How Stoicism Can Improve Your Well-being & Mental Health

This post is brought to you by Benny Voncken from thestoicpadawan.com, a blog about stoicism and how to use this philosophy to improve daily life.

Let’s take a moment and explore how well-being and Stoicism relate. Better said, how Stoicism can improve your well-being. There are many facets of this ancient philosophy, which are still relevant today. We’ll first look at a brief introduction of what Stoicism is and then we will examine the Stoics’ view on how control can help us improve our well-being.

What is under our control?

What Stoicism comes down to is living a life in accordance with nature. By living a life of virtue, we can reduce our worries and anxieties and live a peaceful and good life. Although there is a lot more to it, we will focus on Epictetus’ first entry in his Enchiridion, his handbook: the dichotomy of control.

Some things are up to us, and others are not.

Epictetus, enchiridion 1

What Epictetus meant with this and why it was so important to him, was to show us where we need to focus our thoughts and energy. All things external are not under our control and all things internal are. What he considered as internal are your thoughts, opinions, impulses, desires, and aversions. To sum it up, what we control are our own actions. How can this then improve our well-being? 

The little soul and the corpse

We can start with how it can help us physically. Because the body is under our control, right? What we can control is how healthy we live, because this involves our actions. We choose what types of food we eat, or whether we exercise on a regular basis. And all this can help us lead a better life because our body is what carries around our soul. Even Marcus Aurelius quotes Epictetus here: 

Thou art a little soul bearing about a corpse, as Epictetus used to say.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 4.41

The word corpse doesn’t make it sound very nice, but it does show the relationship between the two. Take good care of your body and your soul will flourish. 

The parts we can’t control are illness, injury, or death. These happen to us indiscriminately. We can soften their blows by making sure we are physically strong, but we can’t eliminate them completely. That’s why we should not worry about them. When they happen, we will deal with them.  

Why worry?

Stoicism can increase our well-being on an emotional level. The Stoics tend to be seen as emotionless beings. But that’s hardly the case. The focus lies on the emotions that are beneficial and working on the harmful ones to have a smaller impact. 

Emotions are often triggered by external events, which are outside of our control. People around us act in certain ways or things happen that affect our emotions. The Stoics would then ask themselves if there is something they can do about it. If yes, then act according to your nature. If not, then why worry about it. 

Don’t feel harmed

Psychologically the Stoics can help you understand yourself better. If you understand what you can control, you’ll learn to know yourself a lot better. And you can be better protected from what the world throws at you. With some practice it allows you to judge situations for what they are. You’ll be able to pause yourself, absorb the initial response, and then apply reason to act justly. You’ll find yourself more balanced and at peace.

Choose not to be harmed – and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed – and you haven’t been.

marcus aurelius, meditations 4.7

Some situations affect us, which is normal, but it is our perception of the event that causes this harm. According to the Stoics, external events are neither good nor bad, that’s a label we give them. As Marcus Aurelius said, it’s up to you to decide whether you are harmed by something. Don’t feel harmed – and you haven’t been.

Control takes practice

This is easier said than done and can’t be achieved overnight. It requires practice, but the good thing is that you can start today. Journaling is an excellent way to examine your day and see how you reacted to what happened to you. Try to write down what was under your control and what wasn’t. This helps you to recognize these moments easier when you deal with them again. And when you do feel yourself become stressed or anxious; take a deep breath and remind yourself that you have choices. Because that’s what is under your control and your well-being will benefit from it.

Other blogs you may like to read:

A Stoic Evening Routine For Success

Stoics seem to give great lifestyle advice. In a quick recent research, I discovered that Marcus Aurelius used to follow and suggest a set of behaviours and activities that are meant to generate stillness and promote both body and mind awareness. Altogether, these aspects contribute to a greater capacity to be virtuous and act accordingly. Below, you will find seven of Marcus Aurelius’ routine recommendations to achieve success.

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3 Psychological Traits Portuguese Are Known For

But Portugal has a peaceful feel about it. I sit on the terrace overlooking the vineyard there and I feel cut off from the world. You need that sort of thing.

Cliff Richard

Portugal’s popularity among Europeans and oversea countries has increased in recent years. If we gave new worlds to the world in the 15th century by reaching places like India and Brazil, it seems that the world is now discovering us six centuries later. I’d say that 2016’s European Football Championship and the 2017’s Eurovision edition contributed a great deal to that boom in foreign interest. People from around the world have been visiting us, enjoying the weather and our friendly culture, while also falling in love with our food and wines.

Weather, food, and wine apart, here are three psychological traits that most Portuguese seem to share and which seem to make people want to come back.

The Portuguese Play It Cool

Instead of showing off our qualities and bragging about our deeds, we tend to reach people’s hearts and minds by keeping a low profile and serving others. The Portuguese tend to be friendly and most of them will be happy to practice their English to help you. We can be quite passionate about our causes but we usually try to stay diplomatic and more reserved in our approach. Although we can make you feel comfortable chatting, we usually don’t give too much away about what we truly think and feel.

The Portuguese Are Emotionally Intense

Although they pretend to play it cool, the Portuguese tend to be emotionally intense. Strong emotions run deep in our veins and that is often channeled through artistic expressions such as music and poetry. We created Fado and we have some famous poets such as Fernando Pessoa and Florbela Espanca who amazingly wrote about feeling everything in every single way possible. Salvador Sobral, the winner of 2017’s Eurovision festival edition, showed this particularly well throughout his performance.

The Portuguese Are Not Utterly Competitive

Perhaps because we explored the world and met different countries early in our history as a country, we are very much open to others and we don’t seem to engage in behaviors that lead to separateness among nations. We accept diversity and we promote friendliness between nations. We always do our best to speak in a language you can understand and we are typical “givers”. This attitude is likely what prevents us from being aggressive and ugly competitors.

Concluding Thoughts

Although I’m surely biased for being Portuguese, I was not always a fan of my country and people. My positivity toward my nation grew a great deal while I lived abroad. Throughout that experience, I learned to cherish the little details of my country such as having plenty of sunlight and sandy beaches. Foods that I didn’t appreciate started to ignite my attention and curiosity. Today I can say I don’t think I would choose a different country to live in at least half of the time.

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What is Well-being Coaching Psychology?

Well-being Coaching is a new profession that is evidence-based and designed to help you build a life that you love and that you feel happy about. Well-being Coaching is a new profession that helps you achieve your well-being goals.

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3 Unrealistic Expectations That Are Making You Miserable

I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.

Bruce Lee

I was listening to Dr. Demartini’s list of 15 unrealistic expectations the other day and I thought it would be useful to share what I believe to be the three major unrealistic expectations that tend to prevent us from being happy and growing into a fully intentional and purposeful life. First, it might be useful to define what unrealistic expectations are. We may say they are beliefs or thoughts we carry and hold about what and how life should unfold. Second, we need to see unrealistic expectations as primarily linked to our hopes and ideals. These can either run consciously or unconsciously in our minds, but we desire they could be manifested.

We can have unrealistic expectations about different aspects of ourselves and others. Ultimately, all unrealistic expectations lead to negative emotions (e.g anger, sadness) and frustrating experiences (e.g. conflicts at work and at home), because they are distortions of reality and of the fabric of human existence. As such, they can have a negative impact on our health and well-being. Although we can’t do anything about other people’s unrealistic expectations, we can grow aware of ours and do our best to mitigate them. Here are three unrealistic expectations that often work against us:

You Expect Only One Side of Nature

I think this particular expectation is linked to our complex relationship with change. We like to have some predictability in the way reality presents itself to us and thus it is more comfortable to hold on tight to the expectation that people or situations have only one side. If someone is nice and kind to us repeatedly, we easily develop the expectation that that person will always be that way. If someone is generally grumpy or unpolite, we form the expectation that that person will always be that way. We tend to create expectations that favor only one side of nature, categorizing people and situations as either good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant. Duality is, nonetheless, the nature of our human reality, and no person or situation is either 100% bad or good.

You Expect Others to Live in Your Values

Each one of us has a set of values. No two people are likely to have a list of values that match perfectly. We are complex beings, displaying unique talents and interests, so our values are also a reflection of that complexity. What we hold dear to our hearts may not resonate with what another person believes or feels to be important. Expecting that others will believe and give equal importance to what we value the most is setting ourselves for failure and heartache. It is not our place to tell someone else what is or isn’t important in their life. We can make educated suggestions but never expect that others will comply or incorporate what we envision to be important or a priority.

You Expect To Live Outside Your Values

When you put your values on hold to live another person’s values, you are setting yourself not only for failure but for mental, emotional, and spiritual breakdown. Living according to a set of guiding principles that are not your own or which you don’t resonate with makes you grow distant from your core and lose touch with who you are. There is a reason you are breathing as a unique being and that’s to be you. Everyone else is taken, and no matter how much you try to live somebody else’s life, you won’t make out of it sane or whole. The more you try to live outside your values, the more you will feel disconnected and miserable about yourself and life in general.

Do you want to learn even more?
Here are some books by Dr. Demartini

Concluding Thoughts

Although it’s not easy to grow awareness of and dismantle our unrealistic expectations, it is something we need to focus on and work on, if we want to lead a happier and healthier life. Everyone has expectations. It is unrealistic to want to get completely rid of them. However, unrealistic expectations can seriously negatively impact our well-being and mental health. I hope these three examples of unrealistic expectations will help you reflect on where you may need to do some changes and empower yourself to live a life more based on freedom and respect for everyone’s differences.

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What is Holding You Back? Four Major Psychological Roadblocks

Sometimes we want to move on with our lives and create positive change only to find out we can’t or that we are not ready yet. Sometimes we know why we remain stuck in old ways of behaving, thinking, and feeling, but other times we don’t. This list of major psychological roadblocks may help you tap into some hidden reasons or factors that have prevented you from designing and living the life you wish for yourself. If you have found you are being affected by one or more of these factors, please know you are not alone and you can ask for help.

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