Have you ever told your kids “be happy with what you have”? How many times have they seen adults and *gulp* their own parents not taking this advice? It happens. You're human, after all.
We have so, so, so much to be thankful for in this world.
Yet contentment, or “the state of being satisfied; ease of mind,” is hard to come by.
I struggle myself with feeling like I have enough. Like I am enough.
I see this in my own child. Even though he's only 19 months old, he has begun asking over and over and over again that we go somewhere. “Go, go, GO!” is sometimes what I hear 15 times a day.
You see, we go lots of places. To storytime at the library. To Mee-Maw and Pee-Paw's house so Mama Bear can get some work time in at the local coffee shop and he can play with his grandparents. To the Starbucks drive-thru when Mommy needs some “Mommy juice” (iced, grande, almond chai) to get her through the day. To Kindermusik the first Thursday of the month. To the zoo's free day the first Tuesday of the month.
And yet, it's not enough for him. Even at his tender age, which is still counted in months instead of years.
So I can only imagine how much less content kids get when they have a gazillion ideas about what they want, fueled by the messages they receive throughout the day through the screen, other kids, and yes, us adults.
We All Want More, Better, Cooler
It's probably somehow built into our DNA (and I know for sure it's built into our culture) to not be happy with what we have and to instead be on the lookout for more, better, cooler than what we currently have.
:: Why settle for the Regular, when you can upgrade to the Super?
:: Why go 55 mph when you could go 65 mph?
:: Wait a minute…why should you “settle” when you could have more, get better, and be cooler?
There are reasons to cultivate contentment with what you have, I assure you.
Reasons to Cultivate Contentment in Your Self and Your Household
To be happy with what you have means to actually uplevel your entire life experience. Here's what you'll get (ha! It's like a contentment ad):
- Time Gain: You gain back time, as you're not constantly seeking things out, nor do you have to work harder to earn more money to pay for things that aren't bringing you as much joy as an extra hour at home with your family would.
- Creativity Bump: You foster creativity, as you work with what you have.
- More Family Time: You promote togetherness with your family, because suddenly family time has space and room to grow.
- Create a Feeling of Enough: You promote enough-ness. For both you and your kiddos. And that's an amazing character trait to have.
- Greater Appreciation for What You've Got: You also promote a greater appreciation for all you have. In Europe, it's quality over quantity. Whereas in the US, it's quantity over quality. So what happens when you go for quality first, but own less things? You appreciate them more. You play with them more.
- Focus on Experiences, Which Brings More Happiness than Things: Finally, it forces focus on experiences, not things, which happens to lead to more happiness. The science is out. Spending your time creating experiences is far better than spending your time acquiring things.
How to Host a Family Contentment Day in Your Household
So now it's time to take action. I propose that you host what I'm calling a “Family Contentment Day” in your own household. This is a day dedicated to breathing in all that you + your kiddos have, and feeling satisfied with it.
A day you show your kids how to grow ease of mind, without the need to add anything else.
I've come up with a list of exercises for your Contentment Day, broken down by kids, parents, and together-activities.
Contentment Exercises for the Parents:
- Breathe New Life into a Kitchen Appliance: Take out one fancy schmancy appliance that rarely gets used, and use it. I'm talking about the waffle maker, the panini press, the grill, the juicer…whatever it is in your household that you bought or were given from your wedding registry because you were sure your life would be made that much better by it. Take it out, look up a recipe, and use it on this day.
- Find Out Just How Wealthy You Are: Comparing your finances to others is usually not a good thing. But it can be if it gives you a grateful perspective. Plug in your household income to the Global Rich List website, and see where this ranks you in terms of wealth worldwide. You're going to be very surprised with how well off you are.
- Adjust the Amount of Ads Your Kids See Moving Forward: According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “…advertisers spend more than $12 billion per year to reach the youth market and…children view more than 40,000 commercials each year.” Figure out the main sources where your kids are being exposed to ads (likely media sources include the television, web-based apps and games, and the internet). Then come up with a plan for how to cut down on the amount of ads entering their lives all telling them to buy more, do more, and be more. This will certainly help them to be happy with what they have.
Contentment Exercises for the Kids:
- Breathe New Life into a Forgotten Toy: Choose a toy that you haven't been interested in for a long time. What else can you play with it? What else can you use it together with to make it fresh and fun again? Your child will grow a new appreciation for what they already own, and start to look at their things differently.
- Choose 5 Toys/Clothing Items to Donate: Kids grow like crazy, and chances are good they've got 5 items they can easily donate (with your permission, of course) to decrease the clutter + help someone else out. What's left will shine more when the clutter is gone.
Contentment Exercises for Everyone:
- Eat a Family Meal Together, at the Table: Choose either breakfast, lunch, or dinner to gather together as a family around the table and eat. Heck, do it for all three meals! I've got a whole Pinterest Board on family meal ideas to keep the kiddos engaged + excited about the family meal process.
- Choose a Charity as a Family to Donate Money or Time to: This can mean money coming from both you as well as your child out of their allowance. Or just from the adults. But at least make the choosing of the charity a family event. Once chosen, have your kids watch you guys make the actual donation online or otherwise. You can also take part in a family charity project, and there are a bunch where you don't need to leave the comfort of your home to do.
- Sit in a Room Together, Screen-Free: Do you make it a habit to sit in a room together without turning on any screens? In our house, we own one television, and that's in the living room. My husband, toddler, and I make it a point to use our library room (which has my boom box from when I was 16 to play kid's CDs/music) to read, talk, play, and otherwise interact. Where can you and your family spend time together without a screen (or with the screen off)?
I hope this gets your brain working on activities you would like to incorporate into your own Family Contentment Day. Above all else, remember to discuss with your family the reasons behind doing what you have decided to do, which will add some real color to the phrase, “be happy with what you have.”