Do you ever feel anxious and depressed? Do you sometimes struggle with the everyday challenges of life? You are not alone. We have recently identified ideas from Stoic philosophy that improves mood and will be inspiring to our followers.
The Personal Kaizen community believes simple improvements in our health and mindset can significantly improve the quality of our life. Last week we shared some simple Meditations from Marcus Aurelius. Today we share 5 ways Stoic philosophy improves your mood and attitude and we share a few resources where you can learn more about Stoicism.
Stoicism is a way of thinking that can help one overcome destructive emotions and act on what can be acted upon. Stoicism is thought to be founded by Zeno of Citium in Athens in the early 3rd century BC. Three of the key thought leaders of Stoicism are Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and Seneca.
Stoicism is a branch of virtue ethics (learn more about How to be Perfect) known for teaching that “virtue is the only good” for human beings, and external things— including health, wealth, and pleasure — are neither good nor bad in themselves but have value as “material for virtue to act upon.” Self-control and fortitude will overcome destructive emotions.
In Stoicism, what you do is more important than your philosophy. Actions speak louder than words.
Improve Your Mood and Attitude
Here are some teachings from Stoic philosophy you can use to improve your mood and attitude today:
- Realize you don’t control what happens to you, only your response. The first step is to focus on what you control and ignore things outside your control. The second (and key to Stoicism) is to respond in a “stoic” manner – shrug, think “shit happens to us all,” realize you didn’t have control over the situation, and just move on!
- Obstacles in your life are opportunities to grow as a human. Bad things happen to all of us. When they happen to you, take a moment to reflect on your response. What are the positives? What have you learned from the experience? How fortunate are you to have had that experience?
My friend and colleague Douglas Packard recently shared this advice after the death of a close friend: while you may be sad, stop and realize “what a privilege it is to feel this bad.”
- Don’t talk about what a good person is – be one. Marcus Aurelius wrote these famous words encouraging us to take action. One of the best ways to improve your mood is to take action –move a task forward, do something nice for someone else, or just smile!
- Focus on personal kaizen. Stoicism is about daily personal improvement. Seneca wrote, that each day you should “acquire something that will fortify you against poverty, against death, indeed against other misfortunes, as well.” Small progress each day will result in a virtuous life.
- Accept and cherish your fate. Epictetus said, “Do not seek to have events happen as you want them but instead want them to happen and your life will go well.” Be attentive to your world and reflect upon what happens, but also realize that you will make mistakes and events will unfold outside of your control.
Why You Should Define Your Fears Instead of Your Goals
Fear setting is another Stoic method Tim Ferris has shared that helped him move forward when depressive episodes were crippling him.
Tim Ferris is an entrepreneur, podcaster, investor, and author who achieved fame for writing the 2007 book, The 4-Hour Workweek. Ferris has shared his past struggles with depression and explained how Stoic philosophy has helped him. This TED talk from 2017 is a nice introduction to Stoicism and shares this simple technique Ferris uses to get out of a depressed state and take action.
Resources to Learn More
Tim Ferris has also provided some other free resources for his audience. My favorite is The Tao of Seneca: Letters from a Stoic Master. These are PDF translations Tim Ferris and his team compiled for his own use and for his audience. Tim describes this as “three volumes of Stoic writing starring Seneca, complete with original illustrations, profiles of modern Stoic figures, interviews, original Japanese and Chinese calligraphy to match themes, and much more.” The free PDF downloads and more are at this link.
Here are a few other resources we recommend to learn more about Stoicism and ways to apply Stoic principles to your life:
- The Daily Stoic: Author Ryan Holiday writes and blogs about Stoic philosophy. His website includes many posts on stoic ideas and principles and a newsletter with stoic teachings.
- You may also want to check out Holiday’s 2014 book, The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph. Holiday describes how successful people in history—including Amelia Earhart, Steve Jobs, John D. Rockefeller, and Ulysses S. Grant—have applied stoicism to overcome difficult situations.
- Breakfast with Seneca: A Stoic Guide to the Art of Living. This book by David Fideler is a nice introduction to the writing of Seneca and Stoic philosophy. We will share some of our favorite lessons from Seneca’s writing in a future post.
We hope you found these 5 ways that Stoic philosophy improves your mood and attitude insightful. Feel free to ask questions or leave comments below!