Santosha: Finding Contentment in the Chaos

The phrase “I’ll be happy when…” is one we’ve all used. In our consumer-driven society, we’re led to believe that striving for more—more success, more possessions, will lead us to lasting happiness and contentment. These are external expectations that are often instilled from an early age; to be successful, you must tick all the boxes of societal beliefs.

The ancient Yogis can teach us a thing or two about happiness. Santosha, a Sanskrit word that translates as “contentment,” is about being content with where you are in the present moment, instead of constantly wishing you could be somewhere else or craving something “better.”

In this article, we’ll explore the principles and practice of Santosha, and how you can bring this concept into your daily life.

What is Santosha?

In Yoga philosophy, Santosha is one of the five Niyamas, these are the personal or inner codes of conduct, outlined in the Yoga Sutras of Sage Patanjali. Santosha means accepting the realities of the situation in which you find yourself, it is not about denying your desires. Rather, it’s about letting go of attachment to the outcomes and desires and cultivating gratitude for what you have or where you are right now.

Santosha is an inner state of being that brings peace, balance of mind, and fulfilment regardless of external circumstances. Practicing santosha is to experience joy and contentment in the present moment, exactly as it is, rather than constantly chasing after future happiness. It is a state of mind that frees you from the constant cycle of mental worry about the future, your perceived imperfections or what you lack.

How to apply Santosha in a yoga class.

I first came across the concept of Santosha in a yoga class. My teacher was instructing Tree Pose. Have you noticed how one day your balance can be perfect but the next you cannot hold a steady posture? How unsatisfied you feel. Everyone else around you are holding the balance steadily, and you’re wobbling like jelly, annoyed because you know you can do this!! So often we get caught in the outcome, the perfect posture. Santosha teaches you to be content, that it’s okay. The important thing is to accept where you are at today, in this moment.

The Importance of Contentment and Happiness

Contentment and happiness are fundamental aspects of your long-term well-being, contributing to your mental, emotional, and physical health. When you feel content, you experience a sense of peace and fulfilment, this transcends into all aspects of your life, your relationships, career, and quality of life.

There’s a growing body of research that supports the positive impact of cultivating contentment on our mental and emotional well-being. Studies demonstrate that people who practice gratitude, a key component of Santosha, build stronger relationships, reduce stress and anxiety levels and enhance their overall wellbeing and life satisfaction.

In every direction we are flooded with messages that suggest we need more to be happy. This external focus not only breeds dissatisfaction but prevents us from experiencing true contentment. Any happiness that is experienced is temporary, and it often leads to a cycle of craving for more to feed the feeling of contentment. In a world that constantly pushes us to strive for more, Santosha provides a refreshing perspective.

Gratitude is a way to express santosha
Practicing Santosha: Everyday Strategies for Cultivating Contentment.

At its core, Santosha is about acceptance. It’s about embracing yourself, others, and your current circumstances. However, it doesn’t mean giving up on your future ambitions. Rather, you’re not constantly saying… “When I get that promotion…” or “When I find a new partner…”

By practicing Santosha, you’re embracing life as it unfolds, living in the present. This mindset allows you to find joy and contentment in life’s simple pleasures.  It encourages you to find contentment within yourself, rather than seeking it from external sources, like the promotion you’re chasing at work, the new car, a bigger house, the perfect partner. Santosha invites you to cultivate gratitude for the blessings you have right now.

Practicing Gratitude.

Adding a gratitude practice into your routine develops a deeper sense for what you have, rather than what you don’t. It helps you to recognise and appreciate the abundance and beauty already present in your life. How fortunate we are to have shelter, access to a nourishing meal, to feel safe and secure in life.

Expressing gratitude and celebrating the small joys in life, it is these moments that enrich our lives, where your lasting contentment resides. Taking a quiet moment to sit with your thoughts and drink your morning coffee, savour this time.

Practicing gratitude will shift your perspective on life; it will heighten your self-awareness and deepen your connection to the world around you. I like to journal and write down what I am grateful for. Others prefer to take a quiet moment and contemplate this mentally. Doing so in the morning and it will set a positive tone for your day. In the evening, it serves as a calming ritual to ease you into a restful sleep and a sense of closure on your day.

Let go of perfectionism and expectations.

 Santosha is a wonderful practice to release the need for everything to be perfect. Instead, it encourages you to embrace the imperfections in life. Letting go of expectations builds healthier relationships with loved ones and avoids unnecessary tensions and conflicts.

Accept the person you are with for who they are, including their flaws! Bring more empathy and acceptance in your relationships and it will create a deeper long-term connection. The worst thing you can do is to go into a relationship to try to change a person into the person you want them to be, to mould them into someone they are not.

Are you someone who struggles with a healthy work-life balance? Do you find yourself overworking because you strive for everything to be perfect? Letting go of perfectionism and set yourself more realistic boundaries will give you more time for rest, relaxation, and the things that truly matter outside of work.

Life is a journey filled that with setbacks and challenges. Practicing Santosha teaches you that your long-term contentment comes in the acceptance that these ebbs and flows are a natural part of the human experience.

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