Practical Stoicism

Part of Stoicism is cultivating the awareness that allows you to step back and analyze your own senses, question their accuracy, and proceed only with the positive and constructive ones.

Be open to learn

“Throw out your conceited opinions, for it is impossible for a person to begin to learn what he thinks he already knows.” —EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 2.17.1

Control

“From the very beginning, make it your practice to say to every harsh impression, ‘you are an impression and not at all what you appear to be.’ Next, examine and test it by the rules you possess, the first and greatest of which is this—whether it belongs to the things in our control or not in our control, and if the latter, be prepared to respond, ‘It is nothing to me.’ ” —EPICTETUS, ENCHIRIDION, 1.5

“Some things are in our control, while others are not. We control our opinion, choice, desire, aversion, and, in a word, everything of our own doing. We don’t control our body, property, reputation, position, and, in a word, everything not of our own doing. Even more, the things in our control are by nature free, unhindered, and unobstructed, while those not in our control are weak, slavish, can be hindered, and are not our own.” —EPICTETUS, ENCHIRIDION, 1.1–2

“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own …” —EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 2.5.4–5

Life will not always go your way

People will frustrate you

“When you first rise in the morning tell yourself: I will encounter busybodies, ingrates, egomaniacs, liars, the jealous and cranks. They are all stricken with these afflictions because they don’t know the difference between good and evil. Because I have understood the beauty of good and the ugliness of evil, I know that these wrong-doers are still akin to me … and that none can do me harm, or implicate me in ugliness—nor can I be angry at my relatives or hate them. For we are made for cooperation.” —MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 2.1

Be the gate keeper of your mind

“Your mind will take the shape of what you frequently hold in thought, for the human spirit is colored by such impressions.” —MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 5.16

“Keep constant guard over your perceptions, for it is no small thing you are protecting, but your respect, trustworthiness and steadiness, peace of mind, freedom from pain and fear, in a word your freedom. For what would you sell these things?” —EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 4.3.6b–8

“The proper work of the mind is the exercise of choice, refusal, yearning, repulsion, preparation, purpose, and assent. What then can pollute and clog the mind’s proper functioning? Nothing but its own corrupt decisions.” —EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 4.11.6–7

Train your mind

Brace for adversity

Freedom of choice

Anxiety

“When I see an anxious person, I ask myself, what do they want? For if a person wasn’t wanting something outside of their own control, why would they be stricken by anxiety?” —EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 2.13.1

Awareness

“The person is free who lives as they wish, neither compelled, nor hindered, nor limited—whose choices aren’t hampered, whose desires succeed, and who don’t fall into what repels them. Who wishes to live in deception—tripped up, mistaken, undisciplined, complaining, in a rut? No one. These are base people who don’t live as they wish; and so, no base person is free.” —EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 4.1.1–3a

Dealing with life can be very challenging. We often find ourselves overwhelmed and exhausted in coping with what life throws our way.  I have listed a few very important disciplines you can practice that in my experience in working with people in a therapeutic context over the past 20 years has helped many people deal more effectively with life’s challenges. 

Practice these on a daily basis and make them part of your daily routine.

Journaling

o    Keep a daily journal where you can reflect on your experiences on that particular day.

o    Journaling will help you to gain insight into your thoughts, feelings and behaviour. It will increase self-awareness and also help in processing daily experiences and developing more effective strategies to deal with life’s challenges. 

o    Note your goals and express gratitude in jour journal.

o    Write about what worries you and what you are happy about.

o    You don’t have to keep a paper journal. Experiment and find whatever works to get into the writing habit. Experiment with writing on paper, on a laptop or on your smartphone and find whatever works best for you. 

o    You can explore some journaling apps. Day One is one of the best journal apps in my opinion.  

o    Take time to consciously recall the events of the previous day. 

o    Notice what contributed to your happiness and what detracted from it. 

o    Write down what you’d like to work on or quotes that you like. 

o    You can also use the journal to track your personal growth progress

Mindfulness Meditation

  • Do daily meditation.
  • Meditation is quit time where you develop an improve the level of awareness of yourself, others and the world around you.
  • Through daily meditations you will become more aware of your thoughts, feelings and behaviour and how they impact on one another. 
  • Find a quiet space. Make sure there is nothing to disturb you before you start meditation. Turn your phone on silent and go into a room away from others. 
  • Sit in a comfortable position. You can sit on top of a cushion or blanket, on the floor or in a chair. Sit upright, but don’t tense up — your body should feel relaxed. 
  • Practice deep breathing while meditating to calm your mind. Inhale deeply for 3 seconds, hold your breath for 3 seconds then slowly release for 3 seconds. Breathe gently. Focus your attention on each inhale and exhale.
  • You can also begin with a body scan: focus on each part of the body, down from your toes and up to your head, pausing to notice the sensations.
  • Let distractions come and go. If your mind wanders, acknowledge the thought that has distracted you, but do not dwell on it. Then, gently bring your attention back to your breathing. 
  • Getting distracted when meditating is inevitable and one of the biggest worries for beginners — but learning how to manage distraction is a vital part of the process.  
  • Meditating for just five to 10 minutes each day
  • Meditate on how your thoughts, feelings and behaviour impact each other.
  • Accept the past and commit to the future.
  • Focus on self-acceptance and take control of your thoughts.
  • Focus on becoming aware of the things in your life you can change and what not.
  • Be mindful of the attitude you approach life with. Do you have a negative self-defeating attitude, or do you step up to the challenges of life and face your struggles head on?

“Ask yourself the following first thing in the morning: What am I lacking in attaining freedom from passion? What for tranquility? What am I? A mere body, estate-holder, or reputation? None of these things. What, then? A rational being. What then is demanded of me? Meditate on your actions. How did I steer away from serenity? What did I do that was unfriendly, unsocial, or uncaring? What did I fail to do in all these things?” —EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 4.6.34–35

  • Make use of meditation apps to enhance your experience:

Exercise

Make sure to get daily exercise in. 

Walking, running, gym, sport or whatever works for you. Spend at least 20 – 30 min a day on exercising.

Exercise has many psychical and psychological health benefits.

Find the type of exercise that works for you and keep to it.

Be disciplined and set exercise goals for yourself.

Do not overdo it. 

A regular sustainable exercise routine is better than short bursts of intense exercise that is not sustainable.

Reading

  • Read at least 30 min a day. 
  • Read inspiring books, autobiographies, novels or whatever inspires you and stimulates you intellectually.
  • When was the last time you read a book, or a substantial magazine article? 
  • Try and limit social media exposure that may distract you from your goals.
  • Read what matters most do not waste your time reading irrelevant posts.
  • Reading in general has many benefits including:

Mental Stimulation

Stress Reduction

Knowledge

Vocabulary Expansion

Memory Improvement

Stronger Analytical Thinking Skills

Improved Focus and Concentration

Better Writing Skills

Tranquillity

Entertainment 

Music 

o    Listen to your favourite music each day. 

o    Set time aside and let yourself get lost in the music.

o    Explore new music.

o    Listen to different genres of music to challenge and broaden your musical horizon.

o    Here are a few genres to explore:

·         Country, Electronic dance music (EDM), Hip-hop, Indie rock, Jazz, Metal, Oldies, Pop, Rap, Rhythm & blues (R&B), Rock. Instrumental

o    Learn to play an instrument or sing.

o    Make your own music.

Creative Expression

  • Spend time expressing yourself creatively. 
  • This can be done through hobbies, interests or activities. 
  • Some forms of creative expression include: Painting, writing, drawing, building, gardening, cooking, pottery, sculpting, practicing an art form, playing a musical instrument, participating in sport, etc.
  • The idea is to be creative in whatever way you can find expression.
  • Experiment with different ways of expressing yourself. 
  • Human beings have inherent creative potential, do not underestimate yourself.

Relationships

  • Focus on fostering supportive relationships. 
  • Spend time with those people who lift you up, inspire you and who make you feel understood and supported. 
  • Do not spend time with people that drag you down or who are excessively negative about life.
  • Establish and maintain healthy interpersonal boundaries.
  • Learn to say ‘No’ to others. Saying ‘No’ to others is saying ‘Yes’ to yourself.
  • Engage in social situations where you can be most yourself.
  • Focus on building a few close friendships.
  • Be good to others.
  • Show charity.
  • Express gratitude.
  • Respect others as you want them to respect you.
  • Make healthy relationship choices.
  • Spend time with people that can encourage you and build you up.

Diet

  • Stick to a healthy diet.
  • Our diet also involves our thoughts, emotions and behaviour with regards to what we eat and drink. 
  • How we think about food will determine how we behave around food and how we feel about food. 
  • We often only change what we eat and not how we think about food and nutrition. 
  • Focus on making healthy food choices. You choose what you eat and drink so choose wisely.
  • Eat with sustainability of the environment in mind.
  • Think of food as nutrition rather than as a treat.
  • Think differently about what you eat and when you eat.
  • Find a balance that works for you and that promotes both physical and mental health.
  • Practice self-control with regards to food and you’re eating behaviour.
  • Be conscious of what you eat, how you eat, when you eat, with whom you eat and why you eat.
  • We can often fall into the trap of eating because we are board or frustrated, or we eat because we feel it’s time to eat. Think differently about these aspects and change your beating behaviour accordingly.
  • Don’t eat when you are not hungry. 
  • Be mindful of what you drink and how it effects your thoughts, feelings and behaviour.
  • Avoid consuming processed foods.
  • Have nothing in excess.
  • Be carb conscious and read food and drink labels so you can make informed decisions about what you eat and drink.
  • Be conscious of portion sizes. Know when enough is enough. 
  • Practice mindfulness with regard to your eating and drinking habits.

Sleep

  • Make sure you get proper sleep.
  • Aim for between 7 and 8 hours a night.
  • Practice good sleep hygiene:
  • Have a fixed sleep schedule that you maintain 7 days a week.
  • Set aside 30 min to wind down each evening before getting in bed to sleep.
  • Do not nap during the day. It will interfere with your nightly sleep.
  • Do not spend time engaging any electronic platforms (TV, phones, tablets etc.) 30 min before going to bed.
  • Have a fixed wake-up time.
  • Prioritize sleep
  • Follow a nightly pre-sleep routine
  • Keep Your Routine Consistent.
  • Budget 30 minutes for winding down.
  • Dim your bedroom lights of use a bed lamp. 
  • Experiment with methods of relaxation before going to bed.
  • Don’t Toss and Turn get out of bed if you cannot fall asleep, read or listen to music until you are tired. Then get back in bed
  • Cultivate Healthy Daily Habits
  • Get daylight exposure.
  • Be physically active.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Reduce alcohol consumption.
  • Cut down on caffeine in the afternoon and evening.
  • Don’t dine late.
  • Restrict in-bed activity .
  • Optimize Your Bedroom
  • Have a comfortable mattress and pillow.
  • Set a cool yet comfortable temperature. 
  • Block out light.
  • Drown out noise.
  • Try calming scents
  • Make your bedroom a comfortable, quiet space.

If you practice the above disciplines daily and stick to them it will greatly improve your physical and mental wellbeing.

Awareness

Having a thought doesn’t make it true.

Recommended journaling apps

Practicing

Evaluating

Perseverance

What, then, should we have at hand upon such occasions? Why, what else than to know what is mine, and what is not mine, what is within my power, and what is not? – I must die: and must I die groaning too? – Exiled. Can anyone prevent me, then, from going with a smile and good cheer and serenity? – “Betray the secret”. – I will not betray it; for this is my own power. – “Then I will fetter you”. – What are you saying, Man? Fetter me? You will fetter my leg; but not even Zeus himself can get the better of my choice. “I will cast you into prison”. My wretched body, rather. “I will behead you”. Did I ever tell you, that I alone had a head that cannot be cut off? – These are the things that philosophers ought to study; it is these that they should write about each day; and it is in these that they should exercise themselves. (Epectitus, Discourses, 1.1.21–25)

the role of love in Stoicism, the love of wisdom. The Stoics never tire of reminding themselves how valuable wisdom and insight are, the kind of practical wisdom that comes from understanding precisely what it means to say that it is not things which upset us, but, rather, our judgements, and that this should be the fundamental goal of life rather than the pursuit of wealth or reputation.

emphasis on the process of clarifying one’s personal values and actively living in accord with them.