Stoicism is something I’ve read about online a few times lately and has really piqued my interest. In a nutshell, Stoicisim is an ancient Greek philosophy that teaches the development of self-control and fortitude as a means of overcoming destructive emotions. It’s a philosophy that followers say allows you to diminish or even eliminate negative emotions and significantly increase the positive emotions.
One of the main tenets of Stoicism concerns deliberately putting yourself in uncomfortable situations, or Deliberate Misfortune as I’m calling it here. They’re not talking about talking in front of a crowd or trying to talk to people you don’t know at a party. What they generally mean is to actually put yourself in miserable situations. Examples of this could be to:
- Force yourself to walk to the grocery store without a coat when it’s cold out
- Take a very cold shower once a week.
- Sleep on a hard floor every once in a while
- Skip a meal
At first glance, this seems like a terrible idea. We’re looking at increasing our overall happiness; why would doing things that make us miserable help us with that?
Well there are a couple reasons why this helps:
1 – Gratitude
As mentioned in my last post, gratitude has been proven to have a considerable impact on an individual’s overall happiness. One of the problems with society is that because life has become so easy, we’ve started taking too many things for granted.
By deliberately eschewing the creature comforts that we often take for granted (warmth, food, comfortable bed, etc), it really takes us aback and allows us to appreciate it. We become grateful for these things that we’ve grown to take for granted.
2 – Building Inner Strength and Overcoming Fear
Another benefit that can come with this is building inner strength. There is a quote I found that explains this well:
Comfort, [Stoics] believed, is the worst kind of slavery – because it weakens us and makes us want it more and fear losing it. – App4Mind
Stoics believe that our comforts weaken us and make us dependent on them. By forcing ourselves to leave our comfort zone, we become stronger because we learn that living without these comforts isn’t as bad as we might have thought. When we’re faced with difficult situations, we have more confidence that we can overcome them because we can look back and see other difficulties we’ve been able to overcome.
After having mastered this, you should be able to be comfortable and happy with almost any situation life throws at you.
Other than accidentally going to a concert under-dressed yesterday (I was freezing), I haven’t really put any of this into action yet, though I do plan on experimenting with Deliberate Misfortune and reporting back on my findings.