Several recent studies have found that women are happiest between the ages of 33 and 35. This is reportedly when they feel the most comfortable with themselves and content with their life. Careers and relationships tend to be more stable and successful, and there’s still a lot of life to look forward to. However, plenty of women struggle to find that level of contentment in their 20s and 30s. Uncertainties and challenges during these formative years can make even those who are generally happy feel antsy or unsettled. So here are 8 ways to find contentment in your life, right now. Make this year one of the most satisfying on record.
1. Keep a one-sentence journal
Yes, I totally stole this idea from The Happiness Project, but it’s worth sharing again because of how life changing it is. For years, I read about the benefits of keeping a journal, but despite my love for writing, the idea of journaling stressed me out. When I’m ready for bed, I want to sleep. Journaling started to feel as burdensome as flossing. But keeping a one-sentence journal is far more manageable, whether it’s The Happiness Project One-Sentence Journal: a 5-year Record or a raggedy old notebook. Write down one thought from the day. If it’s positive, the day ends on a reflective, grateful note. If it’s negative, you get the feeling on paper and out of the way before sleep. A one-sentence journal also has the power to reveal moments of meaning from days that at first glance seem routine and forgettable.
2. Focus on one area of your life at a time
A part of feeling confident and successful is setting attainable goals. When things seem off, it’s tempting to think your whole life needs an overhaul. But more often than not, focusing on just one area is healthier and more practical than doing a 180. So rather than quitting your job and moving to Ireland, take a deep breath and ask yourself what is troubling you most right now and focus on that. This one negative area could be the source of a lot of other negativity or anxiety in your life. For example, your packed schedule could be preventing restful sleep, which in turn could make you grouchy and antisocial, which in turn could strain your friendships. Start at the root of the problem and watch other areas fall into place.
3. Learn something new
Dissatisfaction can come from feeling stagnant. If you have a handle on most areas of your life, perhaps a lack of movement and growth is the issue. To stave off restlessness, embark on a new task, project or skill. For me, it was gardening (if planting a window box of herbs on my back porch counts as gardening). This seemingly little project gave me a sense of purpose. When I actually had a window box of herbs, I felt hugely successful. More recently, I tried a ballet burn class, which was unlike any exercise I’d ever attempted before. Although I was already happy, this class gave me the boost I needed to more thoroughly savor my life. Whatever the project and however large or small, set your mind to it and embrace the feeling of growth.
4. Take care of yourself
Our mental and physical selves are more closely linked than we give them credit for. When we’re unhappy, often the first things we sacrifice are sleep, exercise and healthy eating. And a lack of those things in turn makes us feel lethargic and unmotivated. Stop this vicious cycle by giving yourself the care you need. It may seem impossible to squeeze in a workout or go to bed one hour earlier than usual, but doing so will make you loads more productive and efficient in the long run. The better you feel physically, the better you feel mentally.
5. Do good, feel good
Volunteering can promote contentment in a couple of ways. First of all, you’ll develop some perspective. Spending an hour in a nursing home or animal rescue shelter may make you more grateful for your life, and more likely to see your problems as minimal or at least manageable. Volunteering also lifts spirits by way of spreading support and joy. Making someone else’s day will also make yours.
6. Take a social media break
Whether you want to quit all of your accounts cold turkey or simply take a breather from just one, the space from these hectic platforms can be incredibly freeing. As fun, informative and important as social media is, the constant stimulation can leave you feeling exhausted. Furthermore, seeing others succeed around you can be demoralizing, even if you’re simultaneously happy for them. Constantly comparing your life to others’ diminishes the validity of your own goals and accomplishments. With just one or two clicks, you can be rid of it all, even if just for a few days/weeks/months. In that peaceful time, you’ll be able to focus more on the bar you’ve set for yourself, not a perceived bar set by the world.
7. Connect with friends and family
When you’re feeling slightly off, you may shut down and keep to yourself. Even when things are good, you can get in a rut of staying in and being antisocial. But there is something healing about real, personal, face-to-face human interaction. (Or, if your confidante is miles away, Skype or FaceTime does the trick.) Force yourself to grab coffee or a glass of wine. Let yourself unwind and talk. Those who know you best often have more insight into what you might be going through than you do. And even if they don’t have the perfect advice, getting your concerns out can be enough to find some clarity and relieve a burden.
8. Make some “me time”
If you’re into meditation, you likely already know the importance of solitude. When day-to-day life gets frenzied, slowing down and carving out some time to treat yourself can work wonders. Take a bubble bath, do yoga, go for a walk or sit in the park. Then, during whatever “me time” activity you choose, take a moment to reflect. Think back to one, two, even 10 years ago, and find elements of your life you’ve changed for the better. Although you may not have all the answers right now, at least you’ve made some steps in the right direction. Noticing these strides should give you hope that one day you’ll look back at this moment and appreciate how far you’ve come.