Medium: A Guide to Stoic Exercises

Stoicism is experiencing a renaissance in popularity. This arguably started because it provided the philosophical inspiration for the pioneers of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) in the 1950s and 1960s. By the 1980s, CBT had become the leading evidence-based form of modern psychotherapy. However, around the start of the 21st century more and more self-help books influenced by Stoic philosophy began to hit the shelves.

My background is in both academic philosophy and CBT. I was among the first wave of authors to begin writing popular books on Stoicism. I focused on self-help techniques that combined ancient Stoic philosophy with modern research-based psychology. The Stoicism of ancient Greece and Rome contained a system of psychological therapy but there was also much more to it. It’s grounded in a philosophical worldview and a set of core ethical principles — what we call today a “virtue ethic”. However, even in the ancient world, people were often drawn to Stoicism initially because it held out the promise of relieving their emotional suffering and helping them to build greater mental resilience.

Although Stoicism is more popular now than ever, many people are still unsure how they’re supposed to practice the philosophy in daily life. “How exactly,” they ask, “does it promise to relieve our suffering?” I recently created a short email course to explain six of the most important psychological practices derived from ancient Stoicism. In this article, I’ll summarize and describe them for you…

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