20 Stoic Exercises That Will Immediately Improve Your Day

Stoicism is among the most incredible wisdom of the ages. Perhaps, you have learned its teachings on virtue, purpose, duty, and serenity. You might have also seen how it brought happiness and stability to those who upheld its values. But, of course, knowing about Stoicism and its impact is not enough: you must put it into practice.

Fortunately, you have come to the right place. This article will teach you 20 Stoic exercises that will immediately improve your day and eventually transform your life.

You do not have to become a Stoic to do these exclusively. More so, these are not “spiritual” rites that will transport your consciousness into another realm or whatnot. These exercises are practical tasks that do not require faith in the divine. You might even be fulfilling these without knowing them. But such is the beauty of Stoicism—its core principles are based on experience.

Also See: 10 Insanely Useful Stoic Exercises to Apply In Modern Life

1. Say An Affirmation in The Morning

After waking up, talk to yourself positively. You might have already heard about the benefits of affirmation, but this practice has a Stoic twist. Tell yourself repeatedly, “Events outside me are beyond my control, but I have power over my mind and reaction.”

This effortless exercise will integrate one of the greatest truths of Stoicism into your daily life. You will notice that you gain power over your emotions and discomfort even when circumstances go against you. Yes, you will still feel disappointed; it is a part of being human. But you can manage your frustration and clear your mind through the day. Moreover, this affirmation rewires your thinking, so you will not mind life’s petty distractions and irritations.

Beyond Stoicism, psychology supports the benefit of understanding your control over emotions. The cognitive appraisal theory states that emotions come from our thoughts in response to situations. If you can dominate your thinking process about outside events, including tragedies and mishaps, imagine how much dominion you will gain over your feelings!

As Emperor Marcus Aurelius once meditated, remember that you will meet immoral and corrupt people today as you wake up. But, unlike them, you have seen the beauty of virtue and our shared humanity. Therefore, you are stronger than them. You are higher than them, so you should not feel anger or hatred towards such people.

2. Write Your Morning Reflection

Like the great Stoic philosophers and emperors, you should record your reflections when you meet a new day. You may answer the following in your morning regimen:

  • What are you grateful for today? (Waking up is one of them.)
  • What are your plans, and how will you face today’s uncertainties?
  • How will you apply your virtues?
  • What problems do you expect today, and how will you handle them?
  • How will you avoid and resist vices and temptation?
  • Upon reading a Stoic quotation, how will you put it into practice?

As stated earlier, declare your Stoic affirmation repeatedly. Remember what Seneca taught: do not trust prosperity or fortune; expect adversities and fight them when they come. This way, you will no longer be disheartened by life’s trials. Marcus Aurelius also meditated on the “privilege” of life and being able to love and find joy.

If you have time, refresh yourself outside by walking in the sunshine. Exercise as well to reinvigorate your mind. Be thankful for your strength and ability to walk—others can only dream of doing these.

3. Remind Yourself That You Can Die Anytime

If you knew the specific day of your death, what would you do till then? Should it be tomorrow, would you waste your time on frivolity and vices? Will you treat others with respect and dignity to leave a good legacy to the world?

While most people fear death, Stoics always recalled that dying is inevitable. Because of thought, they want virtue to be their last action before they pass away. It is also humbling since wealth, fame, or power cannot save you from your eventual end.

Marcus Aurelius wrote that one should base his actions and thoughts on the possibility of dying away anytime. Therefore, a wise person will not procrastinate or throw away opportunities. He will consider every day as a finishing touch on his existence, striving for perfection and genuine kindness.

If you overcome the fear of death, what else is there to be afraid of then? Accepting it liberates you from worldly possessions and fleeting pleasures. You will realize that each day is a gift and an opportunity. Moreover, this Stoic thought will help you appreciate your friendships and relationships.

4. Look at Your Circumstances From the Third-Person Bird’s Point of View

Marcus Aurelius wrote that people are often disturbed by imaginary concerns that fill their universe. Everything is out of proportion in a stressed and troubled mind! But can our troubles compare to the cosmos’ size or the billions of years in our galactic timeline?

The philosopher emperor encourages us to have a “view from above.” Imagine seeing yourself and the things around you in the third person view. This exercise allows you to zoom in or out while maintaining your location at the center. Close your eyes and go ahead. Slowly drift away from your roof and above the city like Google Maps. Continue until you go past Earth, the Moon, and the solar system.

Open your eyes. What have you realized? Our problems—even our existence—are insignificant compared to the scale of the universe! This perspective grants us tremendous willpower to face challenges. After all, they are not a “big deal” compared to the world. This exercise also shows that arrogance is silly. We are puny in the bigger picture, no matter how famous we think we are. Therefore, pride is a futile and delusional attitude.

The “view from above” activity has another version. Go to a park or a crowded place. Instead of zooming out, take the third-person point of view and look at each detail you can find. Observe (without judging) the giggles of children, the breeze of wind, the horn sounds, and the strangers’ chatter. Ask yourself, how do you relate to these people and senses? Are their present concerns and activities crucial for you? Likewise, realize that your current life and standing are minuscule.

5. Imagine The “Perfect Person” and Strive to Emulate it

People, especially the youth, look for icons and celebrities to copy. Unfortunately, many idolize corrupt examples, which will lead them astray. Everyone has flaws. Even people who strive to stay virtuous can stumble and fall short of their standards. So how do the Stoics find the person to imitate? They imagine one.

Back in classical antiquity, the Greeks and Romans adored archetypal figures. Their statues celebrated people with muscular physiques. After all, it is easier to sculpt physical standards in stone. Representing a person with ideal virtues and character is trickier, but it is a worthwhile exercise.

On a sheet of paper, answer the following:

  • Who are your role models? What are their strengths and flaws? How would the perfect person confront these real-world people’s weaknesses? (Make a table for your responses.)
  • What are the perfect person’s ethical views and beliefs?
  • From where does this person base his values and morality?
  • What actions and statements do you regret? How would your perfect person do otherwise?
  • How would this person respond to your temptations when nobody else is around?

With these answers, construct your exemplar with whom you can compare yourself. Imagine how your perfect person would respond whenever you face a trial or conflict. Reflect how near or far you are from this standard as each day ends. But remember that this person does not exist unless you want to define him religiously.

After constructing the perfect person, create an extreme opposite—the worst being who stands against your noble example. Strive to avoid becoming like it.

See more: Top 20 Books On Stoicism That Use Principles Founded In Stoicism

6. Accept Your Past

Do you feel ashamed of your past mistakes and ways? Are you stuck with regret? In response, do you seek to change what you have done?

Stoic philosophers rightfully teach that you cannot change what has passed. You are powerless over what has happened to your “destiny.” Since nature is predestined in the Stoic worldview, fighting fate will only bring misery. However, you can influence how you interpret the past and hope for the future.

Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius introduced what Friedrich Nietzsche later called “Amor fati,” or love of fate. You cannot go back in time. Sure, you have made mistakes and feel guilty about it. That is good because you know where you have fallen short. The wisest and most responsible decision is to accept and embrace the past. Doing so protects our future from the chains of our former ways while learning never to repeat them. 

Cherishing the past gives you autonomy from your history as well. No longer will you identify with your misgivings. Instead, you recognize your willpower to persist and renew your life. Failures will impact you less, and you will find a reason behind everything that happens, whether in joy or grief.

7. Care For Others

Stoics emphasize that we have duties towards our society. We are one large brotherhood, so taking care of our families and fellow citizens contributes to the community. Because of this, philosopher Hierocles even declared that we should consider our brethren like our body parts to sustain.

Our concern and sympathy should not end in words, however. There are many ways to show our care to our loved ones, friends, and community members:

  • Treat close friends as family members.
  • Prove that you are reliable and trustworthy.
  • Show authentic empathy and interest.
  • Edify their hope when they suffer.
  • Help them fulfill their responsibilities, solve issues, and reach their goals.
  • Send gifts to them during special occasions.
  • Celebrate their achievements and milestones.
  • Provide relief and philanthropy during times of need.
  • Listen to their concerns and offer advice.

Do not limit your kindness; strive to include more people in your inner circle. This way, you can be generous to more people. You will also learn from their diverse backgrounds and perspectives.

8. Travel Inside Your Mind

Tourists go elsewhere to find peace and flee from the pressures of everyday life. But we cannot just travel whenever we want to cope. For others, having such a retreat is a luxury.

In his meditations, Marcus Aurelius said that vacations and retreats could not match the peace and freedom you can find in your soul. He even spoke against the habit of “longing for” such trips. For him, one can find true retreat, cleansing, renewal, and peace of mind anytime within yourself. It is no longer surprising that even prisoners in solitary confinement can free their minds through their thoughts and books.

If you want freedom, follow the Stoics’ advice: travel inside your mind. Shut your attention to the outside world, and explore the depths of your imagination. There, you have liberty from reality’s constraints. To do so, you may relive or even create precious memories to relieve you from anxieties and problems. You can also imagine walking in beautiful countryside, beach, or shrine.

Are you trapped in dire conditions? Do problems overwhelm you? Maybe a mental trip can console and free you. Whether in your home or office, you can travel to your desired destination within your mind!

9. Keep a Journal Every Day

Most, if not all, of the quotes from Marcus Aurelius came from his journal called Meditations. Such is the beauty of keeping a diary: you can preserve your lessons and experiences for generations to come. Moreover, writing about your daily life lets you reorient your perspective. (Remember the “view from above” exercise?)

This journal also lets you see how far you have progressed through the years. As you mature, it can uncover mistakes that you were not aware of at the moment. Such a record can be a basis for your plans, decisions, and self-perception. Furthermore, keeping a diary improves your writing skills, discipline, and story-telling.

We strongly recommend that you read Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations as your reference. Who knows, maybe the entries in your journal would guide your descendants!

10.  In Facing a Crucial Decision, Remove Its Son-Essential Layers First

What crossroads do you face now? Are you looking for a career to pursue? Do you want a life partner? There are many confusing and overwhelming factors in these situations. What do the Stoics say about deciding?

The Stoic writings teach what has been called the “stripping method.” Think about the issue you face and the layers over it. For example, in facing an ethical dilemma, do you consider your reputation, monetary gain, or benefits? Sure, there is nothing wrong with protecting your image and advantages—it is wise to do so! However, if they stand in the way of what is virtuous and long-term good, you should strip away that layer.

Emphasizing your core principles without the non-essential layers will guide you to make the right choices. In this exercise, ponder on the impacts of your decisions. Look at the virtues and sacrifices they require as well.

Let us look at the struggles many faces—choosing the right profession. This question may have many aspects, like the financial gain, return on investment, and society’s “respect.” But remove as many layers as possible until you arrive at the core. Strive to find your inner purpose and ethical beliefs. As yourself, does this career give me meaning? How can I serve my fellow people with this job? Does it align with my values? Doing this exercise reassures you that your choice is not based on short-term validation and gain.

11.  Reflect Before Sleeping

We discussed the power of morning affirmations and reflection. There, you planned and anticipated what would happen during the day. Now, at night, you can learn from what you went through. Rethink your conversations, the places you have visited, and all your actions. Meanwhile, ask these questions:

  • What does my conscience feel? Do I feel guilt, and why do I feel this way?
  • Did I speak and act according to my values?
  • How did I treat my loved ones, peers, and friends? Was I friendly, kind, and respectful to everyone?
  • Which temptations did I resist? If I would face them again, how would I fight these urges?
  • What is the greatest lesson I learned today?
  • How did I nourish my values?
  • What mistakes have I made? How can I do better?
  • How will I improve tomorrow?

Coupled with your morning reflections, answering these before you sleep can help you grow as a better person. But remember that you can never change what has already happened. Accept them, whether they are beautiful or adverse. Instead, you can only learn from them and alter how you will act in the future.

Check Out: What is Stoicism? Things You Need to Know about Stoic Philosophy

12.  Imagine Experiencing Loss and Tragedy

Seneca reminds us that we only borrow everything we have from Fortune—it can take them any time. We can lose our loved ones and possessions at any moment. Sadly, many people take their blessings for granted and forget to stay grateful. Do not commit the same mistake.

One powerful exercise to cherish our appreciation is “negative visualization.” As its name implies, this activity can make us happier and more content. Here is how: you should imagine losing people or things you hold dear at the scale you want. Envision the feeling of having no home, losing your job, living in a poor community, or having a disability. You may also picture losing a loved one or not meeting your partner. If you currently work on a project, visualize failing this task. How would you respond?

People flee from thinking about these tragedies, but this exercise makes you confront them. Try it. You will feel grateful for what you have, and it readies you for unexpected catastrophes that can strike you. Of course, do not dwell on these fears, but always remember to embrace the blessings you enjoy each day. Stay thankful because others only pray or hope for what you possess, however tiny or monumental they may be.

13.  Practice Self-Control

As discussed earlier, Stoics emphasize mental willpower. The world is full of anxieties, but they find stability and peace knowing they can control their thoughts and reactions. That gives them certainty. What about you? How will you respond to inevitable problems and changes?

The Stoics endorse training on how you deny yourself. By postponing self-gratification, you prepare your body to face deprivation. Managing your passions and desires can enhance your self-control. Furthermore, it detaches your mind from wants, especially vices that can stifle your productivity and growth.

The following are some of the self-control exercises you can try:

  • Wake up at the same time or earlier.
  • Make your bed.
  • Exercise for at least thirty minutes on the same schedule.
  • Turn off your notifications at work.
  • Turn away from social media.
  • Reject junk foods and soft drinks.
  • Make yourself uncomfortable, like not sitting on a backrest.
  • Do the Stoic exercises in this article.

As you strengthen your self-discipline, stop whining. Complaining corrupts your gratitude, draining you and the people who hear you. Instead, focus on what makes your day special. Doing this will brighten up your mood and spread sunshine to others.

14.  Read Stoic Literature

The Internet offers free translations of the works of Stoic philosophers like Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius. Go ahead and download their books. Reading Stoic literature will guide you towards a virtuous, disciplined, and serene life.

You can start with Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, one of the most influential books from classical antiquity. This undying journal contains his quick thoughts and views inspired by Stoicism.

Unlike many modern-day “Stoic” motivational speakers, Marcus Aurelius reached incomparable greatness, proving his Stoic values. He became the ruler of the largest empire since then. Given his access to scholars and books, Marcus Aurelius studied the leading philosophies of his time. But he chose Stoicism and led the Roman Empire with it. Marcus Aurelius would even write Meditations while at the war front.

Imagine the depth of wisdom you would gain reading Meditations! Here are some of the lessons recorded in his journal:

  • It is pointless to argue about what makes a good person. Just be one!
  • Outside things and situations do not distress you—it is your reaction to them. Remember that you have power over this!
  • Never do wrong; never speak lies.
  • If you want to criticize someone, first think if you have done something similar.
  • Work meaningfully; it will keep you from confusion and distractions. Moreover, it is a waste of time to labor without purpose.
  • Cherish this very moment in your memory. Our life span is so short, and the past quickly replaces everything.
  • Do not feel assured about getting remembered after you die. Those who recall you will also lose memories and pass away.
  • You can endure all things because all people experience similar hardships through their character and wisdom.
  • Pursue the truth by accepting corrections. Otherwise, you deceive and harm yourself.
  • It is normal to sympathize with people even when they wrong you. Remember that both of you are only people; we can fall into ignorance and make poor decisions. You can still choose to do what is right.

You can read these books while fulfilling the other Stoic exercises in this article. For example, you can highlight your favorite passages and reflect on them after waking up. Their wisdom can also direct you as you go through trials, temptations, and confusion. Hence, let their timeless truths fortify you.

15.  Look at Someone Else’s Perspective

Earlier, you learned about imagining the “perfect person” and thinking about what he would do in a situation. But, as we deal with other people, we should also look at their point of view. Clear yourself of prejudice and bias, even if they do not treat you kindly. Practicing empathy will help us unlock someone else’s mind and struggles. This way, you can treat them wisely and even help them at the opportune time.

Marcus Aurelius inferred that if someone does you wrong. Doing this makes it easier for you to forgive and even pity him. You will also no longer feel surprised or angry.

16.  Listen and Be Careful What you Say

The Stoics strongly discourage “thinking out loud” and speaking carelessly. Hence, think twice before criticizing, saying your opinion, or sharing your life story. People appreciate our silent listening more than unsolicited advice.

Do not prance to dominate a conversation or have the spotlight. You should instead let the other person shine and talk. They will admire your genuine interest. (But, of course, do not sound like an interrogator. Input your side as well from time to time!) After all, like Zeno once wrote, we have two ears and only one mouth, so listen more!

Never talk against anybody or discuss what you do not know. Limit how much you say. Remember: the wrong words at the wrong time can destroy your life. Epictetus instructs Stoics to speak sparingly out of need. He even said we should steer conversations from sports topics into “proper subjects!” Epictetus dissuades us from vulgarity and talks that demean or compare people.

17.  Appreciate The Virtues of Others

Instead of fixating on others’ faults, exercise your empathy by looking at their traits. Balance our assessment of their faults and virtues, especially their desire to help and do good. This habit can save you from bitterness and arrogance.

If you want to uplift yourself, listen to Marcus Aurelius’ counsel: look at your peers’ positive qualities. Are they generous or energetic? Are they close to their families? Do they strive to do well in life? Marcus Aurelius finds cheerfulness while witnessing excellence and character. You may feel the same too.

18.  Do Not Judge

Speech unintentionally reveals so much of our intentions, thoughts, and personality. While empathy is a mental exercise, it manifests in our words as we speak. Imagine how wrong it is if we verbally demean and judge a person! Worse, the incorrect phrases and intonation can distort how people perceive you even if you want to provide constructive feedback.

Epictetus said that wise people do not appraise or condemn anyone without completely understanding his motivation and background. This advice will help keep you from offending others. Fight the urge to judge.

19.  Never Waste your Time

Can you imagine someone throwing away money or jewelry in the trash can? Think of all the hurtful words that person deserves! How can anyone with a straight mind squander something so valuable? Yet, many people thoughtlessly waste time.

Seneca complained about this during his lifetime in first-century Rome. In our modern civilization, we can say that this irresponsibility has worsened. Time, which can never be recovered once lost, is casually discarded on social media, television shows, and fruitless tasks. Sure, it is right to rest and enjoy. But prioritizing these over responsibilities and diligence is miserable self-destruction.

True Stoics despise procrastination. Since we do not know what can happen tomorrow, do not delay your obligations. Likewise, control how you budget your time. Choose the responsibilities and commitments you accept. Keep a calendar and schedule your tasks.

The famous cliche is wrong—time is far more valuable than gold. Cherish each moment. Save and spend it wiser than hard-earned money. After all, we do not know when it will run out. As mentioned earlier, this Stoic advice will hit you more if you reflect on death and loss.

20.  Strive for Virtue in Everything you Do

This reminder may seem redundant, considering that all these Stoic exercises are forms of virtue. But constantly recall that this is the ultimate exercise that must rule over you. Whether alone or with others, pursue integrity and stand for what is right. True Stoics live for virtue; it is their wealth and honor.

Ironically, others might belittle you for this belief. The world will also test your character and strength. In times like those, ponder on how to convert these situations for your benefit, as Epictetus taught. Foster your self-discipline, power, and patience. But you can only do this if you strive for virtue and never flee from it.

Read more: Dispelling a Few Stoicism Myths

Kelly W
Kelly W
Dream big, play hard, take the wins and embrace the losses.

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