Stoic Exercises That Will Change Your Life for the Better
While many other practices and principles can be applied from Stoicism, these can have the most impact and on people’s lives. These are things that need to be done daily and weekly. Both ancient source material and modern guides are incorporated in these 10 stoic exercises.
1. Negative Visualization
To fully appreciate your blessings, imagine your life without them.
For example, if you live in a region prone to tornadoes, imagine that your house is destroyed, along with everything you own. Obviously, this is a kind of sad thought experiment, but chances are you’ll actually come to appreciate your home and the things in it more.
This exercise is, of course, harder to perform on your loved ones, but it’s very worth it. It’s more of an acknowledgment that you just never know when the things and people you love won’t be there anymore. It will make a difference in your thinking and your general gratitude. You will appreciate more all the blessings that life has to offer.
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2. Meditate on Death
Memento mori is about meditation about your own death not about the death of your loved ones.
Meditating on your own death is not the same as asking yourself, “If you knew this was your last day on Earth, what would you do?” Instead, the question is more like “If you didn’t wake up in the morning, would you be happy with how you spent your last day?” Did you love your family and your friends? Have you contributed to the greater good of society?
As you go through your daily activities, or at the end of the day, think about your activities and decisions, both good and bad. If this day was your last, would you be happy with its outcome? What would you do differently?
3. Set Internal Goals And Detach Yourself From The Results
One of the pillars of Stoic philosophy is not to allow circumstances beyond your control to upset your balance. Admitting that much of life is out of your control doesn’t mean giving up a sense of management. It means focusing it on the areas where you have complete control: your own actions.
Instead of setting a goal to win the match, set a goal to prepare the best you can, practice as much as you can, and then play the best you can. If you do those things, but still lose, there’s simply nothing else you could do, so why get upset?
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4. Voluntarily Submit To Discomfort
Stoics used to voluntarily bring a certain degree of discomfort into their lives. They would spend some time without certain pleasures – food, drinks, sex.
For example, you want to stay fresh when it’s hot outside. So turn on the air conditioning in the house at a cold 18˚ while outside it’s a dizzying 35˚. Nice feeling, isn’t it? But now, to feel comfortable, you also have to feel that fresh wherever you go. A friend invites you to a ball game outdoors? You will go, but you won’t enjoy it, because it will be too hot for you. That’s all you’ll be able to focus on.
Consider an alternative scenario. You accept to be hot every now and then, so you can feel at peace in any situation. Invited to a ball game during the heatwave? Yes! You are happy to be in the game at all, no matter the weather. You are a calm man who is not bothered by the weather conditions.
5. Strive For The Development Of Character And Virtue
For the Stoics, the best way to live well was to strive for virtue. If we try to become a better person, we will naturally find fulfilment, but we will also make a greater contribution to society as a whole.
How does a man become more virtuous? How to develop your character and how to practice it in everyday life? Ask yourself regularly, “What would my best version do in this situation?” We all have an ideal version of ourselves in our heads. This version eats better, exercises more, is a little more patient with his wife and children, does not waste time at work, etc. Ask yourself what your best version would do, or how that best version would decide, in any scenario.
Read More: 5 Easy Ways to Learn Stoicism
6. Stop Procrastinating
An important principle of Stoicism is to stop wasting time and to live each day as if it were our last. The idea of becoming aware of your mortality may scare some people, but it should have a positive effect and motivate you to live in the present and not procrastinate.
In a letter to his brother, Seneca describes a method that helps him make the most of each day. He would ask a few questions at the end of each day:
How did I get better today?
What did I do with my time?
What were my results?
Incorporate this into your daily routine and you will develop a greater sense of responsibility and you won’t leave tasks unfinished.
7. Focus On The Present Moment
When was the last time you enjoyed the moment?
Just as over time, a faucet from which water drips can slowly, drop by drop, fill the vessel to the top, so with a short but continuous practice of directing attention, we increase our presence in our lives. Our life consists of continuously making small useful decisions and choosing actions, so it is useful to have reminders during the day to awaken conscious attention so that we can make those decisions consciously, and not automatically.
8. Discover The Incredible Beauty Of The World Around You
To learn to be happy, you must learn to seek happiness around you – in the world around you. Seize the moment and appreciate it. Enthusiasm and joy will fill you.
Think about it: you have a palm-sized phone that you can use to make calls anywhere in the world. Isn’t it a miracle? Isn’t this the future you once only dreamed of?
Nature is amazing too. Did you know that there are trees that are taller than the famous Statue of Liberty?
9. Morning Exercises
Often, as soon as we wake up in the morning, we start thinking about the daily tasks that await us, and that can trigger stress reactions. Take a moment to consciously wake up, as well as for a small morning ritual that will start the day with positivity.
Before getting up, express a positive intention for the day: “Let me respond to challenges during the day consciously, gently, and calmly.”
Consciously perform your daily morning activities so that you focus on body movements, notice the sounds, the warmth of a cup, the taste of food, etc.
Curiously be present with all these details, without judging whether they are good or bad.
10. What Is The State Of My Mind?
We are constantly busy with many tasks and preoccupied with thoughts and emotions. Sometimes it’s useful to stop for a moment and become aware of your current mental state. When we are more aware of what we really think, it’s easier for us to assess the situation and make a useful decision.
Pause for a moment, take a deep breath, and ask yourself, “What is the state of my mind right now? Am I calm? Preoccupied? Is my mind blurry or clear?”
Respect what you notice. Whatever you notice, just be aware of it, resist the eventual need to change it.
Aware of our experience, we allow ourselves to be treated in a friendly and gentle way.
Read More: 5 Ways To Control Your Anger
Stoicism is a rich philosophy. It’s full of ancient truths and has countless modern applications. Take advantage of it and practice the art of living. Practice spiritual disciplines regularly. You are guaranteed to come out on the other side more centred, more virtuous, and fulfilled.