Stoic Week 2019 Report Part 3: Impact of doing Stoic Week Tim LeBon

Hundreds of people across the world completed Stoic Week in October 2019. This report will  answer  a number of questions about the impact of Stoic Week, including

  1. Did participants’ well-being increase?
  2. In what ways do participants benefit?
  3. Does a week of Stoicism help reduce anger?
  4. Did participants actually become more Stoic as a result of doing Stoic Week?
  5. Finally, for those who took part in Stoic Week and want to compare their scores – What were the average scores before and after Stoic Week>

The main article answers these questions. Detailed statistics can be found in the appendices.

  1. Did participants’ well-being increase?

Well-being improved significantly for most people who completed Stoic Week. There was significant improvement in life satisfaction, flourishing and the balance of positive over  negative emotions. The full details can be found in table 1 (Overall Findings Stoic Week 2019 –  Impact of taking part in Stoic Week) in Appendix A. The changes were similar to what has been found in previous Stoic Weeks. So we can confidently predict that if you take part in Stoic Week, your well-being is likely to increase.

2. In what ways do participants benefit?

A common misconception about  Stoicism is that the aim is to be free of emotions. It’s often pointed out by Modern Stoics that this is a myth, Epictetus  specifically says that we should not be free from emotions “like a statue” (Discourse 3.2). Seneca says that “The wise man is joyful, happy and calm” (Letter 59 to Lucilius on Pleasure and Joy).

But do the results from our questionnaires support Modern Stoics or their critics? The resounding answer is that the facts back up Modern Stoics.  Stoics experience bothmore positive emotions and less negative emotions. See tables 2 and 3 in Appendix A for the details.

We also received a lot of qualitative feedback about participants’ experience of Stoic Week. It truly was a rich and rewarding experience for many participants. Here is a sample of the benefits reported

  • Understanding myself
“Making me think I have thought clearer the past week and have less tension.”
“To refresh the Stoic philosophy and to bring it to the forefront of my mind again”
“Using the daily meditations to actively think about the virtues and how I can apply them to my life. Being able to see my problems and issues for what they really are and not magnify the extent of the problemsIt has been a great opportunity to experiment with philosophy as a way of life, a practical form of wisdom. I have practiced meditation for years, and these Stoic spiritual exercises feel both familiar and different. I am grateful for this experience and will continue the practice.”
  • Getting more Knowledge about Stoicism
  • I remind myself to distinguish what is in my control from what is not in my control.  This has been very helpful with recent difficult events.
    Also I have come to think of happiness as something I do i.e. a result of my actions,  rather than as something that happens to me. This also is a very important change of attitude.
“It helps me feel how to become a better person.”
“Creating a daily habit around Stoic principles.”
“Stepping back from things we have no control over”
  • Better decision making, friendlier, more conscious about my thoughts/thinking
  • I am more mindful of my feelings and thoughts as I am experiencing them. I am also more compassionate towards people who tend to irritate me.
  • Deeper thought and reflection
  • Better control of anger, angst and distress. A better understand of what I want from life
  • Lessening of worry and stress
  • A feeling of joy from out of the blue
  • More feelings of aliveness and happiness
  • Greater contentment with my life

3. Does a week of Stoicism help reduce anger?

Stoics wrote in  a particularly insightful and relevant manner  about anger, most notably perhaps Seneca’s On Anger). Anger management is also a topic of considerable interest to contemporary psychologists, since many people – and  those around them – suffer from excessive anger and frustration.

This year, to help discover the relationship of Stoicism and anger, we asked participants to fill in the ADS-S, a validated measure of anger. So – did being Stoic for a week lead to a significant reduction in anger?  The short answer is “Yes, Stoicism reduced anger by 10%” –  see Table 4 in Appendix A for the full details.

The ADS-S includes one item of particular interest

 “When I feel angry, I boil inside, do not show it, and keep things in.”

This item measures the extent to which people repress anger, perhaps displaying the “stiff upper lip” which some still associate with Stoicism. If Stoicism really did lead to repressing anger, you would have expected this to increase after Stoic week. Instead , this item showed a reduction of 12% Stoicsm does not  lead to repression of anger.

4. Did participants actually become more Stoic as a result of doing Stoic Week?

There are sceptics out there who dismiss these findings, asserting that people might have benefited just because they tried something  and not because they were becoming more Stoic. This criticism has carried considerably less weight since we began to measure participants’ degree of Stoicism, through the SABS (Stoic Attitudes and Beliefs Scale). Not only did the SABS as a whole increase, but every single item of the SABS (all 60) moved in the expected direction.

The following 6 items showed the biggest change after Stoic Week.

# Item % change
48 Even when I can’t do anything more about a problem I still worry about it a lot. (reverse-scored) 24.6
3 If bad things happen to you, you are bound to feel distressed. (reverse-scored) 20.3
19 I spend quite a lot of time dwelling on what has gone wrong in the past. (reverse-scored) 17.0
33 I spend quite a lot of time worrying about the future. (reverse-scored) 16.2
23  I cannot really be harmed by what other people say. 15.3
38 When a negative thought enters my mind, I remind myself that it is just an interpretation of the situation. 15.3

This is a really significant result, since these items all relate strongly to good mental health.

5.What were the average scores before and after Stoic Week?

If you took part in Stoic Week, then you will have been informed of your scores before and after Stoic Week – by email, if you provided one. So how do you measure compared to other people? The following table tells you all you need to know.

Measure Average score at  start of Stoic Week Average score at end of Stoic week
Life Satisfaction (SWL) 23 27
Balance of positive over negative emotions (SPANE) 5 11
Flourishing (Flourish) 43 47
Anger (ADS-S) 34 28.5
Degree of Stoicism (SABS 5.0) 300 332

Average scores at the start and end of Stoic Week, 2019

Appendices

Appendix A  Impact of doing Stoic Week

  Stoic Week 2019   Stoic Week 2018 Stoic Week 2017 Stoic Week 2016 Stoic Week 2015 Stoic Week 2014
No of participants at start 1725 3702 2870 1803 2503 1953
Valid questionnaires completed at end 416 852 689 270 726 566
Increase in Flourishing 7.5% 8% 10% 10% 10% 10%
Increase in Satisfaction with Life 11.5% 12% 14% 15% 15% 16%
Increase in Positive Emotions 9.5% 9.5% 11% 10% 10% 11%
Reduction in Negative Emotions 17% 14% 14% 14% 14% 16%
Reduction in Anger (ADS-S) 10%
Increase In Stoic Attitudes and Behaviours 8% 10% 9% 11% 13% 12%
Completion Rate 24% 23% 24% 15% 29% 29%

Table 1 Overall Findings Stoic Week 2019 –  Impact of taking part in Stoic Week

Positive Emotions 2019 % change 2018 % change 2017 % change 2016 % change 2015 % change 2014 % change 2013 % change
Average positive 9.5 9.5 11 10 10 11 9
Contented 13 14 14 15 14 14 12
Joyful 12 11 14 12 13 13 12
Happy 9 10 11 7 11 9 9
Good 8 7 9 8 9 10 7
Pleasant 8 8 9 9 9 10 8
Positive 9 7 9 10 8 13 8

Table 2: Impact on Positive Emotions

Negative  Emotions 2019 % change 2018 % change 2017 % change 2016 % change 2015 % change 2014 % change 2013 % change
Average negative -17   -14 -14 -14 -14 -16 -11
Unpleasant -15 -13 -15 -17 -16 -17 -8
Bad -17 -15 -16 -12 -15 -17 -11
Negative -17 -15 -15 -16 -14 -17 -12
Angry -19 -14 -12 -13 -14 -15 -13
Afraid -17 -13 -14 -13 -12 -14 -10
Sad -16 -15 -13 -14 -12 -14 -10

Table 3:  Impact on Negative Emotions

Impact on Anger (ADS-S)

  Anger overall Anger-In Subscale Anger Vengeance Subscale Anger Reactivity Subscale   Anger single item question (SPANE)
Start 31.7 12.6 6.7 12.4 -2.4
End 28.5 11.2 6.1 11 -1.9
% Change 10.3 11 7.7 11 19

Table 4: Impact on Anger

Impact on Flourishing

Flourishing Scale Item 2019 % increase 2018 % 2017 % 2016 % 2015 % 2014 % 2013 % Theme
1. I lead a purposeful and meaningful life. 12 12 15 15 16 14 10 Purpose and meaning
2. My social relationships are supportive and rewarding. 8 10 13 13 11 11 10 Relationships
3.  I am engaged and interested in my daily activities. 8 10 12 8 10 10 10 Engagement in activities
4. I actively contribute to the happiness and well-being of others. 7 7 10 10 10 8 8 Benevolent
5.  I am competent and capable in the activities that are important to me 4 6 8 6 7 8 5 Competent
6. I am a good person and live a good life. 6 7 8 8 8 9 8 Ethically Good
7. I am optimistic about my future. 10 9 11 10 12 11 18 Optimism
8. People respect me. 5 5 7 9 7 7 5 Respected

Table 5: Impact on Flourishing

Impact on Satisfaction with Life

Percentage Increase per question 2019 2018 2017 2016  2015   2014 2013 Theme
1. In most ways my life is close to my ideal 12 13 16 10 20 15 18 Life is ideal
2. The conditions of my life are excellent 9 10 11 13 13 15 11 Externals met
3. So far I have got the important things I want in life. 10 9 10 10 13 13 11 Needs met
4. I am satisfied with my life 11 11 14 13 14 15 17 Satisfaction
5. If I could live my life over, I would change almost nothing 17 17 19 24 20 17 17 Acceptance

Table 6: Impact on  Satisfaction with Life

Impact on Stoic Attitudes and Behaviours (SABS 5.0)

 

# SABS Item Start end % increase
1 I think about my life as an ongoing project to become a better person. 6.3 6.6 4.0
2 It can sometimes be a good thing to become angry at people. 4.3 4.6 7.0
3 If bad things happen to you, you are bound to feel distressed. 3.6 4.3 20.3
4 Having good understanding and good character is all that is required in order to be happy. 4.8 5.4 14.2
5 Viewing other people as fellow-members of the brother/sisterhood of humankind helps me to avoid feeling angry and resentful. 5.5 5.9 8.2
6 The universe is benevolent in its overall plan. 4.2 4.6 8.3
7 I regularly spend time reflecting on what is most important to enable me to live a good and happy 5.5 5.9 8.2
8 Bad luck could stop me being happy. 4.4 5.0 11.8
9 I do the right thing even when I feel afraid. 5.2 5.6 9.1
10 It is my duty to help others. 5.8 6.0 4.8
11 Sometimes a controlled experience of anger can be helpful in resolving conflicts with others 3.6 3.9 7.6
12  I usually do the right thing. 5.6 5.9 6.9
13 I do not act on urges when it would be unwise to act on them 4.9 5.4 10.5
14  I am committed to helping humanity in general. 5.6 5.9 5.3
15 I treat everyone fairly. 5.6 5.9 6.3
16 To flourish as a human being all you need is good character and understanding of what really matters in life 5.4 5.9 10.1
17 If things don’t go well for my friends, I can’t lead a good life. 5.1 5.3 4.6
18 I take active steps to reduce the suffering of others. 5.2 5.6 6.6
19 I spend quite a lot of time dwelling on what has gone wrong in the past. 4.1 4.8 17.0
20 It is possible to lead a happy life even after the death of someone we love. 6.0 6.2 3.3
21 The universe embodies wisdom. 4.7 4.9 5.8
22 When making an important decision I ask myself “What really matters here?” 5.7 6.1 6.6
23  I cannot really be harmed by what other people say. 4.9 5.6 15.3
24 The universe is a living thing. 4.9 5.1 3.3
25 I need quite a lot of money in order to be happy. 5.2 5.6 6.9
26 When I have a problem, I am good at taking constructive action in a timely manner. 5.1 5.5 9.0
27 We can’t really control other people. 6.2 6.5 4.6
28 There is a rational and orderly plan in the universe and in the causes of events. 3.9 4.3 11.5
29 When making a significant decision I reflect on what a good role model would do. 4.8 5.5 12.8
30 Nothing except our judgements and voluntary actions are truly under our control in life. 6.1 6.4 4.8
31 I pay attention to my judgements about good or bad things or people as I am making them. 5.3 5.8 9.4
32  I need to be well thought of by others in order to be happy. 4.5 5.0 12.2
33 I spend quite a lot of time worrying about the future. 3.8 4.4 16.2
34 It is good to think about life as an ongoing journey towards becoming a better person. 6.3 6.6 3.4
35 I am committed to helping my friends. 5.8 6.1 4.9
36 I  pay attention to my thoughts about what I intend to do  before I act on them. 5.4 5.8 6.8
37 I want to become a better person ethically. 6.4 6.6 3.1
38 When a negative thought enters my mind, I remind myself that it is just an interpretation of the situation. 4.9 5.7 15.3
39 It is right to feel intense and overwhelming grief after a significant loss 2.7 3.0 13.4
40 I view other people as fellow-members of the brother/sisterhood of humankind. 5.6 5.9 5.7
41 If things don’t go well for me, I can’t lead a good life. 5.0 5.4 8.2
42 I can’t control how I feel. 4.9 5.4 10.2
43 I need to be in good health in order to be happy. 4.1 4.7 14.2
44 I am committed to helping my family. 6.1 6.3 2.7
45 Every day I spend some time thinking about how I can best face challenges in the day ahead. 4.9 5.6 13.8
46 Our voluntary actions are among the only things truly under our control in life. 6.0 6.3 4.9
47 As long as you have the right attitude, you can lead a good life even in the most difficult circumstances. 5.9 6.2 5.2
48 Even when I can’t do anything more about a problem I still worry about it a lot. 3.5 4.4 24.6
49 I care about the suffering of others 5.9 6.0 2.9
50 I often do what I feel like doing rather than doing what I believe to be the right thing. 4.6 5.1 11.5
51 Our judgements are amongst the only things truly under our control in life. 5.8 6.2 7.5
52 I see my happiness as fully compatible with caring for other people. 5.6 6.0 8.1
53 The best idea is to give up trying to control people and instead focus on our own actions and our judgements and character. 6.4 6.6 3.2
54 There is no overall plan to the universe. 3.6 4.0 10.7
55 I think about what the ideal wise and good person would do when faced with misfortunes in life. 4.9 5.5 13.4
56 If things don’t go well for my family, I can’t lead a good life. 4.7 5.0 7.4
57 I am committed to helping in my local community. 4.9 5.4 10.8
58 It does not help me to get angry 6.0 6.2 4.2
59 it is possible to lead a happy life even when we have lost success or wealth. 5.8 6.1 5.8
60 We can sometimes influence how others behave, but we can’t completely control other people. 6.4 6.4 0.9

 

Table 7: Impact of taking part  in Stoic Week 2019 on Stoic attitudes and behaviours

The SABS items that showed the biggest percentage increases  during Stoic Week were as follows

# Item % change Start End
48 Even when I can’t do anything more about a problem I still worry about it a lot. 24.6 3.5 4.4
3 If bad things happen to you, you are bound to feel distressed. 20.3 3.6 4.3
19 I spend quite a lot of time dwelling on what has gone wrong in the past. 17.0 4.1 4.8
33 I spend quite a lot of time worrying about the future. 16.2 3.8 4.4
23  I cannot really be harmed by what other people say. 15.3 4.9 5.6
38 When a negative thought enters my mind, I remind myself that it is just an interpretation of the situation. 15.3 4.9 5.7
43 I need to be in good health in order to be happy. 14.2 4.1 4.7
4 Having good understanding and good character is all that is required in order to be happy. 14.2 4.8 5.4
45 Every day I spend some time thinking about how I can best face challenges in the day ahead. 13.8 4.9 5.6
39 It is right to feel intense and overwhelming grief after a significant loss 13.4 2.7 3.0
55 I think about what the ideal wise and good person would do when faced with misfortunes in life. 13.4 4.9 5.5
29 When making a significant decision I reflect on what a good role model would do. 12.8 4.8 5.5
32  I need to be well thought of by others in order to be happy. 12.2 4.5 5.0
8 Bad luck could stop me being happy. 11.8 4.4 5.0
50 I often do what I feel like doing rather than doing what I believe to be the right thing. 11.5 4.6 5.1
28 There is a rational and orderly plan in the universe and in the causes of events. 11.5 3.9 4.3
57 I am committed to helping in my local community. 10.8 4.9 5.4
54 There is no overall plan to the universe. 10.7 3.6 4.0
13 I do not act on urges when it would be unwise to act on them 10.5 4.9 5.4
42 I can’t control how I feel. 10.2 4.9 5.4
16 To flourish as a human being all you need is good character and understanding of what really matters in life 10.1 5.4 5.9

The SABS items which had the highest scores at the end of Stoic week were as follows:

# Item After Before % increase
37 I want to become a better person ethically. 6.6 6.4 3.1
53 The best idea is to give up trying to control people and instead focus on our own actions and our judgements and character. 6.6 6.4 3.2
1 I think about my life as an ongoing project to become a better person. 6.6 6.3 4.0
34 It is good to think about life as an ongoing journey towards becoming a better person. 6.6 6.3 3.4
27 We can’t really control other people. 6.5 6.2 4.6
60 We can sometimes influence how others behave, but we can’t completely control other people. 6.4 6.4 0.9
30 Nothing except our judgements and voluntary actions are truly under our control in life. 6.4 6.1 4.8
46 Our voluntary actions are among the only things truly under our control in life. 6.3 6.0 4.9
44 I am committed to helping my family. 6.3 6.1 2.7
51 Our judgements are amongst the only things truly under our control in life. 6.2 5.8 7.5
58 It does not help me to get angry 6.2 6.0 4.2
47 As long as you have the right attitude, you can lead a good life even in the most difficult circumstances. 6.2 5.9 5.2
20 It is possible to lead a happy life even after the death of someone we love. 6.2 6.0 3.3

Tim LeBon is the author of Wise Therapy and Achieve Your Potential with Positive Psychology. He is a philosophical life coach with a private practice in London and also an accredited CBT psychotherapist working in the NHS. He is a founder member of the Modern Stoicism team.

Are Stoics Less Angry than Other People? Stoic Week 2019 Report (part 2) by Tim LeBon

One main activity of the Modern Stoicism organization is carrying out research on the impact of adopting Stoic practices, perspectives, and principles on those who do so.  Every year we run the Stoic Week online class, and we also gather valuable data through the surveys before and after participants engage in the class.  Tim LeBon is our lead quantitative researcher, and he does invaluable service in compiling and interpreting the data collected, producing a set of Stoic Week Reports.  This is the second report for 2019, which you can download a copy of (with all of the appendices) by clicking here.

Introduction

A strong positive relationship between Stoicism and well-being has been well documented in previous Stoic Week reports.  This article analyses the findings from analysing questionnaires from the start of Stoic week 2019, and will report on whether this relationship has been maintained. In 2019 we obtained additional information about the relationship between Stoicism and anger, as measured by the Anger Disorder Scale (ADS-S). A second innovation this year was the introduction of another iteration of  the Stoic Attitudes and Behaviours Scale (SABS v5.0). This report will indicate which of the 60 items of the new SABS scale are the most and least associated with life satisfaction, flourishing, positive and negative emotions and with anger – in other words, which items appear to be the most active ingredients of Stoicism in these respects. The other reports in this series will discuss the effect of taking part in Stoic Week (part 3) and summarise participant feedback and suggest future directions of research (part 4). Details about the scales used are given in the Appendices of this report.

What Were My Scores Like Compared to the Average?

If you took part in Stoic Week, you will have been given average scores at the start of the week for other participants at the start of a previous Stoic Week for some of the measures. But we didn’t have the scores for Stoic Week 2019 then (obviously!), and we didn’t have comparative scores for the Anger Scale or for the new SABS scale. So, here you are. How do you compare with the average score?

  • Life Satisfaction (SWL)        23
  • Emotions (SPANE)             5
  • Flourish                                 43
  • Anger (ADS-S)                     34
  • Stoicism (SABS 5.0)             300

The New SABS Scale

Stoic Week 2019 saw the introduction of SABS 5.0, a 60-item questionnaire described in Appendix A. This scale builds on the work done with the invaluable work Ray DiGiuseppe and others to eliminate items with inferior psychometric properties. We are also working towards validating the SABS 5.0 and providing sub-scales (for example “Stoic Worldview” and “Values awareness and Stoic mindfulness”. As the work on subscales is still provisional, it will be reported at a later date.  

Stoicism and Anger

Theoretically, we would expect Stoic attitude to help with anger management. We would anticipate that Stoics would not just act in a less angry way, they would also get angry less often than non-Stoics because non-Stoics often get angry at things beyond their control.

Previous Stoic Week research results have indeed suggested a strong inverse relationship between Stoicism and anger. However, this has relied on the single anger item question in the SPANE questionnaire. Since anger management is potentially an important benefit of practising Stoicism, the relationship between Stoicism and anger warranted further investigation. Consequently, this year we asked participants to fill in a validated anger questionnaire, the 18-item ADS-S (see Appendix B) to understand the relationship between Stoicism and anger when anger is measured in a more robust manner and which also separates out the degree to which people feel anger, the degree to which they feel vengeful, and the extent to which they act angrily. Table 1 below gives the results.

Anger overall  (ADS-S) Anger-In (ADS-S subscale 1) Anger Vengeance (ADS-S subscale 2) Anger Reactivity (ADS-S subscale S) Anger single item (SPANE)
-.44 -.45 -.31 -.35 -.32

Table 1: Correlation and Stoicism and Anger at the start of Stoic Week 2019 (1725 participants)

The more sophisticated measure of anger provided by the ADS-S than the single scale item in the SPANE gives a significantly stronger relationship between Stoicism and a lack of anger (.44 compared to .32). The ADS-S divides anger into 3 subscales. Subscale 1, the anger-in scale, represents the degree to which people are likely to feel anger and repress, or not express their anger. Stoics are particularly less likely to do this (.45 correlation), putting a lie to the notion that Stoics repress feelings (the “stiff upper lip”). Stoics are also likely to be less vengeful (subscale 2) and less reactive with their anger (subscale 3). It will be interesting to see how the scales and subscales change when people try to practice Stoicism in Stoic Week. We would predict a reduction in anger and in particular, a large reduction in subscale 1 (anger-in).

Stoicism and Well-Being

We can tell how Stoic someone is by their score on the SABS 5.0. By measuring their well-being at the same time, we can determine the extent to which Stoicism is associated with well-being.

  Flourishing Emotions (SPANE) Life Satisfaction (SWL)
STOIC ATTITUDES AND BEHAVIOURS 2019: 0.64
2018: 0.54 2017: 0.47
2019: 0.59 2018: 0.45 2017: 0.43 2019: 0.50 2018: 0.39 2017: 0.36

Table 2 Overall association of Stoic Attitudes and Behaviours with various scales (2019 Stoic Week compared to 2018 and 2017 Stoic Weeks)

As table 2 shows, Stoicism is associated to  a very high degree of Flourishing and a balance of positive over emotions and (to a slightly lesser degree) satisfaction with life. Over the years as we have worked to improve the SABs, the correlation coefficients are somewhat higher using the new SABS 5.0.

Stoicism and Emotions

We can also see which emotions are most associated with Stoicism. The trends found in previous years continue to be supported. Stoicism is not just associated with not feeling bad, it is also strongly associated with feeling contented and positive.

Emotion 2019 2018 2017 2016
Negative -.47 -0.35 -0.36 -0.29
Bad -.42 -0.31 -0.32 -0.28
Unpleasant -.39 -0.29 -0.27 -0.24
Sad -.38 -0.26 -0.28 -0.26
Angry -.32 -0.24 -0.27 -0.24
Afraid -.34 -0.24 -0.23 -0.26
Contented .49 0.36 0.33 0.35
Positive .49 0.36 0.32 0.31
Happy .43 0.35 0.29 0.28
Good .47 0.34 0.32 0.32
Pleasant .41 0.34 0.32 0.3
Joyful .41 0.32 0.28 0.26

Once again, as we have continued to revise and improve the SAB the correlation coefficients with the various measures emotions have increased.

Table 3: Correlation of SABS 5.0 scores and emotions as measured in SPANE

Degree of Stoicism and Well-being

The above findings lend considerable support to the view that Stoicism is associated with higher degrees of well-being and less anger. But how much difference does it make? We attempted to tease this out by looking at the differences in well-being for those who are the most and least Stoic. This is shown in table 4 below.

  Participant Scores
Ranking on the SABS 5.0 Life Satisfaction Emotions Anger Flourishing Stoicism
Top 10% 28 14 26 50 371
Top quarter 27 11 28 49 351
Top half 26 9 31 47 331
Average 23 5 34 43 300
Bottom half 21 2 37 39 269
Bottom quarter 19 0 39 37 257
Bottom 10% 17 -2 41 33 235

Table 4: Difference in life satisfaction, the balance of emotions, anger, flourishing according to the degree of Stoicism (Start of Stoic Week 2019, n=1725)

Those who are the most Stoic (top 10%) are much higher in well-being and lower in anger than the those in the top 10%. One possible way to read table 4 is to say that the biggest gains are to be made with those people who are least Stoic. If someone moved from the bottom half to just average levels of Stoicism, one would anticipate quite significant gains in well-being – assuming that causation goes in the direction of being Stoic to well-being, which may not be completely founded.

Stoicism’s Most Active Ingredients

Which Stoic attitudes and beliefs are most associated with life satisfaction, flourishing, positive emotions and the absence of anger? By finding the correlation between SABS 5.0 items and each measure, it is possible to answer these questions. Tables 5 -8 below provide the answers for each scale. Note that since these associations are correlations, we cannot be sure of the direction of causation, so these findings require a certain amount of qualification.

# SABS Item Life Satisfaction Correlation
19 I spend quite a lot of time dwelling on what has gone wrong in the past.* 0.46
33 I spend quite a lot of time worrying about the future.* 0.42
26 When I have a problem, I am good at taking constructive action in a timely manner. 0.41
41 If things don’t go well for me, I can’t lead a good life.* 0.35
38 When a negative thought enters my mind, I remind myself that it is just an interpretation of the situation. 0.35
48 Even when I can’t do anything more about a problem, I still worry about it a lot.* 0.35

Table 5:  Most active Stoic ingredients of Life Satisfaction

If you wanted to look at one element of Stoicism indicative of satisfaction with life, it would be someone not dwelling on the past

# SABS Item Flourishing correlation
26 When I have a problem, I am good at taking constructive action in a timely manner. 0.54
12 I usually do the right thing. 0.46
19 I spend quite a lot of time dwelling on what has gone wrong in the past.* 0.45
22 When making an important decision I ask myself “What really matters here?” 0.44
33 I spend quite a lot of time worrying about the future.* 0.43
14  I am committed to helping humanity in general. 0.43
38 When a negative thought enters my mind, I remind myself that it is just an interpretation of the situation. 0.43

Table 6:  Most active SABS ingredients in terms of Flourishing

The single element of Stoicism indicative of flourishing is taking constructive action in a timely manner,

The absence of worrying is most associated with having a positive balance of emotions.

33 I spend quite a lot of time worrying about the future.* 0.56
19 I spend quite a lot of time dwelling on what has gone wrong in the past.* 0.56
48 Even when I can’t do anything more about a problem I still worry about it a lot.* 0.52
38 When a negative thought enters my mind, I remind myself that it is just an interpretation of the situation. 0.43
41 If things don’t go well for me, I can’t lead a good life.* 0.42

Table 7:  Most active SABS ingredients in terms of emotions

# SABS Item Anger
19 I spend quite a lot of time dwelling on what has gone wrong in the past.* -0.46
33 I spend quite a lot of time worrying about the future.* -0.42
48 Even when I can’t do anything more about a problem, I still worry about it a lot.* -0.41
41 If things don’t go well for me, I can’t lead a good life.* -0.34
38 When a negative thought enters my mind, I remind myself that it is just an interpretation of the situation. -0.34
26 When I have a problem, I am good at taking constructive action in a timely manner. -0.33
15 I treat everyone fairly. -0.32

Table 8:  Most active SABS ingredients in terms of emotions

Dwelling on the past is most associated with anger.

 

Conclusions

These findings are particularly significant as they indicate the association of degrees of Stoicism with other qualities such as life satisfaction and anger. A key finding is that Stoicism is not associated with repressing anger and so it puts a lie to the “stiff upper lip” notion. It also gives participants comparative scores for SABS 5.0 and the anger scale, which were not available at the time they took part in Stoic Week

 They are taken from a large sample (1765 participants) of varying demographics and allegiance to Stoicism. They are however, a self-selecting sample and more likely to be allied to Stoicism than the general public. Moreover, since they are correlational they do not indicate the direction of causation. The next report in the series will provide information about how these measures change after participants have taken part in Stoic Week.

Tim LeBon is the author of Wise Therapy and Achieve Your Potential with Positive Psychology. He is a philosophical life coach with a private practice in London and also an accredited CBT psychotherapist working in the NHS. He is a founder member of the Modern Stoicism team.

Stoic Week 2019 Demographics Report by Tim LeBon

Stoic Week 2019 took place in October. We hope you enjoyed it and found it helpful.  This is the first in a series of articles exploring what we can learn from all the questionnaires many of you filled in for this year’s Stoic Week (Thank you!).  Today we will look at who took part. It’s the type of information journalists often ask, so it’s written in the form of Q & A, with the statistics relegated to tables at the end of the article.

Q:  How many people took part this year?

A:  1744 people completed the questionnaires. At least 4000 people started the questions, but  it does take about 20 minutes to complete and how could we expect people to have the virtues of patience persistence before doing Stoic week.

Q:  That’s quite a lot of people . If you don’t mind me pointing this out, this is half the number taking part last year. Do you think Stoicism is running out of steam?

A: Absolutely not. The number of attendees at Stoicons, and the plethora of Stoic blogs and books suggests quite the reverse. It could be that people being interested in Stoicism now have other ways of finding out about it that they didn’t have in 2012 when the first Stoic Week took place.  It’s also true that many thousands have already taken part in Stoic Week and can access the materials whenever they like, so do not have to register again (though, we do change the materials every year, so I would suggest it is still worthwhile).  The most simple and likely explanation for reduced numbers though is that because the organisers were so busy they didn’t spend quite so much time to promoting Stoic Week this time around. So perhaps that’s a lesson for next year for all of us.

Q:  In previous years more men have taken part than women. This bucks the general pattern for personal development courses where women usually outnumber men. Is this still the case?

A: This year 60%  of participants were men and 39% women. That’s slightly more equal than last year but there is still plenty of  room for improvement  (Table 1 at the end of the article gives the full figures). You can look at this inequality in two ways. You might say that since men are in general relatively less skilful at finding resources to help with personal development, it’s great that so many find Stoicism congenial. Whilst this is true,  I  worry that many woman might  think that Stoicism is a predominantly male philosophy  and so is not for them.

I would  encourage everyone, regardless of gender, to explore Stoicism, and refer sceptics to Massimo Pigluicci’s argument  that “broicism”  is not Stoicism. To quote Massimo, “the goal of Stoicism is not to become manly (vir), but rather to excel as a human being (arête).”

Q: How old is the average Stoic Week participant?

A: Probably about 40 years of age. Participation peaks in the 36-45 age group. Over 7% of participants are over 65 which is more than you would expect if the distribution was  random

Q: Does your data support the often-touted view that you get wiser as you get older?

A:  Actually it does, as long as you see the level of Stoicism as implying wisdom! Participants’ level of Stoicism (as measured by the SABS questionnaire) increases steadily with age, and the over-65s are a bit more Stoic (2%) than the 55-65 age group. See table 2  at the end of the article for the full details.

Q: I expect most participants are from the USA, UK and Canada still?

A: Yes, that’s still the case, comprising 39%, 19% and 9% of participants respectively.  77% of all participants come from those three countries -see table 3.

Q: And are they the most Stoic in that they have the highest SABS scores?

A: No. that honour goes to Ireland, then Poland then Spain. It would be interesting to know why this is the case – the sample sizes are small (15, 10 and 19) so it could be that the people taking part just happened to be hardened Stoics.

Q:  Which are the most Stoic of the countries with a large number of participants?

A: Americans seem to be a bit more Stoic than the French, British and Canadians, but there isn’t too much in it. Table 4 gives the full details.

Q: Are most people who take part in Stoic Week newbies?

A: Yes, 69% of people are taking part the first time.

Q: You said earlier that it is worth people doing Stoic Week more than once. Can you tell me whether people have done Stoic week a number of times become more Stoic (as indicated by higher SABS scores than those who have taken part  less often).

A: Yes indeed, the degree of Stoicism increases the more times people do Stoic Week – see table 5 for the detailed statistics.

Q: I would guess that most people who do Stoic Week don’t know much about Stoicism to start with?

A: Interestingly, it’s fairly even split between those who know a fair bit and those who know very little about Stoicism – see table 6. What will be interesting will be to see how much people know about Stoicism by the end of Stoic Week, which we will discover in a later report.

Q: Are most participants already Stoic?

A: Again, it’s fairly close between those who identify as Stoic (or more Stoic than not) and those who don’t think of themselves as being very Stoic at all -see table 7. Again, it will be fascinating to see how this changes after Stoic Week.

Q: Why did people take part in Stoic week?

A: To learn about how to practice Stoicism in their life – at least that’s my interpretation of this WordCloud :-

Stoic Week 2019 Demographics: Facts and Figures

Gender 2019 Average SABS 5.0 score   2019
% of participants
2018
% of participants
2017
% of participants
2016
% of participants
Male 302 60 62 65 66
Female 298 39 37 34 33
Decline to state 283 .75 1 1 1
Other 312 .6 1 0.5

Table 1: Stoic Week 2019 Participation and SABS Score by Gender  (Percentages in this and other tables may not add up to 100% due to rounding)

Age Average SABS score 2019 2019 % of participants 2018 % of participants 2017 % of participants 2016 % of participants
Over 65 316 7 7         –
56-65 310 15 14 17 (was over 55) 13 (over 55)
46-55 305 19 20 18 17
36-45 298 23 22 22 21
26-35 296 20 23 27 25
18-25 288 15 13 15 22
Under 18 289 1 1 1 1

Table 2: Stoic Week 2019 Participation and SABS score by Age 

Country No. of Participants %
United States 669 39
United Kingdom 336 19
Canada 157 9
Australia 68 4
Germany 45 3
Netherlands 44 3
Sweden 22 1
France 21 1
New Zealand 20 1
Norway 19 1
Spain 19 1
Brazil 18 1
Ireland 15 1
South Africa 15 1
Russian Federation 13 1
Italy 12 1
India 10 1
Poland 10 1

Table 3: Stoic week 2019 Number of Participants and % of total for all countries with 10 or more participants- 

Country Degree of Stoicism (average SABS score)
Ireland 321
Poland 310
Spain 307
United States 304
France 303
South Africa 302
Netherlands 301
Brazil 300
Australia 298
United Kingdom 297
Canada 297
Sweden 293
Germany 292
Norway 291
Italy 289
New Zealand 285
India 269
Russian Federation 268

 Table 4: Stoic Week 2019 Most Stoic countries (only including countries with 10 or more participants)

Number of times participated in Stoic Weeks previously Average SABS score (degree of Stoicism)   2019 % of total participants 2018 % of total participants   2017 % of total participants 2016 % of total participants
4 or more 339 4 2 1 1
3 320 5 3 2 3
2 314 8 6 5 6
1 308 16 17 13 14
0 293 68 73 79 77

Table 5: 2019 Stoic Week – Number of times participants have taken part in previous Stoic Weeks and – SABS scores and percentages of total participants

Knowledge of Stoicism 2019 % 2018 % 2017 % 2016   %
Expert .8 .8 0.5 1
I know quite a bit but not an expert 23 19 19 16
I know a bit 41 42 41 39
Novice 25 28 30 33
None 9.5 10 9 11

Table 6:  2019 Stoic Week  – Self-assessed Knowledge of Stoicism at the beginning of the week

Identification as a Stoic 2019 % 2018 %
I consider myself to be a Stoic   10.5 11
I am more a Stoic than not a Stoic 41 38
Neutral or I don’t know 34 37
More not a Stoic than a Stoic 9 10
Definitely not a Stoic 6 6

 Table 7:  Stoic Week 2019 :  Participants identification as a Stoic at the beginning of Stoic Week

Tim LeBon is the author of Wise Therapy and Achieve Your Potential with Positive Psychology. He is a philosophical life coach with a private practice in London and also an accredited CBT psychotherapist working in the NHS. He is a founder member of the Modern Stoicism team.

New Facebook Group for Research on Stoicism and Psychology

A new Facebook group has been created by Alex MacLellan for discussion of research on Stoicism and related topics in psychology. We hope this will provide a way for researchers involved in this field to network and share resources. Everyone is welcome to join, as long as you have an interest in research on Stoicism.

Modern Stoicism collects research data from Stoic Week and SMRT using the SABS scale and publishes the findings each year in a free report online.

Stoic Week 2018 Report Part 4: Feedback on Stoic Week and Overall Conclusions by Tim LeBon

One main activity of the Modern Stoicism organization is carrying out research on the impact of adopting Stoic practices, perspectives, and principles on those who do so.  Every year we run the Stoic Week online class, and we also gather valuable data through the surveys before and after participants engage in the class.  Tim LeBon is our lead quantitative researcher, and he does invaluable service in compiling and interpreting the data collected, producing a set of Stoic Week Reports.  This is the fourth and final report for this year, which you can download a copy of (with all of the appendices) by clicking here.

Introduction

This article is the fourth and final report on Stoic Week 2018. The previously published reports summarised the  demographics, the relationships between well-being and degree of Stoicism at the start of Stoic Week  and the  impact of taking part in Stoic Week

This report is divided into the following 5 sections.

1) How Much Has Stoic Week Helped?
2) Which parts of Stoic Week were most helpful.
3) Other Significant Findings
4) Overall Status of Modern Stoicism Research
5) Recommended Next Steps

1) How Much Has Stoic Week Helped?

Table 1: Ratings of how useful Stoic Week was in various areas of life

Part 3 of this suite of reports described the benefit of Stoic Week as measured by  psychometric scales for life satisfaction, flourishing,  positive emotions,  negative emotions and  degree of Stoicism.  For the record, the improvements were 12%, 8%, 9.5%, 14% and 10% respectively.  Table 1 (above)  adds to these findings the participants’  sense of how  Stoic Week helped them. The improvements reported in table 1 are almost uniformly high.  Overall Stoic Week was rated as  helping on average by 4 marks out of 5 (80%).  The areas where Stoic Week was judged to be of most use benefit were “knowledge of Stoicism” and “managing emotions” closely followed by “becoming wiser.”

These results reproduce the results of previous years. In 2018 we asked additional questions which resulted in some interesting findings. Specifically , we asked people about how much participants thought it would benefit themselves if they continued practising Stoicism and how much it would benefit other people.

Benefits of Stoicism (948 responses)

How much (on a scale of 0 meaning “none” to 10 meaning “a
lot”) do you think
continuing to practiceStoicism would
benefit
Benefit Me Benefit other people
Average 8.9 8.4
0 (none) .3 .5
1-4 2 3
5-6 4 11
7 7 10
8 16 19.5
9 14 12
10 (a lot) 57 44

Table 2: How much participants believed continuing to practice Stoicism would benefit themselves and others

Many modern (non-Stoic) commentators see a sharp divergence between  prudence and morality– you need to choose either to  maximise your own well-being or to be moral. The Stoics, in contrast, did not see such a sharp contrast between prudence and morality and indeed argued that pursuing virtue was the way to achieve both. The data presented in table 1  can be interpreted as providing some evidence for the Stoic view.  As would be expected according to the Stoic view, participants believe that Stoicism benefits both themselves and others. Perhaps surprisingly, given the apparent sacrifices practising Stoicism implies (“don’t focus on pleasure”, “help other people” and  “devote a lot of time working on being a good Stoic”), participants rated the benefits to themselves as even greater than the benefits to others.

How much do you think it would benefit the world in general if
more people practiced Stoicism?
%
Average 9
0 (none) .5
1-4 1
5-6 6.5
7 6
8 15.5
9 14.5
10 ( a lot) 56

Table 3: How much participants believed continuing to practice Stoicism would benefit themselves and others

When asked a question about how much the world would benefit if more people practiced Stoicism, the answer was an emphatic “a lot” (average score 9 out of 10). In other words , those who had experienced Stoicism gave a resounding vote of confidence to the outreach purpose of the Modern Stoicism project.

2) Which parts of Stoic Week were most helpful?

As in previous years we  asked participants to tell which elements of Stoic Week they found most beneficial.

Table 4: How useful were the daily exercises?

As Table 4 shows, all  the exercises for each day were rated highly, with a difference of only .3 (out of 5) between the lowest (3.9 for Thursday – the community of Mankind) and the highest (4.2 for  Tuesday, Virtues and the different).

Table 5:  Ratings of Audio recordings of Meditation Routine Audio Recordings, Stoic Week 2018

A similar story emerges when we look at table 5 above which shows ratings of the audio recordings. They were all rated highly, with again only a .3 difference between the lowest (3.7 for the Stoic Attitudes meditation) and the highest (4 for the View from Above)

When asked whether they planned to continue  practising Stoicism, 51% of participants  gave their answer as the maximum (10 out of 10). the average degree of aspiration to continue with Stoicism was 8.6 out of 10.

For the first time we asked participants about how they intended to maintain their practice and their answers make interesting reading

  • Daily Stoic Meditation (specifically the morning and evening Meditations)
  • Read the main original Stoic texts
  • Do Stoic week again on my own initiative
  • Speak to partner and friends about Stoicism
  • Watch You tube videos or podcasts about Stoicism regularly
  • Daily reflection and/or journaling of my progress in Stoicism
  • Focus on specific aspects of Stoicism such as the virtues  and the dichotomy of control
  • Use the self-monitoring sheet from Stoic Week
  • Download the audios from Stoic Week and listen to them
  • Read modern books on Stoicism
  • Practice “sage on my shoulder” technique regularly
  • Do the View from Above meditation and reflect on our  place in the universe
  • Set reminders (e.g. on phone) to do my Stoic Practice and of key Stoic learnings (daily or weekly)
  • Set aside time for regular practice, prioritise it

Perhaps the above list will provide inspiration to some readers about how to maintain their practice of Stoicism.

3) Other  Significant Findings

  • Participants reported spending on average 24 minutes on Stoic Week each day. 13% of participants said they spent under 10 minutes each day whilst  5% told us they spent over an hour each day on Stoic activities. Most people (62%) spent between 10 minutes and half an hour each day on Stoic  activities during Stoic Week.
  • There was a 33% increase in participant’s professed knowledge of Stoicism.  Similar numbers of people said they “know a bit” about Stoicism (46% before and 47% after Stoic Week) but there was a big reduction in participants saying they were “novices”  (26% went down to 9%) and 43% said they know quite a lot about Stoicism, compared to only 21% who put themselves in this category at the start of Stoic Week.
  • Bucking the previous trend towards using the website away from using a  pdf. there was surprisingly little change in the way that Stoic Week booklet was accessed in 2018 with over a quarter of people still using a pdf.
  • Whilst at the start of week only 43% of participants said they were “More Stoic than not Stoic”  (32%) or  that they “consider myself  a Stoic” (11%)  , this increased to 81 % by the end of stoic week, comprising 62% who said they were now “More Stoic than not Stoic” and 19% who said they “consider themselves to be a Stoic”.
  • When asked about on how many days they actively engaged with the materials (meaning spending more than 10 minutes on them) the answers ranged from the most engaged day (Day 1, Happiness 16%) to the least engaged (Day 7, Nature, 12%). This implies a gradual reduction in the number of people engaging with the material each day, even amongst those who complete the end of Stoic Week questionnaire.
  • Relatively few people use the self-monitoring sheet at all (only 39%) whilst most people attempt the morning meditation at least once (93%), the evening meditation (90%) and listen to the audio recordings (60%)
  • Most people did try to apply Stoic principles each day – 62% saying they tried to every day of Stoic Week
  • When asked how they interacted with other people in Stoic Week, 27% of participants said they spoke to people at home about Stoicism, 18% said they took part in the Modern Stoicism forum, 12% said they attempted to teach Stoicism to other people and 12% said they spoke to people in their workplace about Stoicism. Only 3% of Stoic Week participants were at Stoicon or similar event.

Typical comments about how Stoicism benefitted participants included

  • Really enjoyed Stoic week…already missing it.
  • I loved this event and hope to participate more actively next year.
  • Something that everyone should take part in.
  • Thank you all for this wonderful project.
  • Thank you for organizing this event. It really helped me deal with my emotions in a healthy way, which is something I struggle with greatly.
  • It was a joy to participate in. Thank you for making this course available for free!
  • It was wonderful and I plan to do this again!
  • I never would’ve thought that seven days could do so much, and yet here I am, slightly awed about just how much has changed for me. I am incredibly thankful.
  • Interesting, enjoyable and calming – setting aside some time each day to read & reflect is very useful.
  • Enjoyable & interesting, thank you for the time in putting together the various means of access and in choosing texts for each day as well as writing the connecting pieces.
  • Please keep it up as an annual event. This and the annual month long Stoic training event help keep me on the Stoic path.
  • I found this to be so helpful and mind opening. I look forward to exploring Stoicism more. Thank you for all your work putting this together.
  • Keep it up! You’re making the world a better place
  • Keep up the great work!
  • Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

4) Overall Status of Modern Stoicism Research

  • Through running  Stoic Weeks since 2012 and measuring well-being before and after Stoic Week each time, we have consistently  reproduced the finding that a week of  Stoicism results in increased satisfaction with life, positive emotions, flourishing and reduced negative emotions.
  • A month of Stoicism (SMRT)  has a bigger impact.
  • When practising Stoicism for a month as in SMRT, the benefit lasts at least 3 months with almost no decrease in impact (for those who responded to the follow-up)
  • These findings should be treated with some caution as the samples are self-selecting , there may be some placebo effect and a significant number of participants drop out.
  • An important development has been the production of the SABS (Stoic Attitudes and Behaviour Scale) to measure a person’s degree of Stoicism.
  • *Even without doing Stoic training, people who are more Stoic(as measured by the SABS scale)  have greater well-being, positive emotions, flourishing and less negative emotions . If they then do Stoic training (as in Stoic Week) these all generally improve as does their degree of Stoicism.
  • The combination of the above findings means we can be confident the improvements in well-being is not  accounted for completely by a placebo effect.
  • In 2017 we also administered a character strength survey, the CIVIC scale in Stoic Week,. We found Stoicism was significantly and positively correlated with all the virtues and with most character strengths
  •  Zest turned out to be the character strength most associated with Stoicism and also the strength that increased the most during Stoic Week
  • This year we learnt that most people who have done Stoic week believe that Stoicism significantly benefits both themselves and  other people. Most  believe that the benefit is larger for themselves than others.

5) Recommended Next Steps

Stoic Week 2018 supports previous findings about the benefits of Stoicism and the additional questions asked this year supplement our knowledge of how and why Stoicism benefits people. There are a number of steps that could be taken if sufficient funding and/or willing and qualified volunteers were available.  Some of these are in the pipeline whilst some are aspirational. In no particular order, recommended next steps include:-

a) Develop  the Stoic Attitudes and Behaviour Scale (SABS) further so it is validated to the standard of other psychometric scales, has subscales that would help people understand in what ways they were and were not Stoic and would be fit for use with a general population (i.e. avoid technical or complicated language). Ideally the SABS should also be available as a briefer questionnaire as well as a more comprehensive scale (It is quite common for questionnaires to have a longer and shorter versions)

b) Develop  versions of Stoicism tailored  for particular populations and problems.  SMRT already exists, being tailored to help with resilience. In addition Stoicism could be customised so it is helpful in

  • children (schools)
  • prisons
  • to help people suffering from pain
  • to help people  with anger issues
  • older people
  • parents

People are already working in these areas – from a research perspective it would be beneficial if their work could be represented in a “package” and its benefits be measured. SMRT provides a very good example of how this could be done.

c) Carry out a randomised control trial for Stoicism in general population or with specific groups

d) Research to help answer the following questions

  • Who benefits most from Stoicism?
  • What is the  relationship between Stoicism and the big 5 personality traits?
  • What is the relationship between Stoicism(big S)  versus stoicism (small s)?

e) Use other, qualitative research methods

If you have other ideas about how to advance Stoic research or would be willing to be involved in the research and are suitably qualified, we would love to hear from you.

Stoic Week 2018 Report Part 3: Impact on Well-being by Tim LeBon

One main activity of the Modern Stoicism organization is carrying out research on the impact of adopting Stoic practices, perspectives, and principles on those who do so.  Every year we run the Stoic Week online class, and we also gather valuable data through the surveys before and after participants engage in the class.  Tim LeBon is our lead quantitative researcher, and he does invaluable service in compiling and interpreting the data collected, producing a set of Stoic Week Reports.  This is the third report for this year, which you can download a copy of (with all of the appendices) by clicking here.

This report forms the third part of the report on Stoic Week 2018. Over  600 participants completed a set of questionnaires  both at the beginning and end of Stoic week, allowing us to assess the impact of doing Stoic Week on self-reports on well-being and on levels of Stoicism. For the first time we were using SABS 4.0, a longer and more comprehensive measure of a participant’s degree of Stoicism.

Overall Findings

In terms of improvements in well-being over Stoic Week, the results were similar to previous years, though slightly reduced on some measures. The completion rate was also broadly comparable with previous years.

  Stoic
Week
2018
Stoic
Week
2017
Stoic
Week
2016
Stoic
Week
2015
Stoic
Week
2014
No of participants at start 3702 2870 1803 2503 1953
Valid questionnaires completed at end 852 689 270 726 566
Increase in Flourishing 8% 10% 10% 10% 10%
Increase in Satisfaction with Life 12% 14% 15% 15% 16%
Increase in Positive Emotions 9.5% 11% 10% 10% 11%
Reduction in Negative Emotions 14% 14% 14% 14% 16%
Increase In Stoic Attitudes and Behaviours 10% 9% 11% 13% 12%
Completion Rate 23% 24% 15% 29% 29%

Table 1: Overall FindingsI

Impact on Flourishing

Participants reported on average a 8% overall increase in Flourishing[i]

Table 2 below shows the impact of Stoicism which on each element of Flourishing.

Flourishing Scale Item 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 Theme
1. I lead a purposeful and meaningful life. 12 15 15 16 14 10 Purpose and meaning
2. My social relationships are supportive and rewarding. 10 13 13 11 11 10 Relationships
3.  I am engaged and interested in my daily activities. 10 12 8 10 10 10 Engagement in activities
4. I actively contribute to the happiness and well-being of others. 7 10 10 10 8 8 Benevolent
5.  I am competent and capable in the activities that are important to me 6 8 6 7 8 5 Competent
6. I am a good person and live a good life. 7 8 8 8 9 8 Ethically Good
7. I am optimistic about my future. 9 11 10 12 11 18 Optimism
8. People respect me. 5 7 9 7 7 5 Respected

Table 2: Impact on Flourishing

As in previous years, results suggest Stoicism has a particularly large positive impact on purpose and meaning (item 1.)

Impact on Satisfaction with Life

Participants reported an  average 12% increase in satisfaction with life overall as measured by the Satisfaction with Life Scale.[ii].

Table 3  below shows which aspects of Satisfaction with Life increased the most. As in previous years, the theme of acceptance(question 5) showed by the biggest increase – 17%.

Percentage change by each question 2018% increase 2017% increase 2016  % increase 2015 % increase   2014 % increase 2013 % increase Theme
1. In most ways my life is close to my ideal 13 16 10 20 15 18 Life is ideal
2.The conditions of my life are excellent 10 11 13 13 15 11 Externals met
3. So far I have got the important things I want in life. 9 10 10 13 13 11 Needs met
4. I am satisfied with my life 11 14 13 14 15 17 Satisfaction
5. If I could live my life over, I would change almost nothing 17 19 24 20 17 17 Acceptance

Table 3: Impact on  Satisfaction with Life 

Impact on Emotions

There was a substantial increase in positive emotions and decrease in negative emotions as reported by participants who took part in Stoic Week.  There was a greater shift in negative emotions than positive emotions (14% as opposed to 9,5%) as measured by the SPANE.[iii]  The positive emotions that showed the biggest changes in 2018 were “contented“ ( up 14%). All the negative emotions  showed a significant reduction of between 13 and 15%. Tables 4 and 5 below shows the impact of Stoic Week on positive and negative emotions.

Positive Emotions 2018 % change 2017 % change 2016 % change 2015 % change 2014 % change 2013 % change
Average
positive
9.5 11 10 10 11   9
Contented 14 14 15 14 14 12
Joyful 11 14 12 13 13 12
Happy 10 11 7 11 9 9
Good 7 9 8 9 10 7
 Pleasant 8 9 9 9 10 8
Positive 7 9 10 8 13 8

Table 4: Impact on Positive Emotions

Negative  Emotions 2018 % change 2017 % change 2016 % change 2015 % change 2014 % change 2013 % change
Average negative -14 -14 -14 -14 -16 -11
Unpleasant -13 -15 -17 -16 -17 -8
Bad -15 -16 -12 -15 -17 -11
Negative -15 -15 -16 -14 -17 -12
Angry -14 -12 -13 -14 -15 -13
Afraid -13 -14 -13 -12 -14 -10
Sad -15 -13 -14 -12 -14 -10

Table 5:  Impact on Negative Emotions

Impact on Stoic Attitudes and Behaviours (SABS 4.0)

The Stoics Attitudes and Behaviours Scale (v4.0) is a scale being developed by the Modern Stoicism team to assess a person’s degree of Stoicism. Appendix D contains a full list of items, their meanings and also the range of scores at the end of Stoic Week 2018. Comparisons in SABS scores before and after Stoic Week allow us to assess whether participants changed with respect to being Stoic taking part in StoicWeek. It also enables us to see in which ways they became more Stoic.

Table 6 below gives the changes in average scores for each item between the beginning and end of Stoic Week for2018. Overall there was an 10% increase in assenting to Stoic attitudes and behaviours from an average of 378at the start and 416 for  those completedStoic week .The average SABS for everyone who started (including non-completers) was 372 which would give an average increase of 12%.

# Item start end % change
1 I think about what the ideal wise and good person would do when faced with various misfortunes in life 4.8 5.5 15.1
2 It can sometimes be a good thing to become angry at people. 4.1 4.8 14.7
3 I try to anticipate future misfortunes. 5.4 5.5 2.6
4 The best idea is to give up trying to control people and instead focussing on ourselves and our own behaviour. 6.2 6.5 5.1
5  Even if my circumstances in life are favourable, I will not be consistently happy unless I develop the right understanding and character. 5.9 6.2 5.1
6 As long as you have the right attitude, you can lead a good life even in the most difficult circumstances. 5.7 6.0 5.2
7 I rehearse rising above possible future misfortunes. 5.4 5.8 7.2
8 To flourish as a human being all you need is good understanding and  good character. 4.8 5.5 15.9
9 I take active steps to reduce the suffering of others. 5.1 5.5 8.3
10 It doesn’t really matter what other people think about me as long as I do the right thing. 5.3 5.9 12.8
11 I spend quite a lot of time dwelling on what has gone wrong in the past. 3.7 4.5 22.4
12 I often think about how small humanity is compared to how big the universe it. 5.1 5.4 7.2
13 I consider myself a part of the human race, in the same way that a limb is a part of the human body. 5.1 5.7 11.7
14 When making a significant decision I ask myself “What really matters here?” 5.3 6.0 12.2
15 We can sometimes influence how others behave but we can’t completely control other people. 6.4 6.5 2.2
16  I cannot really be harmed by what other people say. 4.4 5.4 22.4
17  I am committed to helping humanity in general. 4.5 5.3 18.0
18  The universe is a living thing. 5.0 5.1 3.9
19  I need quite a lot of money in order to be happy. 5.0 5.3 7.7
20  When I have a problem, I am good at taking constructive action in a timely manner. 4.9 5.4 10.4
21 It is good to think about life as an ongoing journey towards becoming a better person. 6.2 6.5 4.8
22 Having good understanding and good character is all that is required in order to be happy. 4.7 5.5 16.8
23  I am committed to helping my friends. 5.8 6.0 4.6
24  We can’t really control other people. 6.3 6.5 3.9
25 There is a rational and orderly plan in the universe and in the causation of events. 3.6 4.2 17.9
26 When making a significant decision I reflect on what a good role model would do. 4.6 5.4 17.1
27 Nothing except our judgements and voluntary actions are truly under our control in life. 5.9 6.3 6.9
28  I pay attention to my judgments as I am making them. 5.1 5.7 10.7
29  I need to be well thought of by others in order to be happy. 4.2 4.8 13.7
30  I spend quite a lot of time worrying about the future. 3.5 4.2 20.5
31  If bad things happen to you, you are bound to feel distressed. 3.4 4.0 16.8
32  Bad luck could stop me being happy. 4.0 4.7 18.3
33  I  pay attention to my thoughts about what I intend to do  before I act on them. 5.1 5.7 11.0
34 I treat everyone fairly. 5.2 5.8 10.2
35  Whatever happens to you, it’s possible to rise above it and feel calm. 5.3 5.9 11.0
36  If things don’t go well for my friends, I can’t lead a good life. 5.0 5.2 3.2
37  I want to become a better person ethically. 6.3 6.5 2.8
38  When a negative thought enters my mind, the first thing I do is to remind myself that it is just an interpretation of  the situation. 4.3 5.3 22.1
39  We should learn to accept things that are outside our control. 6.2 6.4 3.1
40  It is right to feel intense and overwhelming grief after a significant loss. 2.5 3.0 17.3
41  I view other people as fellow-members of the brother/sisterhood of humankind. 5.4 5.6 5.5
42  Peace of mind comes from accepting that you should not care about things outside your control. 5.4 6.0 10.2
43  Viewing other people as fellow-members of the brother/sisterhood of humankind helps me to avoid feeling angry and resentful. 4.9 5.4 11.4
44  If things don’t go well for me, I can’t  lead a good life 4.7 5.3 11.2
45  Every day I think about how small we are in comparison with the whole universe. 4.2 4.8 15.9
46  Our voluntary actions are amongst the only things truly under our control in life. 5.8 6.2 6.3
47  It is my duty to help others. 5.4 5.8 5.6
48  I can’t control how I feel. 4.9 5.4 10.4
49  I do not act on urges when it would be unwise to act on them. 4.6 5.2 13.1
50  Recognizing that being the best kind of person is the only thing that matters helps me face how short life is. 4.8 5.5 14.0
51  I need to be in good health in order to be happy. 3.7 4.3 17.5
52  I regularly spend time reflecting on what is most important for me to live a good and happy life. 5.1 5.7 10.0
53  I usually do the right thing. 5.3 5.7 6.9
54 Every day I spend some time reflecting in a constructive way on how I am doing as a human being. 4.3 5.3 21.9
55  I do the right thing even when I feel afraid. 4.8 5.4 12.1
56  Improving my ability to reason well and develop good judgement is very important. 6.4 6.5 1.7
57  I am committed to helping my family. 6.2 6.3 1.5
58  Every day I spend some time thinking about how I can best face challenges in the day ahead. 4.8 5.5 14.9
59  The universe is benevolent in its overall plan. 3.7 4.2 13.3
60 I regularly think about the inevitability of death. 5.0 5.2 4.1
61 Pleasure is one of the most important things in life. 4.2 4.7 11.2
62 Our judgements are amongst the only things truly under our control in life. 5.7 6.2 8.9
63 Even when I can’t do anything more about a problem I still worry about it a lot. 3.3 4.2 27.4
64 I care about the suffering of others. 5.8 5.9 2.1
65 Every day I reflect on how all human beings are just like me in important ways. 4.3 5.0 15.8
66 I often do what I feel like doing rather than doing what I believe to be the right thing. 4.4 5.0 12.4
67 I try to treat everybody fairly even those people who I don’t particularly like. 3.9 4.7 17.9
68 Every day I think about our place in the universe. 5.5 5.8 5.9
69 I see my happiness as fully compatible with caring for other people. 5.4 5.8 6.9
70 There is no overall plan to the universe. 3.2 3.7 14.3
71 I think about my life as an ongoing project to become a better person. 5.9 6.2 6.0
72 I try to treat people fairly even those people who have behaved badly towards me. 5.3 5.7 8.1
73 If things don’t go well for my family, I can’t lead a good life 4.4 4.8 10.2
74 Improving my ability to do what an excellent human being would do is very important to me. 5.9 6.2 5.6
75 I am committed to helping in my local community. 4.8 5.3 9.8
76 The universe embodies wisdom. 4.1 4.7 14.0
77 Some things that matter a lot for my happiness are outside my control. 3.7 4.5 23.2

Table 6: Impact of taking part in Stoic Week 2018 on Stoic attitudes and behaviours

The SABS items that showed the biggest percentage increases  during Stoic Week were as follows

# Item Start score End score % change
63 Even when I can’t do anything more about a problem I still worry about it a lot. 3.3 4.2 27.4
77 Some things that matter a lot for my happiness are outside my control. 3.7 4.5 23.2
11 I spend quite a lot of time dwelling on what has gone wrong in the past. 3.7 4.5 22.4
16  I cannot really be harmed by what other people say. 4.4 5.4 22.4
38  When a negative thought enters my mind, the first thing I do is to remind myself that it is just an interpretation of  the situation. 4.3 5.3 22.1
54 Every day I spend some time reflecting in a constructive way on how I am doing as a human being. 4.3 5.3 21.9
30  I spend quite a lot of time worrying about the future. 3.5 4.2 20.5

The SABS items which had the highest scores at the end of Stoic week were as follows:

# Item Start score End score % change
24  We can’t really control other people. 6.3 6.5 3.9
15 We can sometimes influence how others behave but we can’t completely control other people. 6.4 6.5 2.2
4 The best idea is to give up trying to control people and instead focussing on ourselves and our own behaviour. 6.2 6.5 5.1
56  Improving my ability to reason well and develop good judgement is very important. 6.4 6.5 1.7
37  I want to become a better person ethically. 6.3 6.5 2.8
21 It is good to think about life as an ongoing journey towards becoming a better person. 6.2 6.5 4.8
39  We should learn to accept things that are outside our control. 6.2 6.4 3.1
27 Nothing except our judgements and voluntary actions are truly under our control in life. 5.9 6.3 6.9
57  I am committed to helping my family. 6.2 6.3 1.5

All SABS items moved in the expected direction

The 10% change in Stoic Attitudes and Behaviours overall is significant in that it supports the view that it is changes in level of Stoicism that is mediating the change in well-being rather than other variables, such as a placebo effect.

Conclusions

For the fifth year running, taking part in Stoic Week led to a significant increase in well-being on all measures and in degree of Stoicism. The more comprehensive SABS 4.0 gives us more detail about which Stoic attitudes and behaviours changed the most.


[i] See Appendix A for a description of the Flourishing Scale.

[ii] See Appendix B.

[iii] See Appendix C.

Are Stoics Still Happier? Stoic Week 2018 Report part 2 (of 4) by Tim LeBon

 One main activity of the Modern Stoicism organization is carrying out research on the impact of adopting Stoic practices, perspectives, and principles on those who do so.  Every year we run the Stoic Week online class, and we also gather valuable data through the surveys before and after participants engage in the class.  Tim LeBon is our lead quantitative researcher, and he does invaluable service in compiling and interpreting the data collected, producing a set of Stoic Week Reports.  This is the second report for this year, which you can download a copy of (with all of the appendices) by clicking here.

 

A strong positive relationship between Stoicism and well-being has been well documented in previous Stoic Week reports.   This article analyses the findings from analysing questionnaires from the start of Stoic week 2018 and in addition introduces the improved version of the Stoic Attitudes and Behaviours Scale (SABS v4.0) . Future reports will discuss the effect of taking part in Stoic Week (part 3), summarise participant feedback and suggest future directions of research (part 4).

The New SABS Scale

Stoic Week 2018 saw the introduction of SABS 4.0. A small team of helpers  (thank you all!) reviewed SABS 3.0 and critiqued each question in terms of its clarity and simplicity. In addition, the data from Stoic Week 2017 was analysed with the extremely valuable assistance of Ray diGuiseppe to eliminate items which did not have good psychometric properties.

The result is a 77 item questionnaire as described in Appendix A. If you took part in Stoic Week, you might like to turn straight to Appendix A where we say a little bit about each of the 77 items,  provide comparison data for each item (average, low and high scores).. We intend in future to further refine the SABS scale, producing a psychometrically valid SABS 5.0 with a number of subscales.

Stoicism and Well-Being

The relationship between Stoicism and well-being has been well documented in previous reports. This section summarises the findings and answers questions that interested readers are likely to ask.

Q: In the past you’ve found significant correlations between  level of Stoicism (as measured by SABS) and the various well-being measures. Has this been replicated?

A: Indeed it has. With 3702 valid scores the probability of the correlations indicated in table 1 below being accidental are less than 1 in a million. The correlations are slightly higher than in 2017 (figures in brackets are those for 2017) The highly significant correlation between Stoicism and many measures of well-being has now been replicated with large samples over 5 years . See appendices A, B , C and D of the full report for further information about each scale.

  Flourishing Emotions (SPANE) Life Satisfaction (SWL)
STOIC ATTITUDES AND BEHAVIOURS .54 

(0.47)

.45 

(0.43 )

.39 

(0.36)

Table 1 Overall association of Stoic Attitudes and Behaviours with various scales (2018 Stoic Week compared to 2017 Stoic Week)

.

Q: OK, so that looks like a solid finding, at least for the sort of people who take part in Stoic Week.  In general, Stoics are still  happier than non-Stoics. I  seem to recall that in previous years you also listed how Stoicism was associated with particular emotions, as measured by the SPANE scale. What were these results this year?

A: Table 2 below shows that as in 2017, there is a significant positive association between Stoicism and each positive emotion. There is also a significant negative correlation between every negative emotion and Stoicism. We can’t  be so confident about which emotions are most connected with Stoicism as the differences are quite small and changeable.

Emotion 2018 2017 2016
Negative -0.35 -0.36 -0.29
Bad -0.31 -0.32 -0.28
Unpleasant -0.29 -0.27 -0.24
Sad -0.26 -0.28 -0.26
Angry -0.24 -0.27 -0.24
Afraid -0.24 -0.23 -0.26
Contented 0.36 0.33 0.35
Positive 0.36 0.32 0.31
Happy 0.35 0.29 0.28
Good 0.34 0.32 0.32
Pleasant 0.34 0.32 0.3
Joyful 0.32 0.28 0.26

Table 2 : Correlation of SABS 4.0 scores and emotions as measured in SPANE

 

Q:  All this talk of correlation coefficients is a bit confusing for me. Can you just tell me how much difference it makes to my happiness whether I am Stoic or not?

A: Remember that these findings do not necessarily imply causation, so we can’t say that being more Stoic makes you more happy. However we can look at the group of people who are in the top and bottom 10% in terms of Stoicism and compare their well-being scores on the various scales.  Table 3 below gives this information 

  SABS SWL SPANE FLOURISH
Top 10% SABS Average 459.3 27.2 10.7 48.3
Bottom 10% SABS Average 291.9 18.8 -1.0 33.7
Average 372.3 23.1 4.6 41.5

Table 3: Top and Bottom 10% in Stoicism and their scores in various scales (2018)

As can be seen, those in the top 10% as measured by SABS score significantly higher than the average in all well-being scales, whilst those in the lowest 10% score significantly lower. We will also see in the next report whether doing Stoicism for a week improves well-being (it has in previous years) which would support a causal explanation of this correlation.

 

Q: The SABS scale now covers a really wide range of Stoic attitudes and behaviours. Can you tell which items are most connected with well-being?

A: Yes, tables 4,5 and 6 below show what appear to be the most “active ingredients” in terms of Satisfaction with Life, emotions and flourishing respectively. It appears that different items are most associated with life satisfaction and emotions on the one hand and flourishing on the other. The items connected with overthinking about the past or present have a big impact of Life Satisfaction and emotions. However practical wisdom and courage and justice are more potent when it comes to flourishing. 

# SABS Item Satisfaction with Life correlation
11 I spend quite a lot of time dwelling on what has gone wrong in the past. 0.40
20  When I have a problem, I am good at taking constructive action in a timely manner. 0.39
30  I spend quite a lot of time worrying about the future. 0.35
53  I usually do the right thing. 0.31

 Table 4 :  Most active Stoic ingredients of SWL

 

# SABS Item Flourishing 

correlation

20  When I have a problem, I am good at taking constructive action in a timely manner. 0.50
53  I usually do the right thing. 0.45
55  I do the right thing even when I feel afraid. 0.41
23  I am committed to helping my friends. 0.36

Table 5 :  Most active Stoic ingredients of Flourishing

 

# SABS Item SPANE emotions correlations
11 I spend quite a lot of time dwelling on what has gone wrong in the past. 0.50
30  I spend quite a lot of time worrying about the future. 0.50
63 Even when I can’t do anything more about a problem I still worry about it a lot. 0.47
20  When I have a problem, I am good at taking constructive action in a timely manner. 0.40

 Table 6:  Most active SABS ingredients in terms of emotions

Conclusions

These findings replicate previous research about the relationship between Stoicism, life satisfaction, flourishing and the emotions. A more comprehensive SABS scale (SABS4.0) has helped us to be more confident about the validity these findings.

You can download the full report, with the appendices, by clicking here.

Tim LeBon is the author of Wise Therapy and Achieve Your Potential With Positive Psychology.  He can be contacted via email at tim@timlebon.com.  His website is  http://www.timlebon.com

Stoic Week 2018 Demographics Report by Tim LeBon

One main activity of the Modern Stoicism organization is carrying out research on the impact of adopting Stoic practices, perspectives, and principles on those who do so.  Every year we run the Stoic Week online class, and we also gather valuable data through the surveys before and after participants engage in the class.  Tim LeBon is our lead quantitative researcher, and he does invaluable service in compiling and interpreting the data collected, producing a set of Stoic Week Reports.  This is the first report for this year.

 

Stoic Week is over, we hope you enjoyed it and found it helpful.  This is the first in a series of articles reporting on what we  learnt from it. Today we have answers to the following questions

  • How many people took part? Were there more men or women? Which gender is more Stoic?
  • How old are the participants of Stoic Week? Do you get more Stoic as you get older?
  • Which countries took part and which countries are the most (and least) Stoic?
  • Do people take part in Stoic Week more than once? Are people more Stoic the more times they do Stoic Week?
  • Why do people take part in Stoic week?

How many people took part? Were there more men or women? Which gender is more Stoic?

Gender Total 2018

%

2017

%

2016

%

Average SABS score

2018

Male 2283 62 65 66 373
Female 1375 37 34 33 368
Decline to state 27 1 1 1 (364)
Other 21 1 0.5 (383)

Table 1: Stoic Week 2018 by gender  (*Percentages in this and other tables may not add up to 100% due to rounding)

  • More people completed the Stoic Week questionnaires than in 2017. 3899  people did so, an increase from 2860 in 2017 which was more than the 1798 in 2016. This was despite a longer SABS questionnaire to complete and the requirement to ask for GDPR consent. 3555 did not finish the questionnaires although they started and only 196 denied consent. This gives a total figure for 7650 people who accessed the questionnaires.
  • The ratio of males to females was 62% to 37%. This compared with 65% to 34% last year showing a slight increase in number of females talking part.
  • Men were marginally more Stoic then women as measured by SABS scored, though those who identified as “Other” ((admittedly a very small sample) were the most Stoic.

How old are the participants of Stoic Week? Do you get more Stoic as you get older?

Age 2018

%

2017

%

2016

%

Average SABS score 2018
Over 65 7 381
56-65 14 17 (was over 55) 13 (over 55) 381
46-55 20 18 17 375
36-45 22 22 21 372
26-35 23 27 25 366
18-25 13 15 22 366
Under 18 1 1 1 (369)

Table 2: A wide range of ages take part in Stoic Week. It does seem that you get more Stoic as you get older.

 Which countries too part and which countries are the most (and least) Stoic?

Country No % Average SABS Score
United States 1388 37 382
United Kingdom 832 22 363
Canada 310 8 377
Australia 158 4 376
Germany 155 4 356
Russian Federation 75 2 346
Netherlands 68 2 358
France 61 2 370
Spain 39 1 372
Ireland {Republic} 38 1 384
Sweden 34 1 364
New Zealand 31 1 363
Switzerland 31 1 361
Brazil 30 1 366
South Africa 29 1 379
Italy 23 1 370
Ukraine 22 1 344
Denmark 19 1 364
Poland 19 1 368
Belgium 18 0 369
China 17 0 376
India 17 0 376
Argentina 16 0 374
Finland 16 0 355
Austria 15 0 369
Portugal 15 0 377
Japan 14 0 376
Mexico 13 0 386
Norway 13 0 372
Czech Republic 12 0 335
Israel 12 0 363
Singapore 11 0 402

Table 3: Stoic Week 2018 by country

For the first time we obtained specific country data. Table 3 shows all countries with more than 10 participants in Stoic Week. Of these, the most Stoic were Singapore, Mexico, the Irish Republic and the United States. Least Stoic were the Czech Republic, the Ukraine and the Russian Federation.

Do people take part in Stoic Week more than once? Are people more Stoic if they’ve taken part a number of times?

Number of times participated in Stoic Weeks previously 2018% 2017% 2016

%

SABS
0 73 79 77 366
1 17 13 14 384
2 6 5 6 396
3 3 2 3 399
4 or more 2 1 1 423

 Table 4: Stoic Week 2018 : Previous participation

More than 70% of participants are first-timers, but those who do take part appear to be significantly more Stoic as a result.

How much do participants say they know about Stoicism?

Knowledge of Stoicism 2018 2017%  2016   % SABS
None 10 9 11 348
Novice 28 30 33 359
I know a bit 42 41 39 374
I know quite a bit but not an expert 19 19 16 398
Expert .8 0.5 1 429

Table 5: Stoic Week 2018

Most people say that know a bit about Stoicism, which as many as 10% doing Stoic Week without knowing anything about it. There is a strong association between how much people know about Stoicism and how Stoic they are according to the SABS.

Identification with being a Stoic 2018 SABS
Definitely not a Stoic 6 335
More not a Stoic than a Stoic 10 347
Neutral or I don’t know 37 356
I am more a Stoic than not a Stoic 38 388
I consider myself to be a Stoic

 

11 421

Table 5: How Stoic do  participants rate themselves? How closely does this connect with their SABS score?

For the first time, we asked people to what extent they identified as  a Stoic. Interestingly, about the same number are neutral as think they are more Stoic than not Stoic. A relatively small number consider themselves to be a Stoic whilst as many as 6% are doing Stoic week despite definitely not being a Stoic, which is perhaps surprising.

Why did people take part in Stoic week?

Below is the “word cloud” for the reasons given for taking part in Stoic Week.

Stoic Week 2017 Report Part 4: Feedback on Stoic Week and Overall Conclusions by Tim LeBon

This article is the fourth part of the report on Stoic Week 2017. The previously published parts of the report summarised the  demographics, the relationships between well-being and degree of Stoicism at the start of Stoic Week, the  impact of taking part in Stoic Week  and  the longer SMRT course on well-being and degree of Stoicism .[i]  This is a

The research on Stoicism is progressing well. To move to the next level, your help would be most welcome. If you are familiar with quantitative or qualitative research methods, and would like to be involved of some of the above research – or if you have your own ideas about how we could further research the effectiveness of Stoicism – we would to hear from you. Please contact  Tim LeBon  by email (tim@timlebon.com)

The report is divided into two sections. The first part provides representative samples of the qualitative feedback provided by participants after Stoic Week. The second part draws together findings from all the reports for 2017 Stoic Week and makes some recommendations for future work. The appendices summarise quantitative feedback on other aspects of Stoic Week, such as the audio recordings and daily exercises. You can download a full PDF of this report with all of the appendices here.

Participants’ Qualitative Feedback

 Appendix 1 contains quantitative feedback on how much Stoic Week helped in specific areas of life such as relationships, becoming a better person and becoming wiser. Below is a sample of the qualitative feedback.

Relationships

“Helped me realise that other people are out of my control, yet they are humans facing the struggles of life just like I am. And this made me feel a greater connection to others”

“[I am] not dwelling on hurts as much”

“I pass less judgment on people and contain my anger. It really changed my relationship with my mother-in-law.”

“Knowing that people’s thoughts about me are outside of my control and I shouldn’t worry about them, only care about my actions, helps reduce my anxiety/shyness. Now there have been times when I just said what I wanted to say sincerely and was satisfied with it regardless of what my friends might think. I just think “I said what I had to say and I didn’t say anything wrong; now what they think of me is outside of my control” and feel relieved. Also I’ve noticed I care more about what I really am than what I show off to others”

Becoming a Better Person

“Keeping a daily journal helped”

“Yes, because I become more virtuous.”

“Really felt that I was able to maintain an inner state of awareness of thoughts and emotions appearing through the day and able to step back and let them abate. This state of mindfulness also helped me to make better decisions through each day”

Wisdom

“Now for everything I do I think of Stoic virtues to check if I’m doing things according to my values instead of unconsciously doing whatever I feel like doing”

Other Ways in which Stoic Week helped

Some participants described other ways in which Stoic Week helped them as follows :-

“Dealing with grief”

“Being more just”

“Become less anxious”

“Stoic week helped me to be more focused on my priorities and produce better quality work.”

“Controlling anger; Stoic Week has had a huge impact in my ability to step outside of myself, so to speak, and view my thoughts as only thoughts and not what they pretend to be. I’ve been able to short-circuit anger many, many times using Stoic techniques.”

“Calmer, more patient, very much helps to keep anxiety and depression away.”

“Being more patient & content”

“Increased reflections”

“Much better prepared to stop negative thoughts and to focus on doing the right thing and thinking straight”

“Better understanding of the Meaning of Life”

“I find it easier to accept my death … it was indirectly because “On the Shortness of Life” wasn’t in the list, but Stoic week mentions Seneca a lot so I ended up reading this book and it’s really good. Now I’m always thinking of my time as a precious resource and I tend to not waste as much time as I used to.”

Further Comments

Participants were also given the opportunity to make other comments about  their experience of Stoic Week.  Below is a sample:

“This is really invaluable to me.”

“It’s been really helpful, much more than I had even hoped”

“I feel inspired to maintain the practice of Stoicism long term.”

“This is amazing that this is free! I think if everyone lived by applying stoicism to their everyday encounters with others then this world would be a much more peaceful place.  I hope to interest others in this website! Thanks a million!!”

“Thank you. A wonderful introduction to the application of this philosophy to daily life.”
“I got a lot of value from the course and materials. I will be repeating the course for weeks to come to help cement the habits and practices and gain a greater understanding of myself.”

“This was a great course, really helped change my perspective on life. I would be very interested in mini lessons (maybe once a week or fortnight) on Stoic topics as a consistent way to get wisdom and virtue. Thank you for building this, I will certainly be back for Stoic Week 2018!”

“Thank you for organizing this event!”

“Simply and honestly: thank you.”

“Thank you to the team for a wonderful program. I have recommended it to a number of people whom I felt would benefit from it.”

“I’m a university professor with a large number of postgraduate students who I think would all benefit from the Stoic Week experience. I will introduce them to Stoicism at our meeting next week”

“Thank you for organizing this. This is my second year, and I have to tell you that my introduction to Stoicism from last year’s course made a serious positive impact on my life. After that course I went on to read the M.A. Meditations, one each day. Then I read the Epictetus Enchiridion, about one section per day. I then ordered Seneca’s letters and read about one per day. This propelled me for several months of starting my day with a Stoic reflection. So, a wholehearted thank you for putting these materials and events together. I am grateful to have encountered the group and site, and will look forward to next year’s event!”

 

Overall Conclusions and Recommendations

Drawing together the above feedback with the findings report in the first 3 parts of these report, the most significant findings from Stoic Week 2017 are as follows:

Demographics

  • 79% of respondents were participating in Stoic Week for the first time.
  • The ratio of males to females was 65% to 34%
  • Over 43% of respondents were from USA

Analysis from initial set of questionnaires taken at the start of Stoic Week

  • Findings replicated previous research about the strong positive relationship between Stoicism, life satisfaction, flourishing and the emotions.
  • This analysis can also suggest various “active ingredients” in Stoicism in terms of promoting well-being
  • For the first time we can also say that there is evidence to support the view that Stoicism is associated with virtues and positive character traits, as measured on a validated contemporary scale, the CIVIC.
  • A less expected result is that zest turns out to be the character trait most associated with being Stoic.

Analysis from second set of questionnaires taken at the end of Stoic Week

  • Previous years findings regarding the significant increase in well-being on all measures on average for those who take part in Stoic week were replicated.
  • For the first time, a 3 month follow up (for the month long SMRT Stoic Resilience course) has found that the benefits reaped by participants are maintained after 3 months.
  • The 9%  change in Stoic Attitudes and Behaviours overall is significant in that it supports the view that it is changes in level of Stoicism that is mediating the change in well-being rather than other variables, such as the placebo effect.

Summary of Participant Feedback

  • Most participants gave a high rating to experience overall and the materials used, including the audio recordings and daily exercise.
  • Participants additionally reported Stoic Week to be helpful in helping them to be better people, to become wiser, with relationships and to become more knowledgeable about Stoicism.
  • Many participants were very grateful for the opportunity to take part in Stoic Week and described the ways in which they had benefited

Pulling these ideas together, and drawing on some specific suggestions given in feedback, here are some ideas about how to progress with Stoic Week

  • There was overwhelming support for repeating the experience
  • Some participants mooted the idea of a level 2 Stoic Week for people who had already done a Stoic Week before – perhaps with more advanced materials
  • Some participants were interested in doing these exercises for a longer time – perhaps a Stoic fortnight or month
  • There was a strong interest in the materials being made available earlier and being translated into as many languages as possible
  • The Stoic Week Handbook and the SMRT and other questionnaires could be made available all year.
  • We now have an iOS app, via Teachable, which is available for people to use to do Stoic Week and SMRT.  There is not an app available for Android, and that would be beneficial
  • Some participants would like to see more of different Stoics than Marcus and Epictetus e.g. Seneca.
  • It would be desirable for there to be more follow-up courses
  • It would be useful to capture some more specific demographic information e.g. specific country and possibly employment status
  • The SABS questionnaires should be further refined e.g. validating SABS as a scale, making the language simpler. It would also be good to split it into, for example, five Stoic themes, and give participants a rating for each theme.
  • It should be possible to do further qualitative research. For example, groups doing Stoic Week together could form a focus group to feed back their experience in some detail, perhaps responding to semi-structured interviews

In conclusion, the research on Stoicism is progressing well. To move to the next level, your help would be most welcome. If you are familiar with quantitative or qualitative research methods, and would like to be involved of some of the above research – or if you have your own ideas about how we could further research the effectiveness of Stoicism – we would to hear from you.  Please contact the current author by email.

[i] For a comparison with last year see the final part of the Stoic Week 2016 report.

Tim LeBon is the author of Wise Therapy and Activate Your Potential With Positive Psychology.  He can be contacted via email at tim@timlebon.com.  His website is  http://www.timlebon.com

Stoic Week 2017 Report Part 3: The Impact of Stoic Week and SMRT by Tim Lebon

Previous reports have summarised the demographics of Stoic Week and the relationship (measured at the start of Stoic Week) between Stoicism, well-being and character traits.  This report addresses the effects of  doing Stoic Week, and in particular  attempts to answer whether the impact of doing Stoic Week was as positive as in previous years. In addition, for the first time,  the results of a 3 month follow up study performed on the SMRT course run by Donald Robertson in 2017 will provide the first empirically-founded answer to the question “do the effects of Stoicism last, even 3 months after taking part in a Stoic course?”

If you’d like to read the full 14-page version of the Stoic Week 2017 report (part 3), you can click here to download the report.

SMRT 2017 Follow-Up Study

 SMRT (Stoic Mindfulness and Resilience Training) is a four-week intensive training course in core Stoic psychological skills.  It requires about twenty minutes of commitment daily for 28 days.  SMRT was designed in 2014 by Donald Robertson.  Previous  analysis of a SMRT course run in 2014 showed significant improvements in well-being

This year, for the first time, we asked participants to complete the questionnaires three months after the end of the course, as well as at the start and end of SMRT.

Of the 907 participants who began the SMRT course, 254 completed  the course and  88 completed the 3 month follow-up questionnaires.

The results were as follows :-

Measure Start End % improvement 3 months follow-up % improvement
SABS 173.0 194.9 12.7 194.6 12.5
Flourish 40.8 47.0 15.0 47.0 15.1
SPANE+ 20.1 24.0 18.9 22.4 11.3
SPANE- -16.1 -12.9 -20.1 -13.3 -17.6
SWL 23.2 27.0 16.3 26.8 15.3

Table 1: SMRT 2017: Impact at end of  28 day course and 3 month follow-up

Participants were found to have significant improvements in all measures at the end of the course. Particularly of note is the 20% reduction in negative emotions (SPANE-).  The key  question we were looking to answer was “how much would these improvements melt away in the 3 months after SMRT finishe?” It was found that there was very little reduction in benefit even after 3 months. For SABS (measuring degree of Stoicism) and Flourish (measuring flourishing) there was barely any change. In terms of emotions and satisfaction with life there was a small reduction compared to the end of the course. This result suggests that practising Stoicism for as little as a month has a lasting impact.

Impact of Stoic Week 2017: Overall Findings

 In terms of improvements in well-being over Stoic Week, the results were consistent with those of Stoic Week 2016, 2015 and  2014 confirming a significant positive benefit.

Increases in well-being ranged from 10-16% in the week depending on the scale being used. This replication of previous findings gives us further increased confidence in the reliability of the findings.

Table 2 below shows the overall outcome results.[i]

  Stoic Week

2017

Stoic Week

2016

Stoic Week

2015

Stoic Week 2014
No of participants 2870 1803 2503 1953
Increase in Flourishing 10% 10% 10% 10%
Increase in Satisfaction with Life 16% 15% 15% 16%
Increase in Positive Emotions 11% 10% 10% 11%
Reduction in Negative Emotions 14% 14% 14% 16%
Increase In Stoic Attitudes and Behaviours 9% 11% 13% 12%
Completion Rate 24% 15% 29% 29%

Table 2: Impact of Stoic Week 2017

Impact on Flourishing

Participants reported on average a 10% overall increase in  flourishing. The average score for those who completed Stoic Week was 41 at the start of Stoic Week and 45.5 at the end, an increase in over 10%.

Table 3 below shows the impact of Stoicism which on each Flourishing theme.

Flourishing Scale Item 2017

%

2016

%

2015

%

2014

%

2013

%

Theme
1. I lead a purposeful and meaningful life. 15 15 16 14 10 Purpose and meaning
2. My social relationships are supportive and rewarding. 13 13 11 11 10 Relationships
3.  I am engaged and interested in my daily activities. 12 8 10 10 10 Engagement in activities
4. I actively contribute to the happiness and well-being of others. 10 10 10 8 8 Benevolent
5.  I am competent and capable in the activities that are important to me 8 6 7 8 5 Competent
6. I am a good person and live a good life. 8 8 8 9 8 Ethically Good
7. I am optimistic about my future. 11 10 12 11 18 Optimism
8. People respect me. 7 9 7 7 5 Respected

 Table 3: Impact on Flourishing

 As in previous years, results suggest Stoicism has a particularly large positive impact on purpose and meaning (item 1), with social relationships (item 2) also showing particularly  significant improvement.  Table 2 again refutes suggests that Stoicism is a pessimistic philosophy. Stoicism actually lead to a significant increase in optimism.

Impact on Satisfaction with Life

Participants reported an  average 14% increase in satisfaction with life overall as measured by the Satisfaction with Life Scale. Participants  who completed Stoic Week’s average score was 23  at the start and 26 after Stoic Week for Satisfaction with Life.

Table 4 below shows which aspects of Satisfaction with Life increased the most. As one might anticipate given Stoicism’s teachings, the theme of acceptance (question 5) showed by the biggest increase – 19%.

Percentage change by each question 2017% increase 2016  % increase 2015 % increase

 

2014 %

increase

2013 % increase Theme
1. In most ways my life is close to my ideal 16 10 20 15 18 Life is ideal
2.The conditions of my life are excellent 11 13 13 15 11 Externals met
3. So far I have got the important things I want in life. 10 10 13 13 11 Needs met
4. I am satisfied with my life 14 13 14 15 17 Satisfaction
5. If I could live my life over, I would change almost nothing 19 24 20 17 17 Acceptance

Table 4: Impact on  Satisfaction with Life

Impact on Emotions

There was a substantial increase in positive emotions and decrease in negative emotions as reported by participants who took part in Stoic Week.

  • Participants in Stoic Week’s average Positive Emotions score was 20 at the start and 22 after Stoic Week an improvement of  11%.
  • Participants in Stoic Week’s average Negative Emotions score was -16.5 at the start and -14 after Stoic Week an improvement of 16%
  • Participants in Stoic Week’s average overall SPANE score was 3.5 at the start and 8.5 after Stoic

There was a greater shift in negative emotions than positive emotions (16% as opposed to 11%) as measured by the SPANE. The positive emotions that showed the biggest changes in 2017 were “contented“ and  “joyful” (both up 14%). All the negative emotions  showed a significant reduction of between 12% and 16%.

Tables 5 and 6 below give all the details about the impact of Stoic Week on positive and negative emotions.

Positive Emotions 2017 % change 2016 % change 2015 % comparison 2014 % comparison 2013 % comparison
Average positive 11 10 10 11  

9

Contented 14 15 14 14 12
Joyful 14 12 13 13 12
Happy 11 7 11 9 9
Good 9 8 9 10 7
 Pleasant 9 9 9 10 8
Positive 9 10 8 13 8

Table 5: Impact on Positive Emotions

 

Negative  Emotions 2017 %

Change

2016 %

change

2015 % comparison 2014 %

comparison

2013 %

comparison

Average negative -16 -14 -14 -16 -11
Unpleasant -15 -17 -16 -17 -8
Bad -16 -12 -15 -17 -11
Negative -15 -16 -14 -17 -12
Angry -12 -13 -14 -15 -13
Afraid -14 -13 -12 -14 -10
Sad -13 -14 -12 -14 -10

Table 6:  Impact on Negative Emotions

Impact on Character Traits and Virtues

For the first time, we asked participants to complete the CIVIC questionnaire, which allowed us to measure changes in  positive character traits and what the CIVIC terms “character cores” (similar to virtues).  This finding should be treated with a certain amount of caution. One would not necessarily expect these features to be very sensitive to change, and only a small number of participants (37) completed the CIVIC both at the start and end of Stoic Week. With these caveats in mind, tables 7 and 8 give changes to character traits and character cores ordered by the percentage improvement during Stoic Week.

CIVIC Trait BEFORE AFTER % improvement
Zest 2.43 2.73 12.0 11.98
Hope 2.64 2.91 10.3 10.26
Meaning/Purpose 2.07 2.23 7.5 7.49
Persistence 2.89 3.05 5.7 5.72
Leadership 2.50 2.64 5.6 5.57
Self-Control 3.03 3.20 5.6 5.56
Emotional Awareness 2.72 2.86 5.1 5.07
Humor 2.73 2.86 4.6 4.58
Social Perceptiveness 2.53 2.64 4.2 4.16
Perspective-Taking 3.17 3.30 4.2 4.16
Humility 3.29 3.42 3.9 3.90
Gratitude 3.08 3.20 3.8 3.78
Perspective 2.94 3.03 3.2 3.25
Creativity 2.87 2.95 3.0 2.98
Authenticity 3.32 3.41 2.9 2.91
Kindness 2.79 2.87 2.8 2.83
Teamwork 3.15 3.24 2.7 2.74
Bravery 2.96 3.04 2.7 2.67
Spirituality 2.44 2.51 2.6 2.63
Forethought 3.08 3.16 2.6 2.56
Forgiveness 3.19 3.26 2.4 2.39
Love 3.26 3.33 2.2 2.22
Love of Learning 3.59 3.66 2.1 2.13
Trustworthiness 3.32 3.38 1.8 1.85
Curiosity 3.63 3.69 1.8 1.81
Fairness 3.40 3.44 1.1 1.12
Carefulness 3.23 3.26 0.8 0.81
Openness to Evidence 3.37 3.40 0.8 0.78
Appreciation Of Beauty 3.17 3.19 0.5 0.50

Table 7:  Impact of Stoic Week on CIVIC Character Traits

Zest and hope improved significantly during Stoic Week, as did meaning and purpose, to a lesser extent. The finding regarding zest is particularly intriguing given that zest was also found to be the trait most associated with Stoicism at the start of Stoic Week.

Character core Before After Improvement (%)
FORTITUDE 2.7 2.9 9.1
TRANSCENDENCE 2.3 2.4 4.9
INTERPERSONAL CONSIDERATION 2.8 2.9 4.0
TEMPERANCE 3.0 3.1 3.4
APPRECIATION 3.2 3.3 3.0
SINCERITY 3.2 3.3 2.8
EMPATHY 3.2 3.3 2.2
INTELLECTUAL ENGAGMENT 3.3 3.4 1.8

Table 8:  Impact of Stoic Week on CIVIC Character Cores

Fortitude (which is closely related to the virtue of courage) improved by over 9%, with transcendence and interpersonal consideration also displaying quite large improvements.

Impact on Stoic Attitudes and Behaviours (SABS)

Comparisons in SABS scores before and after Stoic Week allow us to assess whether participants changed with respect to being Stoic taking part in Stoic Week. It also enables us to see in which ways they became more Stoic. Overall there was an 9% increase in assenting to Stoic attitudes and behaviour (SABS) scores from an average of 168 to 182.5.

Table 9 below gives the changes in average scores for those items that change most between the beginning and end of Stoic Week for 2017.

Item number      
SABS item  

Those items in italics have been reversed scored, so  a high score still indicates a more Stoic attitude or behaviour.

% Change Average Score at start of Stoic week (completers only) Average score at end of Stoic Week
2 It doesn’t really matter what other people think about me as long as I do the right thing 30 3.5 4.5
22 I spend quite a lot of time dwelling on what’s gone wrong the past or worrying about the future 29 4 5.2
24 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 21 3.9 4.7
6 If bad things happen to you, you are bound to feel upset 19 4.6 5.5
26 Recognising that only virtue matters enables me to face life’s transience and my approaching death 18 3.8 4.4
29 Happiness depends on things going well for me and my family 16 4.8 5.6
25 Viewing other people as fellow-members of the brotherhood of humankind helps me to avoid feeling anger and resentment 16 3.7 4.3
35 My good name and what other people think about me matters a lot. 15 4.4 5.1
18 I am good at controlling my urges and impulses when that’s better for me in the long run [this item is excluded from SABS total as items 32 and 33 better measure a specifically Stoic concept of self-control] 15 4.9 5.7
31 When making a significant decision I ask myself “What really matters here?” and then look for the option that a good and wise person would choose. 14 5 5.7
12 To flourish as a human being all you need is rationality and a good character; things like money, status, health and good luck are not essential 14 4.8 5.4
15 I  try to anticipate future misfortunes and  rehearse rising above them 14 3.4 3.9
17 If I was honest I’d have to admit that I  often do what is enjoyable and comfortable rather than doing what I believe to be the right thing 14 4.8 5.4
19 I try to contemplate what the ideal wise and good person would do when faced with various misfortunes in life. 13 4.2 4.8
3 It can sometimes be a good thing to get angry when people are really rude, selfish or inconsiderate 13 5.2 5.8
23 I make an effort to pay continual attention to the nature of my judgments and actions. 12 4.8 5.4
27 I do the right thing even when I feel afraid. 11 2.9 3.2

Table 8:  Impact of Stoic Week on  Stoic Attitudes and Behaviours (items with most change)

The SABS items that showed the biggest increases are  strongly related to improved mental health.

  •   Doing the right think regardless of what others think((item 2)
    • This will not only help people be virtuous, it could also be expected to reduce social anxiety.
  • Cognitive Distancing & Stoic Mindfulness (item 24).
    • This is important because it allows people to take a step back, not automatically assenting to unhelpful judgements.
  • Reducing rumination (item 22)
    • Dwelling on negative thoughts for a long time is strongly associated with depression.

All SABS items moved in the expected direction with the exception item 34, an item  added in SABS v3.0 which measures a utilitarian concept of practical wisdom. Perhaps the reason for this item not changing in the expected direction is that the utilitarian concept of practical wisdom incorporates some ideals to  which Stoics would assent   – such as reflection and benevolence.

The 9%  change in Stoic Attitudes and Behaviours overall is significant in that it supports the view that it is changes in level of Stoicism that is mediating the change in well-being rather than other variables, such as the placebo effect.

Completion Rate

The completion rate in 2017  was 24%[ii] , more than only 15%  in 2016.  This may have been due to improvements in the materials or more attempts to encourage participants to complete the questionnaires at the end of Stoic week, or possibly other factors.

[i] These are calculated using only those people who completed Stoic Week. If the averages for the beginning of Stoic Week were to include those who dropped out, the improvement would be slightly greater, since those who dropped out tend to start with slightly lower scores on well-being.

[ii] The completion rate figure includes a number of completers whose data was excluded from the analysis for various reasons, such as incomplete data.

 

Tim LeBon is the author of Wise Therapy and Activate Your Potential With Positive Psychology.  He can be contacted via email at  tim@timlebon.com.  His website is  http://www.timlebon.com