Most people are looking for ways to be healthier and happier. Millions of dollars are spent on industries that help people live better. From being more physically fit, to feeling better mentally and emotionally, many people are constantly searching for answers. What will make you feel more fulfilled? What will lead to stronger relationships? More success at work? And an overall better existence? What if I told you that the key to a balanced, more fulfilled, and happier life was discovered over two thousand years ago?
Stoicism, very simply put, is the ability to choose your reactions and responses. Being stoic is not being void of emotions, but rather choosing how to respond. It’s making thoughtful decisions on your reaction and not allowing situations or circumstances to control or dictate your emotions and emotional responses. The basis of cognitive behavioral therapy, which is rooted in Stoicism, emphasizes the idea that thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes affect your feelings and actions. The notion that the way you think about a situation can affect how you feel about a situation is the idea behind positive and realistic thinking. Even if you can’t change the situation, you can always change how you think and feel about the situation. It creates the mindset that you are responsible for your own actions and choices. Stoicism gives you freedom of choice and holds the belief that you are not bound to circumstances.
Viewing situations with a stoic mindset allows you to gain control over your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It allows you to thoughtfully decide how to respond and react. Stoicism provides you with better emotional regulation and a greater understanding of the situation. It allows you to focus on only what is within your control (your thoughts, your reactions, your decisions, your behaviors) and to let go of things you cannot control.
Reminding yourself, especially during difficult times, that you can adapt to situations by acknowledging and accepting the circumstances and then focusing on what is within your control, such as your attitude and approach can help you feel better and become more resilient. It’s not to say that situations won’t impact you, but embracing the stoic mindset will help you see the opportunity in situations and focus on what can be done.
Stoics believe your thoughts and beliefs create your reality, not external circumstances or situations. By taking responsibility for your thoughts you will feel more in control of your thought process and mindset. Having more control and autonomy over situations is known to decrease anxious and depressive symptoms while increasing your overall well-being.
Daily practices of stoicism can help you find meaning and purpose in life. Although stoicism is an ancient philosophy, the wisdom in the philosopher’s words and way of life still resonates today. The basic concepts of stoicism can be applied to all areas of life, especially, but not only during difficult times. During uncertain times, anxieties can increase and one way in which to decrease anxious feelings and stress is to gain control; control over your emotions, responses, outlook, and mindset. Living a more stoic life will give you the opportunity to live a mentally healthier, more balanced, and overall happier life. Something everyone today would find beneficial.
For more inspiration regarding stoicism, please check out The Stoicism Book of Quotes.
Kortney Yasenka, LCMHC, is a licensed clinical mental health counselor who provides individual, family, and group therapy, as well as life coaching services. She is certified in trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy and has experience working with veterans and active military personnel. She has a Masters in Counseling Psychology with a concentration in Health Psychology from Northeastern University. With over 15 years of experience, Kortney has worked in community mental health, school systems, and private practice while specializing in mood disorders, school and work related issues, life transitions, and self-esteem. Kortney is the co-author of The Stoicism Book of Quotes and wrote the foreword to The Resilient Warrior.