Over this past week, I have spent more time on this theme than perhaps I ought to have. Specifically, what are some of the practical ways I cultivate contentment in my own life. Even when I am well within the normal range of emotional flux, I find that there are certain tangible things I can do to optimize my health and well-being. These are not conceptual, but specific actions I find helpful. They are painfully obvious, most of them, but I am very forgetful at times, so if nothing else, take it as a reminder for myself.
Eat well. For me, this means eating three meals a day and having at least two snacks. None of these need to be large, but they need to be regular. Eat fresh food, plenty of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and yogurt. Be mindful of processed foods, caffeine and sugar.
Take a Vitamin D supplement, and B complex as needed.
Move my body. I'm taking pilates three times a week, and must get outside at least once a day, even if it's just a walk around the block.
Set routines for bed and rising. This is important for me in order to prevent insomnia, which can bring everything crashing down faster than anything else.
Keep my environment reasonably clean and orderly. Do something to make it special (right now I have a beeswax candle by my bed and a potted primrose on the dining room table).
Emotional and Spiritual Well-Being:
Cultivate a prayer life. I pray first thing in the morning and last thing before going to bed. I also read sacred writings at these times. This doesn't need to be long or complex, but it does need to happen.
Spend time in nature at least once a week. A good, long time, where I really stop to watch and listen and connect.
Sometimes I get sucked into the internet. If I am spending more than an hour at any given time on it, I need to walk away.
Engage in some sort of creative process. This can be anything: taking a photo every day, a sewing project, a sketch, practicing a musical instrument for a few minutes, or writing. I keep a small notebook at hand to record ideas for stories or inspiring quotes. Sometimes this is all I manage. But it is something, and I can look at it at the end of the day and be grateful to have it.
Participate in your broader community in a way that contributes to its well being. For me, that means hosting Baha'i events in our home, acting as a tutor for a study circle and teaching a level one children's class. It pulls me out of myself, and even though I sometimes resent it or find it exhausting, in the end it is invaluable.
Taken together, I realise this sounds like a lot. However, most of these things are small aspects of daily and weekly routines that add up to surprisingly little amounts of time and effort. And sometimes I give myself permission to say no to it all and disappear. I need that once in a while, too.
For profound thoughts on the importance of meaning over that of mere happiness, expressed far more eloquently and with more insight and experience than I possess, I suggest taking the time to read this article.