In a world currently in flux, it’s useful for us to have an internal home base. With this in mind, here’s the first of our homeschooling resources:
Stoicism is a philosophy of ethics based upon the idea that happiness can be achieved by accepting our lot in life. By accepting things just as they are we’re not allowing ourselves to be controlled by intrusive thoughts or feelings of want.
Many of us experience unhappiness because our needs are insatiable. We work hard for a while, then once we’re comfortable, we become disinterested and go on to form new wants and interests. According to the Stoics, the easiest way to break this cycle is to learn to want the things we already have.
Top Tip: Name three things you’re grateful for and check out our wellbeing guide
No matter how hard we try to prevent bad days from happening, at some point, one will come along anyway. Seneca, a prominent Roman Stoic, believed that if we practice “negative visualisation”, or the act of imagining a tough time, we lower the impact it has on us when it does happen.
Top tip: Imagine a bad day – the children won’t settle, you get a bad night’s sleep – over time, see how you feel when these things happen.
Most people seek happiness by changing the world around them. However, the Stoics believed that we gain happiness by changing ourselves – namely our judgements – about the world around us. They divided all human experience into two main categories: things we control and things we do not control.
We don’t control Covid, other people, the past or the future, for example. We can influence them, but we do not control them. The only thing we can control is our reaction to these things. If we try to exert complete control over situations in which we have none, we become angry and frustrated when it inevitably doesn’t go the way we want.
Top Tip: Use a traffic light system
• Put things in the Red Box that: You’ve no control over and you can’t change – so forget about it!
• Place things in the Amber Box that: You might be able to work on – but only when you feel able to, and remember you can’t change anything apart from your own reaction!
• Put things in the Green Box that: You have control over and can change – hurrah!
According to Seneca, we should offer ourselves to fate, as “it is a great consolation that it is together with the universe we are swept along.”
Think about life like we’re all actors in play written by someone else – namely fate. We cannot choose the role that we’ve been given, but we can play it to the best of our ability. We can’t always change things to suit us, so change our wants to conform to events. In other words, try to feel comfortable with everything happening just the way it does. It’s meant to be that way!
Top Tip: Sit quietly, close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you. Let them wash over you and note every time there’s a new noise by saying ‘hear’.
Stoic meditation is active and requires you to reflect on the events of the day. Did you get angry or upset? If so, why? What could you have done to avoid getting upset? By making small adjustments over time, we can become much more adept at handling tough days.
Top Tip: Set aside a few minutes to note down your thoughts on the day – notice how you think about things that happened now that some time has passed.