’ve been trying to do “5 Things we thank God for” with my daughter, but I haven’t thought to do it particularly when I’m feeling low or discontent. Thanks!

    Also, random question – have you ever written about how to stay up to date/actually write thank you cards? That is a constant area of trouble for me… after a birthday, holiday, etc. I just procrastinate like crazy (like, it took 11 months to get our wedding thank yous out! I was so embarrassed!!), and was wondering if you have any tips. I didn’t see any posts about it when I searched for it… maybe a topic of a post sometime? 🙂

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  4. Barb

    05/26/2015

    Andrea, your post hit the nail on the head for me. Love your posts that deal with the inner struggles and clutter! Definitely going to try this the next time I am feeling discouraged. Thank you!

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  5. MrsD

    05/26/2015

    Andrea, my internet friend, I would LOVE to hear about how you deal with “my kids are whiny and disrespectful”. My girl is the same as Nora and I am at my wits end most days with her. She is so strong willed…and loves to argue…and demanding….and whiny about everything that doesn’t go her way. I’ve tried reasoning (doesn’t work) time out (doesn’t work), giving in more than I want (doesn’t work). Do you have any words of advice? I find myself tearful often and I’m so tired of the negative feelings I’m having towards her 🙁 I hope this is a short phase. The truth is…she has been like this since birth…but it’s worse now. My boy is so much easier…so far at least. (He’s 2)

    [Reply]

    MrsD Reply:

    **same AGE as Nora***

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    Mrs. W Reply:

    I read this article and thought it was helpful-

    http://club31women.com/2014/08/help-fall-apart-child-pull-together/

    The part about tying them to your apron strings and giving a lot more positive attention was especially helpful. The comments are helpful and encouraging to read too.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for the link!!

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    MrsD Reply:

    Thank you much!!! I’m off to read that 🙂

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    Andrea Reply:

    oh boy… I’m not sure I’m the person to ask 🙂

    Nora is a handful (and that’s an understatement). She is usually pretty well behaved around everyone else (which helps me know she IS listening and learning) but she most definitely knows how to push the boundaries at home. And you’re right, sometimes, I’m just too tired to care so I give in more than I probably should — just for my own sanity.

    One thing that usually seems to help with Nora is just holding her tight, getting her calmed down, and changing the subject for a few minutes. Then, I’ll revisit the issue and she usually obeys and we can continue on with our day. BUT… like I said above, I don’t always have the time, energy, or patience for that whole process… so sometimes, she just gets a timeout (which I know really isn’t that effective for her but often necessary for my sake!)

    All of that to say, I really don’t have a great answer for you, but I DO know how difficult it is. I’m a “no-nonsense” type of mother — here are the rules, follow them, life will be good. Nora does not work that way — so we’re still trying to find a good balance here. I’m sure it will come eventually!

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    Lee Cockrum Reply:

    I absolutely LOVE your description of the kind of mother you are!!!

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    MrsD Reply:

    Thank you, Andrea! I thought I was a pretty calm person (before I had kids, Ha!)so to have a girl that completely falls apart about EVERYTHING that doesn’t go her way is so hard for me to understand. She’s such a sweet girl at other times, but there are a lot of days I feel like I can’t breathe and I’m doing a rotten job. Thank you for the advice with what helps with Nora 🙂 They have a lot of similarities so I hope that helps us too. The teenage years are going to be interesting here. Whew.

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    Brenda Reply:

    I hope you don’t mind a book suggestion. I have 5 boys and one in particular was very challenging when he was very young. The two books that made all the difference for us were Raising Your Spirited Child and Parenting With Love and Logic. The latter was excellent for teaching how to give choices to a child that work, how to not make a battle out of everything, and so many other wonderful ideas.

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    MrsD Reply:

    Oh gosh! Thank you! I’m heading to the library to get those. I really appreciate it!!!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Brenda, I just reserved those books at the library!

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  6. Beulah

    05/26/2015

    Your post arrived at the right time. For the past two days, I was feeling totally low and negative. Its a real good reminder to count my blessings and stay content with what all I have 🙂

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  7. Deni

    05/26/2015

    Such a great reminder, Andrea! Being thankful always puts things in perspective.
    You are such an inspiration to all of us readers! Yay for list making 🙂

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  8. Meagan M

    05/26/2015

    I love this post and it couldn’t have come at a better time! I am so bad at being perfectly content and then out of no where (it seems) I’m discontent with every aspect of my life and I become so ungrateful and negative. I love your 5 point system for regaining perspective and contentment.

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  9. Diana Edwards

    05/26/2015

    Love the short hair…..and to think I use to have long hair…..French twist with the curls on top. Keep it simple 🙂

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  10. Kristen @ Joyfully Thriving

    05/26/2015

    I do this same thing, Andrea! When days are particularly long or frustrating, it’s a good challenge. Sometimes, I list the things to myself throughout the day, or sometimes I make it a challenge to find 5 things to be thankful for, when I say my prayers at night. Sometimes it’s more challenging than others but you know what? I can always find 5 things. And my perspective changes by shifting my focus to thankfulness!

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  11. Jen

    05/26/2015

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again YAY FOR SHORT HAIR!! Mine is also super short and I get so many compliments on it. Honestly, I have never once, in 47 years, had long hair! It’s so easy to style and the upkeep is minimal. So many people have long hair and claim to “love” long hair then complain about how hot it is or how long it takes to dry or how much it costs to color it! I’ve decided that many women would secretly love to have the courage to go short but they just can’t do it! So they just admire the short hair of people like you and me. 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, I love the short hair!
    I will say though, I had LOOOOONG hair my entire life until after we got married — long and curly — and I really loved that too. I loved the variety of ways I could style it and how I could just pull it back in a ponytail if I didn’t feel like doing it.

    Over all though, I do like the ease of short hair much better and I don’t plan on going bake to long hair any time soon!

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  12. Paulette

    05/26/2015

    Oh how I needed this post! Thank you.

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