Are Stoics Happy: 7 Strategies From Stoicism For Happiness

The first question about Stoicism and happiness is this: Are Stoics happy? It somehow has to do with the dictionary meaning of stoic (with the small ‘s’) — unemotional, long-suffering, expressionless, and resigned.

However, the Stoics (with the capital ‘S’) are not emotionless people, as many around the world terribly misunderstand them to be. Read on to find out the truth.

Are Stoics Happy

Yes, the Stoics can not only be happy but also feel the full range of emotions. They can be happy, sad, angry, or intense, without the need to hide behind faces emptied of expressions. The Stoics feel emotions as given by Nature but do not get overwhelmed by them. Stoic happiness is the quintessence of living a good and meaningful life rather than one of pleasure. Stoicism does not impose being humorless and passionless as its necessary principles.

The four anchoring factors of a Stoic person’s happiness are:

  1. living in harmony with nature,
  2. practicing virtue whatever the cost,
  3. being rational to the best of their ability,
  4. exercising control and calm indifference towards outside events.

A Stoic’s life is about mastering the passions and reaching a state of apatheia, rather than discarding their natural emotions and desires. In the words of Epictetus, the Stoic sage may be “sick and yet happy, in peril and yet happy, dying and yet happy, in exile and happy, in disgrace and happy.”

Stoic Guide To Happiness

Stoicism’s Keystone of Happiness: Virtue

The Stoics strongly believe the key source of happiness is virtue or arete. To the Stoics, moral virtues lay down the foundation of a happy life. They assert one should always strive to practice virtue and do the right thing for a happier life, even if they were to fail sometimes.

For a Stoic, happiness is a by-product of virtuousness.

The Stoics also taught nothing is inherently good or bad, but it is our judgment that makes it so. We often tend to make snap judgments about people and circumstances that rob us of our peace. Epictetus said of this, “Man is affected not by events but by the view he takes of them. We should always be asking ourselves: Is this something that is, or is not, in my control? The essence of philosophy is that we should live so that our happiness depends as little as possible on external causes.”

A peaceful mind, the Stoic hold, comes up from an ability to stay open-minded and non-judgmental about ourselves and others around us. Of course, it takes vast amounts of practice and self-discipline to hold back one’s judgment and prejudice against a tug of emotions. But you can learn it through the practice of Stoic exercises.

As Seneca says, “A good character is the only guarantee of everlasting, carefree happiness. Even if some obstacle to this comes on the scene, its appearance is only to be compared to that of clouds which drift in front of the sun without ever defeating its light.” (Letter to Lucilius XXVII)

For a Stoic, happiness is a by-product of practicing virtue all the time. They feel being a good person is enough in itself to have a good life. Click To Tweet

7 Stoic Strategies To Create Happiness: Guide To A Happier Life

Stoicism is more about doing than talking. As Seneca writes in Moral Letter to Lucilius, 20.2, “Philosophy teaches us to act, not to speak; it exacts of every man that he should live according to his own standards, that his life should not be out of harmony with his words, and that, further, his inner life should be of one hue and not out of harmony with his activities.”

In all probability, a Stoic person lives a happier life than the rest of us. Stoicism is a practical philosophy that wears its heart on its sleeve: helping people live their best lives. Anyone can achieve a happy state of being if they take a leaf or two out of a Stoic person’s playbook.

We have tried to do that here: put together a set of practical instructions (strategies, if you may) for a happier life from the Stoic philosophers. Choose from these the ones you want to adopt to form a habit of happiness and equanimity.

Here are 7 strategies from Stoicism to a happier life:

  1. Recognize what is under your control
  2. Let go of all that you do not control
  3. Focus on the process of your action
  4. Accept the result, whatever it is
  5. Do not react overtly to criticism
  6. Feel grateful for all good you own
  7. Be fully aware of the present moment

1. Recognize what is under your control

Epictetus tells us much of the things within this world are outside our control. And much of our unhappiness is a result of thinking we have control over things in life that, in fact, we don’t.

The Stoics said we should focus on what we can control: our thoughts, judgments, and actions. With these in rein, we can try to create good values for others as well as ourselves.

Epictetus argues we don’t have control over what happens to us. We don’t have control over what people around us say or do. We also don’t have control of our own bodies, which get sick and old, and which eventually die without any thought about how much we love them.

Finally, the only thing we really can have control over is what we think and what judgments we make about others and situations.

So, letting go of our vain attempts to control the outside world would release a lot of our unhappiness.

And onward from this, Epictetus says: “It’s not things that upset us, but how we think about things.”

A slightly different translation of the words of Epictetus, that he wrote in the everyday language of Koine Greek, would be this: “Man is disturbed not by things, but by the views he takes of them.”

So, when things happen, we rush to make immediate judgments about those happenings. When we judge something that has happened to us is terrible and bad, then we tend to get upset, contemptuous, sad, or angry.

Similarly, if we guess or pre-judge something bad is likely to happen to us, we get fearful, stressed, or anxious.

At the base level, these negative emotions have sprung from the judgments we made about them. So, the things in themselves are empty of positive or negative values. It is what we make of them that creates positive or negative valence in us.

What would seem terrible to us at the time might actually be of little consequence at a later time. With time, we might even find these incidents happened for our good.

The judgments we make attach values to them, and then those value judgments create our emotional responses.

These value judgments, therefore, are the only things we have control over. Things that happen are not inherently good or bad, but it is within our power to decide how we see them.

And when we see them in a negative light, we get anxious and stressed.

Today I escaped from anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions — not outside.

— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

We have control over almost nothing, and yet, we have complete control over our opinions judgments about everything. It is one of the six Paradoxes of Stoicism.

As you go about your day today, bear in your mind that you do not and cannot control anything that is not of your own making; they are events controlled by external factors. But, all the same, you can control what you think about them.

And this marks the difference between unhappiness and happiness. Our serenity and stability result from our choices and judgment, not our environment.

Seneca on Happiness

2. Let go of all that you do not control

We have only the power to stay in control of our attitude and actions, and nothing more.

Accepting and exercising this, instead of frittering away our time worrying about things outside ourselves, will make us more productive and satisfied.

Epictetus, in Discourses, says, “Keep this thought at the ready at daybreak, and through the day and night — there is only one path to happiness, and that is in giving up all outside of your sphere of choice, regarding nothing else as your possession, surrendering all else to God and Fortune.”

Further on this, Marcus Aurelius says, “The cucumber is bitter? Then throw it out. There are brambles in the path? Then go around them. That’s all you need to know. Nothing more. Don’t demand to know “why such things exist.” Anyone who understands the world will laugh at you, just as a carpenter would if you seemed shocked at finding sawdust in his workshop, or a shoemaker at scraps of leather left over from work.” (Meditations, 8.50)

The Stoics believe we are in complete control over only two things in this life: our thoughts and our actions. The rest is out of our hands.

So, what is the point of wasting time and effort complaining about things that other people do, and the events that happen in the world outside? We do not have any influence over them.

For one, emotions such as anger and envy are not always without any purpose.

Anger may help us assert authority and thwart violence, and envy may propel us to work harder. In fact, in times of injustice and procrastination,they motivate us to take positive action.

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However, looking closely, we would find there are way too many times when these emotions serve to only increase our stress. The next time you feel enraged at any frustrating situation or anyone’s dorky action, you could ask yourself, “Is this anger rational or nonsensical? Would it serve a useful or futile purpose?”

And you might get answers from yourself that may dilute away your anger.

The crux is, we cannot command other people into doing things we want. We cannot control what thoughts they think, even after our clear directions. And we can never correctly predict what actions they take because of those thoughts.

And so, as the Stoic person will advise you, stop heeding much of what others say and do, and instead focus only on your thoughts and actions. Every day, call back what you really control and what you truly don’t. And then remind yourself to focus on the former and ignore the latter.

Withdraw from those things that you do not control, and focus only on what is in your control, that is, what is inside you, and you will find yourself free, happy, undisturbed.

Contemplate on these words by Epictetus as you go about your day, “There is only one way to happiness, and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond our control.”

Epictetus on worrying

3. Focus on the process of your action

A goal is actually a pie in the sky. It is a point in the future that lies beyond our complete control. Once we set a goal, a horde of external conditions gets to influence it. Of course, we can create a positive mindset about achieving it, but we can never be fully sure.

What remains in our hands is action—the acts we carry out to realize it. And the process of that action is something we can exercise our full control over.

So, instead of focusing on the goal we already set, we should focus on the process. By doing that well, we can master the complete process of the act.

Even when we get caught in circumstances beyond our control, the Stoics remind us, we still have the freedom to choose how to see it and how to respond. And our only response should be an action based on rationality and virtue.

Seneca says, in his On The Shortness of Life, “The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.”

And even though it does not assure we will always reach the set goalposts, it increases the likelihood of finding our way there more often.

Most importantly, the immediate goal of focusing on the process is within our full control. Once we convince ourselves that we have control over our actions and nothing more, it is then we gain a decisive vantage over our happiness.

The Stoics advise us to focus on carrying out an action as best as we can, whatever we are into, purely for the satisfaction of doing it well, with no thought for future rewards.

The Stoic discipline of action is threefold: guarding ourselves against acting impulsively, being mindful of our actions, and remaining detached from the results of our actions.

And while focusing on a specific action, a Stoic person eliminates all unnecessary tasks that steal their attention. This method of intense focus while removing all distractions results in what we know today as Deep Work, made famous by Cal Newport.

If you seek tranquility, do less. Or (more accurately) do what’s essential. Do less, better. Because most of what we do or say is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you’ll have more tranquility. But to eliminate the necessary actions, we need to eliminate unnecessary assumptions as well.

— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

And that ambition of completely, exclusively, and sharply focusing on the work we choose to do, from start to finish, will remarkably change your happiness for the better.

For focused action, a Stoic never reacts immediately after feeling a negative emotion. They wait so that they do get devoured by the emotion. As Donald Robertson in his book Stoicism And The Art of Happiness says, “A brave man isn’t someone who doesn’t experience any trace of fear whatsoever but someone who acts courageously despite feeling anxiety.”

4. Accept the result, whatever it is

While the Stoics argued events in the natural world were beyond one’s control, like floods, diseases, and death, they advised one can only do good in accepting them. There could only be misery if one tried to control things beyond human control.

For a Stoic person, everything that happens had to happen.

The Stoics believe the cosmos programs all the events that occur. Because of this, the pre-existing causes make events happen and prevent all other alternatives from happening. And our joy lies in willingly conforming to this preordained plan of the universe.

A Stoic person would advise, “Accept everything which happens, even if it seems disagreeable, because it leads to this, the health of the universe.”

As Epictetus put it, “Don’t seek to have events happen as you wish, but wish them to happen as they do happen, and all will be well with you.”

To Epictetus, all external events are determined by fate, and are thus beyond our control. But we can accept whatever happens calmly and dispassionately.

On this, Seneca said, “We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more in imagination than in reality.”

And Marcus Aurelius wrote, “Accept things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.”

Another Stoic strategy is to remind ourselves that whatever happens does not have to suit our desires. The universe works on its own, and it does not need to function to benefit us.

Given this, how can we expect the universe to deliver whatever we might want?

We may think the universe is working against us, but in fact, it has too much work to do than smoothen out the logjams in the way of our success and happiness. The cosmos keeps moving as it wants, without caring much about us, as we are too minuscule in its grand design of things.

So, wouldn’t it be far better to accept what comes our way? We cannot change what the cosmos has preset to happen, but we can choose to accept the result calmly, whatever it is.

What are we, if not just specks of moments in the whole stretch from antiquity to infinity?

Once again, we call up Marcus Aurelius:

Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.

— Marcus Aurelius

5. Do not react overtly to criticism

The Stoic philosopher Epictetus spent his boyhood and adolescence in Rome as a slave. For anyone else in his place, they might have let their minds slip into a non-functional state.

Days in and days out of doing just what they get told to do, and getting punished severely for the smallest of mistakes, can shut down the rational, thinking part of the brain.

But not Epictetus. He kept his mind vibrant with deep thoughts of philosophy.

Once, his master Epaphroditus began twisting his leg as an amusement. Epictetus told him, “If you go on, you will break my leg.”

But Epaphroditus kept twisting. Finally, when his leg broke, Epictetus uttered through his pain, with unruffled serenity, “Did I not tell you that you would break my leg?”

That was the hallmark of a Stoic: staying unperturbed in mind by the things they cannot control.

Epictetus asks us penetratingly, “If a person gave your body to any stranger he met on his way, you would certainly be angry. And do you feel no shame in handing over your own mind to be confused and mystified by anyone who happens to verbally attack you?”

And this is what he meant: We would react with anger and desperation if anyone were to capture us and make us serve a slave. Then how come we let our minds serve as slaves to other people’s whims and orders several times a day?

stoic exercises

When people around us do or say things to us that make us react, it means they have invaded and enslaved our minds. We argue with them, trying to prove they are wrong. We spend days and hours finding ways to put them down.

What they have done is actually chain our mind to a pole — and now the mind restlessly scoots around the same constricted area of thoughts, over and over, without freedom.

We forget we have a choice to set our mind free so that it finds peace and solace.

A Stoic person always holds that for a thing to be good, it must be of benefit to us. And the only thing that always benefits us is a calm and rational mind.

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No matter what annoyance anyone brings to our doorstep, we have a choice to save our minds from being chained to it.

• However, history is thankful to Epaphroditus because, even though a cruel master, he allowed Epictetus to attend the lectures of Musonius Rufus, a distinguished teacher of Stoicism. And, in time, he let Epictetus go free.

6. Feel grateful for all good you own

When we always hanker after the things we do not possess, we tire and burn ourselves out. It’s an endless run on an invisible treadmill. It satisfies us for just so long as it takes to get used to a new toy. And then, we start our run for the next goalpost.

That is not a rational way to reach happiness.

Seneca warned us, “No person has the power to have everything they want, but it is within their power not to want what they don’t have, and to cheerfully put to good use what they do have.”

Even science says running on the hedonic treadmill is an ineffective strategy to make ourselves happier.

A far more meaningful way is to feel grateful for the things we already have right now. It’s much wiser to be full of praise for the many blessings we have in our life. Seneca’s short and crisp sentence on this was, “Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart.”

The following is an effective Stoic exercise to have a heartfelt sense of deep gratitude for every good thing in our life.

• The simple exercise is to imagine our lives without some of the things that we take for granted — a house, a spouse, food on the table, a table to work upon, eyes to see, hands to work, legs to walk.

Our daily grind makes us forget the value of simple pleasures in life, as being alive to see another day, family, pets, and friends, the ability to love and laugh. We lose focus of them by getting fixated on what we do not own yet.

Asking ourselves, “What would my life be without these?” would make us more conscious of those things we take for granted.

Then it gets easy to feel thankful for and appreciative of all that we have in our life. Avoiding setting our targets on the things we lack, and instead, being happy with our blessings, is a sign of wisdom to a Stoic person.

Marcus Aurelius said of this, we imagine how would our lives be different if we did not have the important people and the pleasant conditions we have now? And how much would we crave to have them in our life? After that, we will find it easier to start a habit of not treating them lightly anymore.

Marcus advises himself, “Do not indulge in dreams of having what you have not, but reckon up the chief of the blessings you do possess, and then thankfully remember how you would crave for them if they were not yours.”

Again, Marcus Aurelius writes, “Take full account of what excellencies you possess, and in gratitude remember how you would hanker after them, if you had them not.”

The science of positive psychology also supports this: Counting our blessings and appreciating what we have increases our happiness levels.

7. Be fully aware of the present moment

A Stoic person carries this knowledge everywhere they go: all happiness lies in the present.

Seneca advises, “Every day as it comes should be welcomed and reduced forthwith into our own possession as if it were the finest day imaginable.”

Because thoughts about the future are loaded with worries and anxieties. And thoughts about the past tow along stresses and regrets.

To be happy and free, a Stoic person chooses to spend most of their time in the present moment.

a happy stoic person
Happiness of the present moment is boundless

Standing in and acting from the present, we understand a worrying mind never changes the future for anyone. We also realize no one ever gets the promise of a perfect future. When in the present moment, we do not worry about whether the plans and dreams of tomorrow will come to fruition or not.

The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.

— Seneca

When in the present, we do not try to rewrite our history. With our feet firmly planted in the moment, we do not run in endless loops over things from the past that we could have done differently. We do not get trapped in a mire of regret, resentment, and bitterness.

Once we are away from the disturbing thoughts about the future and past, we find calmness and peace. It is then that we can focus fully on the work at hand. We often refer to the conscious practice of mooring ourselves in the present as mindfulness.

And when we immerse ourselves into our work, we attain a state when we forget the surroundings and time, and even our hunger and thirst. This is a state the Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly calls Flow. He describes this as the state of “optimal experience”—one that makes us reach a level of high satisfaction.

The four cardinal virtues of StoicismWisdom, Justice, Temperance, Courage—can help you live your best possible life.

We are living in a time of great upheaval. In this post-pandemic world, most of us are anxious about an uncertain future. As we project ourselves into the future, we do not see things in much clarity or surety. We fear that our goals and dreams might lay ripped apart.

In times like these, a Stoic person would be more headstrong about living in the reality of here and now. They would be happy to wake up to a new morning, to find enough to eat and share with their close ones, and end the day in a night of healthy sleep.

They would have asked, “What do you achieve by fixating on a future that is always unknown, unpredictable? Instead, why not accept each day as a wondrous gift and live it with a sense of gratitude and awe?”

Video: Stoicism And Happiness

Watch Ryan Holiday discuss some of the most important Stoic insights into happiness:

Stoicism's Simple Secret To Being Happier | Ryan Holiday | Daily Stoic

Stoic Triangle of Happiness

A simple three-boundary figure to show Stoic happiness or eudaimonia is The Stoic Triangle of Happiness. Its three arms are virtue, control, and responsibility, and the area inside is eudaimonia or happiness.

Stoic Triangle of Happiness Eudaimonia
Stoic Triangle of Happiness

Control

The Stoic divides the world into two halves by a principle called the dichotomy of control. It says there are things in this world we can control, like our judgment, impulse, desires, intentions. Everything else lies beyond our control, like others’ opinions of you, your body, reputation, material possessions.

The Stoics recognize some things are under their control, and others are not. For a good life, they only try to change the things they can control, not those they cannot.

The Stoics advise us to focus on and get better at the things we control and let go of things we do not. The dichotomy of control helps us complain less and maintain our equanimity more.

Responsibility

The Stoics ask us to take responsibility for all happening to us without blaming others. What good is blaming another? Because either they did it out of ignorance, or they were under compulsion, or it was the best judgment they took at that point.

When we take responsibility for things involving us and decide how to respond to them with wisdom and judgment, it makes us more prudent and independent — both freeing us from mental enslavement to others.

Virtue

Virtue, or moral excellence, is the cornerstone of Stoic happiness. The Stoics hold humans were living meaningless lives if they did not live them with virtue. Virtue is completely sufficient for a life of happiness, and a virtuous person already has everything that is required for a good life.

For achieving eudaimonia, they strictly advise us to practice the four cardinal virtues to the best of our ability.

Eudaimonia

Eudaimonia is a Greek word for flourishing or life-satisfaction. It literally means having a good relationship with our daemon, our divine inner nature. Eudaimonia, sometimes written as eudemonia, does not mean “happiness” in the modern sense of “feeling good or being cheerful,” but rather as being blessed or fortunate. These days, we translate eudaimonia as “flourishing.”

To the Greeks, most of all Aristotle, it epitomizes the best kind of happiness. In ancient Greek philosophy, eudaimonia typifies the condition of someone living “the good life.” A eudaimonic person has everything that is intrinsically good and is living their best possible life. For the Epicureans, eudaimonia was having positive feelings like pleasure (hedonia) and tranquillity (ataraxia). But for the Stoics, the requisite, and the singular, constituent of eudaimonia is “virtue” (arete).

Eudaimonia is also the feeling one has when they look back over their years at the end of their active lives, perhaps on their deathbed, and remark, “I have lived a good life!”

To the Stoics, eudaimonia is the ultimate form of happiness that one may achieve.

Does Stoic happiness hold against psychology?

According to Positive Psychology, what many call the Science of Happiness, happiness or well-being is both positive feelings, pleasure, and joy (hedonic well-being or subjective well-being, SWB)) as well as meaning, purpose, and life-satisfaction (psychological well-being or eudaimonic well-being, EWB).

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However, Kashdan, Biswas-Diener, and King suggest hedonic and eudaimonic well-being overlap conceptually and may have mechanisms that operate together. The authors write: “When Aristotle proposed the distinction between eudaimonia and hedonism, he rejected the pursuit of pleasure, per se, suggesting that human beings ought to listen to a higher calling of a life of virtue. Yet, Aristotle also noted that eudaimonia was the most pleasant of human experiences. Years of research on the psychology of well-being have demonstrated that often human beings are happiest when they are engaged in meaningful pursuits and virtuous activities.”

One of the groundbreaking findings from the field is that the pursuit of happiness makes us unhappy. People who value happiness highly are likely to have worse overall wellbeing, more depressive symptoms, and a lower ratio of positive to negative emotions.

It is something that agrees with the spirit of Stoicism, which asserts instead of running after happiness, if we choose to live virtuously, a good life will follow.

Before exploring how you too can achieve the Stoic state of happiness, here is a surprising fact: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), the leading evidence-based form of psychotherapy in use today for treating anxiety and depression, is indebted to Stoicism.

Both Stoicism and CBT insist emotions arise mainly from our beliefs and thoughts. And both recommend we can get better of our emotional upheavals by changing our beliefs. Chrysippus contended a philosopher’s role should be that of a “physician of the soul,” which we can safely interpret now as a psychotherapist.

Books On Stoicism And Happiness

  1. A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine
  2. A Field Guide to a Happy Life: 53 Brief Lessons for Living by Massimo Pigliucci
  3. Stoicism and The Art of Happiness: Practical Wisdom for Everyday Life by Donald Robertson
  4. Does Happiness Write Blank Pages? On Stoicism and Artistic Creativity by Piotr Stankiewicz
  5. On the Happy Life (Illustrated): De Vita Beata by Seneca – Translation by Aubrey Stewart
  6. The Good Life Handbook: Epictetus’ Enchiridion (Stoicism in Plain English) – Chuck Chakrapani

Final Words

In a sentence, the Stoic way of happiness is living, virtuously, living consistently, and living naturally. So, start the Stoic way of living a happier life today. As Epictetus would have told you, “From now on, then, resolve to live as a grown-up who is making progress.”

Life is barely long enough to do all the great things you want to do. You may realize this if you have a 50-item bucket list that still has a bunch sitting there remaining undone year after year. We are never sure how much time we are left with on this planet, so where’s the time to waste?

From time to time in a day, the Stoics reminded themselves of death. This made them sharply aware of the shortness of life and led them to not waste their time on trivial things.

So, start living your greatest moments today onward and make your future self the best possible version of yourself. Seneca warned us: “Whatever time has passed is owned by death.”

Find out what the Stoics held and said on death: 21 Unforgettable Stoic Quotes on Death.

FAQs

  • What is happiness for the Stoics?

    Stoicism holds a life of happiness requires the cultivation of a mental state of virtue or excellence, which the Stoics associate with wisdom and rationality. The ideal, good life comprises living in harmony with nature or cosmos, with calm indifference towards external events, and in amity with other beings. The founder of Stoicism, Zeno of Citium, defined happiness as a smooth flow of life. His successors, Cleanthes and Chrysippus, took forward this definition.

    In modern times, we usually think of happiness as a positive emotion or a good mood that lasts a short time. The ancient Stoics used the Greek term eudaimonia for happiness, which is how a person feels about their entire life lived up to that point. A eudaimonic life is a fulfilling and satisfactory life.

    Eudaimonia does not translate exactly as happiness, but, is close enough. Eudaimonia is the enduring kind of positive emotion.

  • What does Seneca say on happiness?

    This is what Seneca says on being happy by being mindfully present in the moment: “True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.”

    In De Vita Beata (About A Happy Life), Seneca gives a useful definition of happiness: “We can say that a man is happy who knows good and bad only in terms of good or bad minds. He is a man who worships honour, who is satisfied with his own virtue, who is neither puffed up by good fortune nor cast down by back luck, who knows no good other than that which he can bestow upon himself, and whose real pleasure lies in despising pleasures.”

    He asks, “Why shouldn’t we say that a happy life consists of a mind which is free, upstanding, undaunted, steadfast, beyond the influence of fear or desire, a mind which thinks nothing is good except honour and nothing is bad except depravity, and regards everything else as a mass of background noise that cannot add or take away anything from the happiness of our lives, but which come and go without increasing or diminishing the greatest goodness?”

    And then answers, “A man of these principles, whether he wants to or not, will be accompanied by constant cheerfulness, a sublime happiness, which comes from on high, because he delights in what he has, and desires no greater pleasures than those which his home can afford.”

  • What did Epictetus say on happiness?

    For Epictetus, happiness comes from focusing our concern on what is up to us while not worrying about what is beyond our control. Epictetus’ concept of happiness was freedom from fear, worry, grief, and dependence upon luck.
    Perhaps the briefest and yet the greatest advice Epictetus gave on happiness were these: “There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.”

    In The Art of Living, Epictetus tells us: “Your happiness depends on three things, all of which are within your power: your will, your ideas concerning the events in which you are involved, and the use you make of your ideas.”

    In Enchiridion, he lays out how we may find out what are those things we can, and cannot, control: “Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our actions. The things in our control are by nature free, unrestrained, unhindered; but those not in our control are weak, slavish, restrained, belonging to others.”

    And this is excellent advice Epictetus gives out on how to act in each sphere of life if we are to be happy: “Remember that you ought to behave in life as you would at a banquet. As something is being passed around it comes to you; stretch out your hand, take a portion of it politely. It passes on; do not detain it. Or it has not come to you yet; do not project your desire to meet it, but wait until it comes in front of you. So act toward children, so toward a wife, so toward office, so toward wealth.”

  • What did Marcus Aurelius say on happiness?

    Marcus Aurelius quote on happiness

    And now, six quotes on happiness by the emperor-philosopher Marcus Aurelius:

    1. God did not intend my happiness to rest with someone else. — Marcus Aurelius
    2. The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts. — Marcus Aurelius
    3. Everything, a horse, a vine, is created for some duty. Man’s true delight is to do the things he was made for. — Marcus Aurelius
    4. Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking. — Marcus Aurelius
    5. Enjoyment means doing as much of what your nature requires as you can. And you can do that anywhere. Keep in mind the ease with which logos is carried through all things. That’s all you need. — Marcus Aurelius
    6. The happiness of those who want to be popular depends on others; the happiness of those who seek pleasure fluctuates with moods outside their control; but the happiness of the wise grows out of their own free acts. — Marcus Aurelius

    Check out the 100 Marcus Aurelius Quotes from Meditations — perhaps the greatest book ever for beginner and advanced followers of Stoicism.

• • •

Author Bio: Sandip Roy – a medical doctor, psychology writer, happiness researcher. Founder of Happiness India Project, and chief editor of its blog. He writes popular-science articles on positive psychology and related medical topics.


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