How to Feel Fulfilled

Nearly every one of us will encounter a time in their life when they realize their daily existence feels less than fulfilling. It could be the stress of school, the repetition of a job, the challenges of parenting, or merely boredom that can arrive long after you’ve entered adulthood.

Harvard psychologist Susan David studied the concept of fulfillment and found that it often ties back to being affected by the behavior of others, even without us realizing it. That idea can range from ordering something similar to a person you’re eating with, to complaining because people around you are, to more significant life events such as getting a particular job or buying a house.

If we want to feel more satisfaction in our lives, we need to re-calibrate our thinking to figure out what we genuinely desire from life and what we enjoy doing. This act can take some discipline and, in some cases, adjusting our mental habits. The rewards for doing this re-training can be well worth the effort, though. Here are 15 ways you can feel more fulfilled.

1. Focus on Positivity

There is some evidence behind the theory that like attracts like. If this law holds any truth, one of the most crucial things you can do to feel more fulfilled is to be more positive, and therefore bring more positivity to your life.

However, even if you do not subscribe to ideas as such, being more positive improves your life, regardless. Focusing on negativity increases your stress hormone levels, brings down your mood, and forces you to overlook all of the things you should be grateful for.

Complaining and feeling negative can lead you to miss out on the precious moments that are passing by. Have you ever looked back on a specific time in your life and wished you would have appreciated it more at the moment? It’s likely you were complaining (outwardly or inwardly) or feeling subtle negativity back then if you overlooked what you had at the moment.

Naturally, focusing on the positive has the opposite effect. It forces you to recognize the good fortune you have in your life, helps you give others the benefit of the doubt, makes you a more enjoyable person to be around, and lifts your mood overall. Working on appreciation over complaining is one of the first steps anyone should take to feeling more fulfilled.

2. Limit Complaining

It is crucial when working towards more positivity to pay attention to how much you are complaining or taking part in it with those around it. This can be eye-opening, as you may not even realize how negative your environment is.

As suggested in the book A Complaint Free World, it can be helpful to wear a bracelet or rubber band on your wrist. You must switch the wrist band to the opposite hand every time you catch yourself being negative or complaining. Many people notice they must change the bracelet or band back and forth all day long. This is a hugely beneficial practice to gain self-awareness about how you are speaking.

3. Be More Grateful

One of the swiftest ways to feel more all-around fulfilled in your life is to cultivate gratitude. It can take some discipline to feel thankfulness on an everyday basis. Yet if you incorporate any of these practices into your daily life, you’re feeling of fulfillment for what you have in life can skyrocket.

  • Think of the people in your life and mental list all their unique qualities you appreciate.
  • Look around whatever room you’re in and list off at least 10 things you enjoy.
  • Write down a list of 25 things you are grateful for today.
  • Make a list of memories you are thankful you got to experience.
  • Write down a list of life lessons are happy you learned from.
  • Go from your head to down to your toes and appreciate all of the working/healthy parts of your body.
  • Sift through your fridge or pantry and take note of the food you are thankful to have.
  • List off all the helpful things or experiences others have given you throughout your life.

Complaining can be a natural state for many people. When you do one or more of these exercises, it shifts your thinking from the negative to a focus on the positive aspects you have around.

Nearly everyone is surrounded by far more than they appreciate daily. As a genuine challenge, take a day and do every one of these exercises and see how much differently you feel about your life.

4. Redefine What Success Means to You

On the notes of social media and the world online, it has also become too easy for us to compare our lives with others. Keeping up with the Joneses has turned into keeping up with everyone you’ve ever known—and several others who live on the other side of the country or even the other side of the world.

Every now and then we all need to re-prioritize each of our personal versions of success. It’s been found that people with an excess of money are not necessarily any happier than those who earn in the range of $60-75,000 a year. Once our basic needs are met and we have just a little wiggle room, happiness becomes more than just acquiring money.

We need to erase some of our ideas of success that was pushed onto us by other people. Write down exactly what success means to you personally. You can even create your own personal mission statement or make one for each area of your life—how you want to work, how you want your relationships to look, and how you want to manage your health and self-care.

If you’re aiming for something you don’t honestly care about, you will never feel fulfilled. Once you re-calibrate and direct your ambition toward something you personally think is worth achieving, fulfillment will increase.

5. Find Purpose in Your Work

We spend such an abundant amount of our lives at work that it is worth evaluating. With much of our lives in that environment, it’s nearly impossible for your profession not to affect you. If you work 40 hours a week, for 50 weeks out of a year (accounting for two weeks off), and work that for 40 years, you will spend 80,000 hours at your job.

That is the equivalent of over nine years, absolutely non-stop, in your place of work. Keep in mind that is for people who do zero overtime and take two weeks of vacation per year! It would, therefore, be wise to either select a career that means something to you. Or if you can’t change professions, do everything you can to find purpose and meaning in the job you do.

As Maya Angelou said, “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” Most careers serve a purpose, even the jobs many would consider lower-level. There is a need for nearly all occupations. So, take a look around at your work and make a mental list of the ways you are serving a purpose. Remind yourself of these aspects whenever you feel drained at work.

If you can’t find any reason for yourself to be in the career your in, start taking steps to move elsewhere. It might not happen quickly, but if it is toward something you care about, you’ll be driven enough to keep going until you make it.

6. Contribute Something or Help Others

Another one of the fastest ways to feel more fulfilled in life is to do something that contributes to society or helps other people. Anyone who takes care of animals, pets, or has children can relate to the sense of balance once a little of the focus is taken off of the self.

When we are too consumed by our ego and our own personal needs, it becomes natural to get self-absorbed, forget about the needs of others, or even develop anxiety because of focusing on ourselves so much.

Challenging yourself to give to charity, volunteer at a shelter, or help out in any other way that does something for others can instantly lift you into a feeling of fulfillment. You walk away knowing you have done a little to give back and to brighten someone’s day or help a person in need.

Even small gestures such as assisting the elderly at a store or holding the door for someone can be minute but uplifting practices that make others smile and give you a feeling of satisfaction. Paying it forward can be an instant and direct line to fulfillment.

7. Grow Relationships, Not Just Money

Part of re-prioritizing your version of success can be focusing more on relationships. Most people would not feel satisfied working 80 hour weeks and coming home to no one and having few, if any, friends to spend time with.

It can seem exhausting to put yourself out there or attend social events, but the payoff for cultivating a satisfying social life can be priceless. We are social animals and therefore need other people in our lives who we can depend on to celebrate our joys and who will be there during tough moments.

If you’ve been putting relationships on the back burner, spending more time to grow those connections will go a long way and increasing your sense of fulfillment.

8. Find Your Personal Balance

Every person needs to define what their sense of balance is in their own life. Not everyone will function the same working the same hours or spending the equivalent amount of time in social settings.

Introverts, for example, can feel drained by excessive social activity. People who love their work may feel they are lacking some of their self-purpose if they are only employed part-time.

Whereas, others would prefer a stay-at-home parenting life. It’s crucial that you define for your own self what a balanced life looks like and what ratio of activities would be most fulfilling for you. Try to ignore what other people have told you what you should like to spend time doing.

Writing down the things you have found most enjoyable can help you clarify what you want to spend your free time doing. It can also help you see how much of your life you want to direct towards work and how much you would like to focus in other areas.

9. Develop a Habit of Exercise, Meditation, or Nature Walks

Sometimes feeling more fulfilled can be a matter of physically feeling well. Taking care of not only your mental wellbeing but also your body is vital to feeling positive about life. We all know it, and many of us don’t want to put in the work. There is no denying that exercise and an all-around healthy lifestyle improves how we feel about ourselves and our lives.

Fortunately, that doesn’t always mean you have to run two miles every day to feel uplifted and fulfilled. Studies show that meditation and walking, especially outside with fresh air, can have multiple benefits on your brain. Taking part in activities such as these can increase endorphins, feel-good serotonin, build more gray matter, and improve your memory. Other gentle activities that can help you feel centered and that have similar effects:

  • Golfing
  • Yoga
  • Strolling on the beach
  • Hiking through a nature park
  • Playing with your kids or dog in a park
  • Going for a bike ride
  • Swimming

It doesn’t take an extreme activity to give yourself a boost. When you make small activities or quiet meditation part of your routine, you lower cortisol levels (that pesky stress hormone). This can be an instant pick-me-up to feeling more satisfying with your life.

Anyone can set a timer for a few minutes and quiet their mind or close their eyes to focus on gratitude. Even if you claim you can’t keep your mind quiet, you can meditate on positive thoughts and things you appreciate. This will enhance your sensation of satisfaction and help center yourself for your next task.

10. Take Accountability

It likely feels counterintuitive for most people to focus on what they did wrong. Yet taking responsibility for your part in issues you might be dealing with can have a surprising effect. It’s natural and may feel comfortable on the surface to hold on to anger or hurt feelings.

However, when we take accountability for our actions, an intriguing phenomenon happens. Owning up to your part and things not only can improve your relationships but admitting your missteps to yourself instantly lifts some of the anger that can be weighing you down. Try the following internal questions:

  • What do I know about this person’s life that could have affected their view on this situation?
  • What hurts did they endure in their past?
  • What things did I say or do that would have hurt me if the roles were reversed?
  • In what ways could I honestly be kinder?
  • Am I being hypocritical or having a double standard in any way?
  • Is it possible their intention was not as terrible as I’m assuming it was?

It can feel gratifying at the moment to hang onto frustrations and insist other people are at fault. When we take responsibility, though, we gain an instant sense of empathy for other people. Much of the stress that anger puts on our body also washes away.

Even if you are angry or hurt enough that you only want to do practice for yourself and not for the other person, go ahead and think of taking accountability that way: it is for your own sense of well-being. If you have a situation that is causing you pain or frustration, give it a try.

Write down or think through how you took part in it or what you might have done to hurt or alienate the other party. Pay close attention to how this lifts your spirit by noticing how much stress and tension anger causes in your body. Once you can begin to let go of that pain, your well-being and fulfillment will increase.

Doing this can also have one added benefit. When others see you take responsibility for your actions, they will often follow suit and may be quicker to apologize, as well. Even if they don’t, you will come out as the wiser, kinder person and that alone can give you a profound feeling of gratification.

11. Cultivate Personal Discipline

Some parts of feeling fulfilled will come without discipline, but most of them will require some form of self-control. Whether it’s self-regulation in parenting, control with a healthy lifestyle or diet, keeping track and working toward your goals in your career, or being respectful and honest in your behavior with your spouse, this is part of what keeps you on the road to living a satisfied life.

If we are not disciplined, for example, with our sleep schedule, what we eat, how efficiently we work, and how we behave with others, we will end up with less than desirable consequences. Naturally, you want to have balance in your life and sometimes maintain a free-flowing mood.

Even if you are a free spirit, you will still benefit from growing your sense of self-regulation to keep yourself on track for the ideal life, the body, the health, and the relationships you want. Of course, all of these things lead to increased feelings of fulfillment.

12. Forgive Others and Yourself

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to feel genuinely fulfilled when you harbor a lot of resentment. Perhaps even more so, we cannot feel satisfied with our lives if we live in regret or with self-hatred.

Forgiveness can feel difficult. Yet at the same time, in some situations, it’s merely a matter of letting go, reminding yourself to let go, and then moving on. Do your best to live with empathy and understand that others might have just been doing the best they could with the knowledge or the situation they had in a particular moment in their lives.

Likewise, it’s easy to look back over our own lives and see regrets or mistakes we wish we would have done differently. Instead of living with those feelings of remorse, remind yourself that most of the time you were doing the best you could at that moment.

It’s natural to look back and see where we made missteps. However, remind yourself you did not have the information back then that you have now. Go easier on yourself. Forgive yourself for mistakes, tell yourself again that we all make them, and focus instead on the lessons you have learned.

13. Prioritize Your Time

Prioritizing time has likely been a struggle for humanity in different ways for more time than we can imagine. However, with the sensory overload and social media world, prioritizing your time can be more of a struggle now than ever.

Hours can pass by without us hardly noticing that we’ve wasted part of our precious days. Cultivate more discipline in your time management. Much like organizing your home, when you do this, you will feel like your days are tidier and more productive.

This can eliminate all sorts of stress and free up some of your time for activities that are more genuinely fulfilling. When you take note of areas that are sucking up too much time but feel meaningless to you, it might be possible to reduce them or even eliminate unnecessary activities from your life and replace them with fulfilling pursuits.

14. Push Through Difficult Times

Just as ordering your time can sometimes mean quitting things that are not meaningful or helpful to you, it can also bring into focus your top priorities and the things that you should stick with no matter what. Quitting activities or relationships that are not serving you or are toxic is crucial.

Likewise, enduring the tough times in the pursuits or partnerships that mean the most is part of fulfillment. If we can quit everything in life as soon as it gets challenging, we will come up empty-handed with no relationships and no achievements at the end of the day.

We must remember that every single thing worth having in life will have its ups and downs and tricky moments. Not just enduring the tough times but working on solutions to get through them and move forward is imperative to a satisfying life.

Succumbing to a less than favorable situation in your marriage or at work rather than finding ways to improve it can lead to a general feeling of discontent and even resentment. Know what is most important in your life, make a commitment to stick with it, and work on positive solutions when tough times come your way.

15. Look Inward for Approval

We’ve all heard that we can’t please everyone. Ignoring those who disapprove of us can be much easier said than done. However, to live a fulfilling life, we have to remind ourselves that the opinions of others are only opinions. They usually are not made with the knowledge of the entire picture, either.

Even when we have no notable discord with others, most people look outward for approval or praise. When we don’t get it, the lack can fuel unhealthy efforts to work harder or gain admiration that might never arrive.

It’s also vital to remember that is can be exhausting to expect other people to compliment us continuously. Take a moment and think about how frequently you give out compliments to other adults. You might be a rare case and do it often. For most of us, though, we might praise our children, but telling our peers how well their doing is likely infrequent. We can’t expect something from the world that we fail to give much of in return.

When everything is said and done, we must be content with our own efforts and accomplishments. Requiring approval from the outside world will inevitably lead to disappointment. We also hold our own personal standards for what is best and what we want to accomplish, so seeking the praise of someone else’s standards is illogical when we separate emotion from it.

Make an Effort and Feel More Fulfilled

Like anything, you have to act to see results. Try to utilize a few, or even better, all of these concepts and track how much more gratified you feel in your life. It’s an excellent idea to journal or keep a document on your laptop or tablet about how you feel now. Then work through these points and jot down where you are a month from now.

Some of this will take time, but the process of retraining your mental habits can help both you and the people around you, as well as future generations if you have children. We learn from our environment, so lead others to be more positive, grateful, and giving instead of just following what the complaining crowd does.

You don’t necessarily have to tell others how to feel more gratification. Merely show them by example and by taking no part in complaining, refusing to live a life dictated by others, and by giving back or helping others. When those around you see your positivity, most will be influenced to complain less and talk about happier subjects more, which is circle back around to you in an uplifting cycle.

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