If you’ve ever found yourself down in the dumps, you know just how hard it can be to improve your low mood. Whilst everyone is different, there are certain things that I believe everyone can benefit from. When you’re feeling fed up and down, it can be helpful to turn to some of the great minds of the past.
In this post, we’ll review some stoic lessons that can help you improve your low mood and boost your energy levels. Whilst lifting yourself up can be difficult, sometimes a little change of focus and perspective can do wonders and I believe these Stoic lessons can do just that.
Many people believe that Stoicism is only about controlling your emotions. However, there are many life-changing lessons within this philosophy that are available to everyone and most importantly, they can be used as a clear framework to get your focus on point and therefore, potentially improve low mood overall.
These stoic lessons have been passed down through the centuries, helping millions to lift their moods and change their perspectives.
He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.
A core theme that runs through Stoicism is gratitudespecifically, gratitude for what you have. In the modern Western world, it’s easy for us to find ourselves envious of others and always wanting more. Whilst it’s good to be somewhat ambitious, giving too much of your time to chase the things you don’t have can cause you to neglect the things you already have.
Think about the man who spends 80 hours a week at the office and is chasing the next big contract or pay raise. He may already have a resectable income, a sizable home, a car and a loving family. So, what more does he really need? Does he spend much time reflecting on what he already has?
Or what about the poor man who earns very little but has a roof over his head and a family that loves him too? Both of these individuals may be chasing the same things but for different reasons. However, both should find the time to reflect on what they already have, and show those things the time they deserve as, in the end, their loved ones are all that really matter.
Gratitude allows you to be present and therefore can lift your mood.
The wise man is neither raised up by prosperity nor cast down by adversity; for always he has striven to rely predominantly on himself, and to derive all joy from himself.
Stoicism is not about having a hard nose, rather, it’s about knowing yourself and not becoming too high when you succeed and not too low when you experience failures and pain.
The stoics believe that you should try and maintain a level head and not be pulled around like a puppet by the things that bring you joy or sadness. Instead, you should rely on yourself for your own happiness, not outside events. After all, you have the ability to control your mind and choose not to let outside events affect the way you feel and destroy your mood. You yourself can choose to be happy or you can choose to be sad.
Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not.
If you want to improve your mood you have to spend your time focusing on the things you can control and let go of the things you cannot control. If your partner leaves you, for example, you may feel intense pain however it’s likely not something you can control if they have made their mind up. To focus on this will only bring you more suffering than is necessary. In this example, focusing on what you can control is more helpful.
For example, perhaps there are certain things you need to work on to improve your success rate in your next relationship. You can control how you react to this situation, whilst it’s hard to do so, it is certainly possible. You could go to the gym, learn a new subject or do something noble like volunteering.
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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.
Once again, this stoic lesson from Seneca is all about grounding yourself in the present, not spending your time anxious about the future but to live right now, in the present moment. It’s a hard thing to do sometimes but when the present moment is all you truly have, it makes sense to try and enjoy it as once every moment has passed, it cannot be retrieved.
Consider how much time you have already spent worrying about things and how much time you could potentially worry in the future. Why not change your thoughts today to reflect more positive things that will manifest good things in your physical life?
To help lift your low mood, be present in everything you can. If you’re out with your family for the day, leave your phone in your pocket, park work in the back of your mind and just live the precious experience.
The essence of philosophy is that a man should so live that his happiness shall depend as little as possible on external things.
What would your mood be like if you didn’t have to rely on external things to improve it? We’re constantly pulled around by external forces, trying to get our attention. This has never been truer in today’s world. After all, your attention is valuable.
The Stoics believe that to remain level-headed you must depend on yourself for you are your own master and not rely on other people or material things to influence how you feel and ultimately affect your mood. You cannot change other people but you can control yourself and how you react to things.
If you can remove most of the distractions from your life that affect you and pull you around like a puppet, you can begin to be more mindful and regain more control over your mind and mood.
If what you have seems insufficient to you, then though you possess the world, you will yet be miserable.
This is an important lesson from Seneca that I believe can, over the long run, improve your mood and perspective. If you are unhappy with what you have now, why would you be happy once you obtain the things you desire the most? This is an old lesson and yet it is one that is easily forgotten.
We see it in the modern world over and over again when it gets played out in real time by celebrities. The very people most of us look up to seemingly have everything we desire and yet many are still miserable.
Whilst you can process every material object in the world, if you were unhappy beforehand, you will likely still be miserable once you get your hands on the riches you most desire. This is because it is not the riches you need the most to improve your mood, instead, it is something within yourself that cannot be filled with a new car or a big new house.
You can go on a journey of a thousand miles but if you embark on it with that hole, you will only find yourself at the end, not the thing you are truly looking for.
No matter what you obtain, you will only want more and more and yet you could become more and more miserable because you have not dealt with that missing piece within yourself. Once again, find a way to practise your gratitude for what you have today and do not become too excited by the material objects that you acquire.
Freedom is not procured by a full enjoyment of what is desired, but by controlling the desire.
True mental freedom and happiness does not come from enjoying the things you desire as they can quickly begin to control you. Instead, this freedom comes from you controlling your desires and in simpler terms, being able to leave or take the things you love to do.
This lesson from Epictetus builds on the Stoic rule that you need to temper yourself so you do not become easily influenced by outside forces.
Fortify yourself with contentment, for this is an impregnable fortress.
Epictetus believed that to fortify your mood from outside events, you must breed contentment and this can be done through practising gratitude for what you have. If you can rely on less and less to keep you happy and instead be content, little can affect you. Furthermore, if you can become content with what you already have, everything else good can be seen as just a bonus and yet still those things don’t affect how you feel.
Your high levels of contentment act as a shield, so no matter the good or the bad things that come your way, still you remain content, relying on this baseline. For example, you may be content after understanding that you yourself have ultimate control of how you react to things and therefore you know you are able to handle anything that may test you.
It is more fitting for a man to laugh at life than to lament over it.
Socrates once said; ‘the only thing I know is that I know nothing’. I believe this can be applied to what Seneca believed in the above quote. We spend much of our time questioning life and trying to understand it and yet much of it is random and can oftentimes seem mad and laughable.
Instead of worrying about life, it makes more sense to laugh at it as none of us truly understand what it all means. We spend a lot of time suffering in our perception of things instead of the things themselves. Life is complicated and there are many things that don’t seem to make sense.
You could improve your mood today but not sweating the small stuff and laughing at the absurdity of life itself.
How soon will time cover all things, and how many it has covered already.
How many things have seemed like the end of the world at the time? I’d say there are countless things that seem impossible to deal with at the time and yet here you are, still standing strong. One way to lift your mood is to remind yourself – many things have come and gone and they have all been covered by the blanket of time.
Things happen, people come and go, mistakes get made and yet you live to face another day. There is always a new opportunity to do something better, meet someone new or find a reason to smile. Time covers everything and things get forgotten by large.
Do not find yourself stuck in the past or fearing the future. Your life is short so live it with this in mind.
Use these Stoic lessons as a framework to improve low mood
There are of course many things you can do to improve your low mood like exercise, a balanced diet etc, however, these Stoic lessons can act as an ultimate framework for you to follow. They are tried and tested and have been passed down through generations as a way to conduct yourself in your life.
Do you have any other ways to improve low mood? Let us know in the comments!