Stoic Week: What did we learn?

Summary of Tim LeBon’s report on the statistical data compiled from participants in Stoic Week 2013.

Stoic Week 2013

What did we learn?

Stoic Train Station

The success of Stoic Week 2013, as a form of engagement between academia and the general public, surprised all of us. Stoic Week 2012 attracted about 80 participants but in 2013 this number shot-up and a whopping 2,441 individuals took part in the week-long Handbook-based study we’d designed, which involves trying to live like a Stoic would recommend. Those are just the people who registered and completed the online forms – there were probably others so the real number of people involved may be over 3,000.  The level of interest was fueled in part by the media attention the event attracted.

Tim LeBon compiled a superbly, detailed report on the statistical data we gathered. That’s available for public consumption in full.   (So check Tim’s report first if you have any questions about the stats.)  I’m just going to give a summary now the dust has settled and we’re planning some follow-on events. Some of these findings may come as a surprise. Some may meet the expectations of modern proponents of Stoicism – but that’s good to confirm. So what do we learn from the data?

  • Overall, scores on our Stoic Attitudes and Behaviours Scale (SABS) were positively correlated with validated measures of happiness, positive emotion, and flourishing.
  • Stoic behaviours were generally more associated with well-being than attitudes, across all three measures used.
  • Knowledge of Stoic theory was moderately correlated with wellbeing but practicing Stoicism had a stronger association in this regard.

The items most highly-correlated with well-being, which were the same across all three measures, were:

  • When an upsetting thought enters my mind the first thing I do is remind myself it’s just an impression in my mind and not the thing it claims to represent.
  • I make an effort to pay continual attention to the nature of my judgements and actions.
  • I consider myself to be a part of the human race, in the same way that a limb is a part of the human body. It is my duty to contribute to its welfare.

The last of these three was overall the one most associated with positive emotions, and the absence of negative ones.

Stoic attitudes and behaviours overall were most strongly correlated with emotions labeled “joyful” – a finding that may surprise some people. Stoicism was slightly more correlated with the presence of positive emotions than with the absence of negative ones.

On average, the three measures of well-being showed increases of 14% for Life Satisfaction, 9% increase for positive emotions and 11% decrease for negative emotions (SPANE), and 9% increase for overall well-being on the Flourishing scale. These are quite high levels of improvement for an intervention lasting only one week.

The attitude people were most likely to endorse was:

  • Peace of mind comes from abandoning fears and desires about things outside of our control.

The attitude they were least likely to endorse was:

  • The cosmos is a single, wise, living thing.

The level of Stoic attitudes and behaviours increased substantially directly following Stoic Week. The items that increased the most during Stoic Week were:

  • When an upsetting thought enters my mind the first thing I do is remind myself it’s just an impression in my mind and not the thing it claims to represent.
  • I try to anticipate future misfortunes and rehearse rising above them.

We used a very broad range of interventions – a highly “multi-component” approach. In terms of the popularity of the various strategies, there were six different audio recordings, all of which were rated approximately 4 out of 5 on average for satisfaction, Premeditation and the View from Above being marginally more popular than the Morning and Evening meditation techniques (four recordings).

However, in rank order, the most highly-rated exercises based on written guidance were:

  1. What’s in our Power? (Monday)
  2. Stoic Acceptance and Stoic Action (Wednesday)
  3. The Practice of Stoic Mindfulness (Thursday)
  4. Early-Morning Meditation
  5. Late Evening Meditation
  6. The View from Above (Sunday)

Some more data:

  • On average participants spent 38 minutes per day on the Stoic Week exercises. (Some critics of the project had been quite scathing about the amount of commitment expected being too much, but this perhaps suggests they were over-estimating the time required.)
  • Satisfaction ratings with the quality of content in the Handbook were extremely high, and up on the preceding year’s project.
  • Contrary to the claim often made that Stoicism appeals only men, participants were 51.5% males and 48.5% females.
  • Sometimes it’s claimed Stoicism doesn’t appeal to younger people but age groups were pretty evenly represented, with 17% being aged 21-30, for example, and 26% being from the most common age-range, 51-60 years.

The down-side was that we didn’t have a high completion rate for the forms, unfortunately, which affects the reliability of the data, although the findings were broadly consistent with the preceding year.  (We might need to do a more carefully-controlled study with a smaller number of participants to get a higher response rate for completion of the measures.)

When asked “How much do you think Stoicism has helped you?” the average response was 3.8 out of 5 overall. Satisfaction with the Stoic Week 2013 Handbook was extremely high, at 4.5 out of 5 overall. Over 93% of people answered “yes” to the question “Has Stoic week made you want to learn more about Stoicism?” – which is something I would, personally, regard as a resounding success!

Stoic Week 2013

Stoic Week REDUX

Miss your chance to take part in Stoic Week 2013. We’re asking people to work their way through the seven-day Handbook and take part in an online forum, sharing their experiences with other people doing the same thing.

Stoic Week REDUX

Did you miss Stoic Week 2013?  Or would you be interested in doing it again?  This is your chance!  Starting on Monday 7th April 2014, we’re asking for volunteers to repeat Stoic Week on a more informal basis.  We may keep this going by repeating the Handbook, starting on Mondays, over the next few weeks, so you can drop-in or drop-out.  Use this discussion thread and the Google+ Community to support each other by posting updates each day (if possible) and commenting supportively on other people’s updates.

You can read (or print) a free HTML copy of the Stoic Week 2013 Handbook on the new modernstoicism.com e-learning website.  There’s also an EPUB e-book version of the Handbook, which you can read on most tablets, mobile phones, and e-readers, etc.  You’ll also find the audio/video materials for Stoic Week on the Stoicism Today website.

If you’re interested in taking part in Stoic Week, please register to use the modernstoicism.com e-learning site and introduce yourself on the general discussion forum thread below below, or just post any questions you have.

General Discussion Forum: Stoic Week REDUX

 

NEWS: Launching modernstoicism.com

Launching our new Modern Stoicism e-learning site. Please join the development forum if you’re interested in Stoicism and help us to design the forthcoming online course in Stoic practice.

Marcus-Aurelius-Gallery-2_thumb.jpgWe’re pleased to announce the launch of our new Moodle e-learning website for Stoic Practice:

Modern Stoicism

Anyone can register on this site and we’d like as many people as possible to take part in the development forum, while we refine the design of our forthcoming e-learning course on Stoic practice.  We plan to pilot the new course in about six weeks’ time, hopefully.  Please share your ideas and give us feedback on the sample course materials that will be posted shortly.  In the meantime, there are a few bits and pieces to look at and a lot more to come over the next few days.  For example, check out this HTML5 slideshow of Epictetus’ Handbook in plain English.  Well, the first few paragraphs, at least.  Would you like to have the whole thing in this format?  Does it work okay on tablets and other devices?

Slideshow: Epictetus’ Stoic Handbook

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well as the Google+ community for regular updates.


Now Available: Teach yourself Stoicism and the Art of Happiness (2013)

Out now! Teach Yourself: Stoicism and the Art of Happiness (2013) by Donald Robertson.

Teach Yourself:
Stoicism and the Art of Happiness (2013)

Teach Yourself: Stoicism and the Art of Happinessby Donald Robertson

Now available in the UK, published by Hodder.  ISBN: 9781444187106. You can now order from the publisher, or from Amazon and all major online booksellers in paperback or ebook (inc. Kindle) format.  Will also become available in the USA and other countries around February 2014.  However, in the meantime, The Book Depository will ship overseas from the UK free of charge.

Why, then, do you wonder that good men are shaken in order that they may grow strong? No tree becomes rooted and sturdy unless many a wind assails it. For by its very tossing it tightens its grip and plants its roots more securely; the fragile trees are those that have grown in a sunny valley. It is, therefore, to the advantage even of good men, to the end that they may be unafraid, to live constantly amidst alarms and to bear with patience the happenings which are ills to him only who ill supports them. – Seneca, On Providence

This new addition to Hodder’s popular Teach Yourself series provides a detailed introduction to Stoic philosophy, with particular emphasis on applying Stoic ethics and therapy to modern living. Donald Robertson is a registered psychotherapist, specialising in cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) for anxiety and other evidence-based approaches, with a background in academic philosophy. He is the author of four previous books, two of which also deal with Stoicism and its relation to modern psychology and psychotherapy:

Stoicism and the Art of Happiness is the product of Donald’s experience over the past fifteen years, in his attempt to integrate the ancient wisdom of Stoic philosophy with modern evidence-based approaches to psychological therapy and stress management.

Chapters Include

  1. Preface: modern Stoicism
  2. The way of the Stoic: “Living in agreement with Nature”
  3. Stoic Ethics: The nature of the good
  4. The promise of philosophy (“therapy of the passions”)
  5. The discipline of desire (Stoic acceptance)
  6. Love, friendship, and the ideal Sage
  7. The discipline of action (Stoic philanthropy)
  8. Premeditation of adversity
  9. The discipline of judgement (Stoic mindfulness)
  10. Self-awareness and the “Stoic fork”
  11. The view from above & Stoic cosmology
  12. eBook Appendix: The contemplation of death

You can also read a free sample chapter from the book online.

Free Sample Chapter: Teach Yourself Stoicism (2013)

Free excerpt from Teach Yourself Stoicism and the Art of Happiness (2013) by Donald J. Robertson.

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If you can’t see the embedded document above, you should be able to follow this link to download it from the cloud using Microsoft SkyDrive.

Teach Yourself Stoicism Cover 2013

Stoic Week 2013 starts on Monday!

Roundup of information about Stoic Week 2013, which starts on Monday, the 25th November.

Stoic Week 2013 officially begins on Monday morning, the 25th November 2013.  Stoic Week is a collaboration between a multi-disciplinary team of academic philosophers, classicists, psychotherapists and psychologists involved in research on Stoicism’s potential applications for the challenges of modern living.  This is its second year, and over 600 people have already registered online to take part by following our Stoic Handbook during the week and recording the outcomes.  You can still register to participate by completing the pre-study questionnaires online at the Stoicism Today website run by the University of Exeter:

Register to Participate in Stoic Week 2013

You can get regular updates by following @Stoicweek on Twitter or joining our Stoicism Facebook group.  Stoic Week has been covered across the media in The Guardian, Telegraph, Times, Financial Times, and Independent newspapers in the UK, as well as The Spectator magazine and the Channel 4 website.  You can see a current list of links to relevant media coverage on the page below:

Media Coverage of Stoic Week 2013

The team have also organised a one-day conference called “Stoicism for Everyday Life” on 30th November, at Birkbeck, the University of London.  (I’m speaking on the relationship between Stoicism and CBT.)  Tickets were issued free of charge and we expected around 200 people to attend.  However, around 400 people attempted to register so extra spaces were made available!  This event is now sold-out.

Stoicism for Everyday Life Event

Naturalistic Psychology in Galen and Stoicism
Naturalistic Psychology in Galen and Stoicism

Who are the team?

Stoic Week is led by Professor Christopher Gill of Exeter, author of Naturalistic Psychology in Galen and Stoicism  (2010).  The team also includes a number of other authors in the field of Stoicism: Jules Evans, author of Philosophy for Life and other Dangerous Situations (2012) and philosopher John Sellars, of Birkbeck, the University of London, who is the author of Stoicism (2006) and The Art of Living: The Stoics on the Nature and Function of Philosophy (2003).  I’m also involved; my books on Stoicism are The Philosophy of CBT: Stoic Philosophy as Rational and Cognitive Psychotherapy (2010) and Teach Yourself Stoicism and the Art of Happiness (2013), my self-help book Build your Resilience (2012) also has a chapter on Stoic philosophy.

New Book: Teach yourself Stoicism and the Art of Happiness (2013)

Teach Yourself Stoicism, a new book coming out in a few weeks’ time on Stoicism and modern living, by Donald Robertson.

Teach Yourself:

Stoicism and the Art of Happiness (2013)

Teach Yourself: Stoicism and the Art of HappinessDonald J. Robertson

Due for publication by Hodder, December 2013. ISBN: 9781444187106. You can pre-order from Amazon and all major online booksellers.  Follow the book on Goodreads.

Why, then, do you wonder that good men are shaken in order that they may grow strong? No tree becomes rooted and sturdy unless many a wind assails it. For by its very tossing it tightens its grip and plants its roots more securely; the fragile trees are those that have grown in a sunny valley. It is, therefore, to the advantage even of good men, to the end that they may be unafraid, to live constantly amidst alarms and to bear with patience the happenings which are ills to him only who ill supports them. – Seneca, On Providence

This new addition to Hodder’s popular Teach Yourself series provides a detailed introduction to Stoic philosophy, with particular emphasis on applying Stoic ethics and therapy to modern living. Donald Robertson is a registered psychotherapist, specialising in cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) for anxiety and other evidence-based approaches, with a background in academic philosophy. He is the author of four previous books, two of which also deal with Stoicism and its relation to modern psychology and psychotherapy:

Stoicism and the Art of Happiness is the product of Donald’s experience over the past fifteen years, in his attempt to integrate the ancient wisdom of Stoic philosophy with modern evidence-based approaches to psychological therapy and stress management.

Table of Contents

  1. Preface: modern Stoicism
  2. The way of the Stoic: “Living in agreement with Nature”
  3. Stoic Ethics: The nature of the good
  4. The promise of philosophy (“therapy of the passions”)
  5. The discipline of desire (Stoic acceptance)
  6. Love, friendship, and the ideal Sage
  7. The discipline of action (Stoic philanthropy)
  8. Premeditation of adversity
  9. The discipline of judgement (Stoic mindfulness)
  10. Self-awareness and the “Stoic fork”
  11. The view from above & Stoic cosmology
  12. eBook Appendix: The contemplation of death

@Stoicweek 2013 – How to stay in the loop?

How can you keep updated on the deluge of articles, activities, and events, during Stoic Week 2013?

Stoicism and ResearchStoic Week 2013 starts on 25th November.  You can register to participate by completing the online forms on the page below, where you can also download the official Handbook.  The Handbook contains basic guidance on how to live like a Stoic, and was put together by a team of academics and psychologists who specialise in the study of Stoicism.

The Stoic Week 2013 Handbook

For regular updates via social media and your mobile phone, etc., you can follow the event through one of the pages below:

Follow @Stoicweek on Twitter

We have 1,200 followers on Twitter.  You can also use the #Stoicweek hashtag.

Follow the Stoic Week Event Page on Facebook

There are 271 people who have “joined” the event via this page, and 850 people following the associated Stoicism discussion group on Facebook.

Follow the Stoic Week Event Page on Google+

We’ve just set this up but people have been joining already.  I’m guessing this will allow you to get notifications direct to your Android mobile phone, etc.

Follow the Stoicism Today blog via the University of Exeter

You can join 255 people who subscribe to this using the widget in the top-right of the WordPress blog.  You’ll get notified of the blog posts.  There are lots lined up during Stoic Week from various authors and academics on Stoicism, etc.

News: Download the @Stoicweek 2013 Handbook

Announcing the publication of the Stoic Week 2013 Handbook, downloadable free of charge from the internet.

Epictetus-Enchiridion-Poster_thumb.jpgStoic Week 2013 is almost here. It starts on 25th November this year. We’re pleased to announce you can now download the Handbook. All the resources are available from the main Stoic Week 2013 page on the University of Exeter’s Stoicism Today blog:

http://blogs.exeter.ac.uk/stoicismtoday/stoic-week-2013/

There are new audio recordings of Stoic meditation exercises, videos, the Stoic Attitudes and Behaviours Scale (SABS) and, of course, the much-anticipated Stoic Week 2013 Handbook!  (I can say that in good conscience because people have been constantly messaging me asking when it will be made available!)

Please remember that to participate in the study (and we’ve got a flood of applicants already) you need to complete the online questionnaires on the above page.  The Handbook can be downloaded from Skydrive and we’ll make other formats available soon.  You should also be able to see the embedded version below, which you can export as PDF or view full-screen using the controls underneath.  (Honestly, if you can’t see it below then try upgrading your browser to the current version, or just use the link to Skydrive above!)  You can follow Stoic Week 2013 on Twitter and Facebook.

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