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APPLYING STOICISM: How to Improve Mental Health with Ancient Philosophy

Stoicism... an ancient Greek philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium which emphasizes resilience, rationality, and emotional control. Its principles can be highly effective for managing our mental health in modern times. Learning about stoicism is something that has helped me a lot with managing my mental health, with processing my traumas, and it also contributed to the creation of The MNSTR Skate Initiative. Below I have listed some of the core tenets of Stoicism and how it can be applied in our lives:

1. Dichotomy of Control

  • Principle: Understand what is within your control and what is not. Focus your efforts on what you can change and accept what you cannot.

  • Application: This helps reduce anxiety and stress. For example, instead of worrying about external events, you can focus on your reactions and attitudes towards them. This can lead to a more balanced and peaceful state of mind.

2. Practicing Mindfulness and Presence

  • Principle: Stoics emphasize being present and mindful of the current moment rather than dwelling on the past or fearing the future.

  • Application: Mindfulness practices, such as meditation or deep breathing exercises, can help in managing anxiety and depression. By concentrating on the present, you reduce the overwhelming nature of future uncertainties and past regrets.

3. Reframing Negative Thoughts

  • Principle: Cognitive reframing is central to Stoicism. This involves viewing challenges and adversities as opportunities for growth.

  • Application: When facing difficulties, ask yourself how you can learn or grow from the situation. This shift in perspective can reduce negative emotions and promote a more positive outlook on life.

4. Virtue and Values

  • Principle: Stoicism teaches that living a life of virtue—characterized by wisdom, courage, justice, and temperance—is essential for well-being.

  • Application: Align your actions with your core values and virtues. This can provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment, which is crucial for mental health. Engaging in activities that reflect your values can boost self-esteem and emotional well-being.

5. Negative Visualization (Premeditatio Malorum)

  • Principle: Anticipate potential challenges and mentally prepare for them. This doesn't mean expecting the worst but being prepared for it.

  • Application: By visualizing possible obstacles, you can reduce fear of the unknown and build resilience. This can be particularly useful in managing anxiety, as it helps you feel more prepared and less surprised by adverse events.

6. Emotional Regulation

  • Principle: Stoicism encourages the regulation of destructive emotions by examining and challenging their underlying causes.

  • Application: When experiencing strong emotions, take a step back to analyze their root causes and rationality. Techniques such as journaling or talking through your emotions can help in understanding and mitigating their impact. Mindfulness practice is helpful for this process.

7. Gratitude

  • Principle: Appreciate what you have rather than focusing on what you lack.

  • Application: Practicing gratitude can improve your mood and outlook on life. Regularly reflecting on the positive aspects of your life can counterbalance negative thoughts and foster a sense of contentment.

8. Community and Support

  • Principle: Stoicism also values the importance of community and supportive relationships.

  • Application: Building and maintaining strong social connections can provide emotional support and improve mental health. Sharing experiences and challenges with others can reduce feelings of isolation and promote a sense of belonging.

Practical Exercises:

  • Daily Reflections: Spend a few minutes each day reflecting on your thoughts and actions. Consider how well they align with Stoic principles and what you can improve.

  • Journaling: Write about your experiences, focusing on what you can control and how you can apply Stoic virtues. Please check out the journaling page of the MNSTR Method.

  • Mindfulness Meditation: Practice mindfulness to stay present and manage stress.

  • Gratitude Lists: Regularly list things you are grateful for to cultivate a positive mindset. You can write in a dedicated notebook or in your notes app which is something I prefer for quick reference.

By integrating these Stoic principles into daily life, individuals can develop a more resilient, balanced, and contented approach to mental health. Please share this article with anyone who may be interested to read this.


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