Stoic Week 2017 Report (part 2) by Tim Lebon

A strong positive relationship between Stoicism and well-being has been documented in previous Stoic Week reports.   This year the emphasis has shifted to quantifying the relationship between Stoicism and positive character traits. To this end we asked the thousands of people who took part in Stoic Week to complete the CIVIC character scale in addition to the four scales previously used.

2860 people filled in questionnaires measuring degree of Stoicism (SABS 3.0), Life Satisfaction, Positive and Negative Emotions and Flourishing. In addition, 820 people filled in the CIVIC questionnaire which gave us a large enough sample to draw meaningful conclusions.

This article excerpts from the findings derived from analysing questionnaires from the start of Stoic week. Upcoming reports will discuss the effect of taking part in Stoic Week (part 3), summarise participant feedback and suggest future directions of research.

If you’d like to read the full 27-page version of the Stoic Week 2017 report (part 2), you can click here to download the report.

Stoicism and Positive Character Traits

If you are a Stoic, you would certainly hope that there is a strong relationship between being a Stoic and having positive character traits. For the Stoics, eudaimonia is based on possessing core positive character traits called “virtues”, particularly the four cardinal virtues of wisdom, courage, justice and self-control (or moderation).

If you are a Stoic you might well also expect there to be a strong relationship between being Stoic and having the virtues. However, to my knowledge this is the first time anyone has tried to show that this is actually the case.

We chose to use the CIVIC scale (discussed in the full report) for our research this year and are grateful to its co-author, Vincent Ng for his co-operation and assistance. The CIVIC Scale identifies 29 positive character traits (similar to Peterson and Seligman’’s “strengths”) and 8 character cores (similar to virtues).

Before you go any further, please take a moment to consider these 3 questions.

  1. How many of these 29 character traits do you think are positively associated with Stoicism?
  2. Which of these 29 traits do you think is most positively associated with Stoicism?
  3. Which of the 29 traits do you think is most negatively associated with Stoicism?

I asked a number of experts on Stoicism these 3 questions. The consensus was as follows:-

  1. Most if not all of these character traits will be positively associated with Stoicism.
  2. Emotional Awareness is likely to be most positively associated with Stoicism. Fairness, Self-Control, Perspective-Taking, Gratitude, Bravery, Meaning/purpose and Persistence should also feature well.
  3. Probably none are negatively related to Stoicism, though perhaps spirituality and humour might not be so closely linked as others.

In examining the data from Stoic Week, we found that

  1. All of 29 positive character traits in CIVIC are positively associated with Stoicism
  2. Zest is the character trait most positively associated with Stoicism
  3. Trick question, they are all positively associated! Humour is the least positively associated, but note that even the lowest ranking trait is still positively associated. This means that the caricature of the Stoic as dour and humourless is not supported. The more Stoic you are, the more humorous you are likely to be.

Stoic “Zest”?

So the Stoic experts got it right, mostly. . . . Stoics are likely to possess more than the average person of all of these positive traits, and emotional awareness is amongst those most highly correlated with being Stoic.  However none of the experts suggested “zest” would be strongly associated with Stoicism. This finding merits closer examination.

What exactly is meant by  “zest”? The dictionary defines zest as “great enthusiasm and energy”. The CIVIC scale identifies zestful individuals using these 12 questions or prompts:

  • I typically look forward to each new day.
  • I feel excited to start each day.
  • I am brimming with excitement about life.
  • I always look forward to what the day brings.
  • I have great enthusiasm for life.
  • I eagerly anticipate each day’s activities.
  • I try to live each day to the fullest.
  • I typically feel ready to take on what life has in store for me.
  • I hardly ever feel half-hearted about my activities.
  • I typically don’t dread starting my daily activities.
  • I generally approach my daily activities with energy.
  • I have enthusiasm for my daily activities.

These seem to capture very well both enthusiasm and energy, perhaps with a touch of joy and resilience thrown into the mix. Significantly, zest has been identified as one of the more important character traits, being positively associated with life satisfaction, positive emotion, engagement and flow and meaning (LeBon (2014), p. 71).

We have, of course, identified a correlation, rather than a causal connection, so we cannot say whether being Stoic causes great enthusiasm and energy, or vice-versa, or perhaps something else causes both Stoicism and zest. The next report, on the impact of Stoic week, may shed some light on whether Stoicism plays a causal role in increasing zest. If so, this would be a significant and novel finding.

Stoicism and the Virtues

CIVIC also measures 8 broader character qualities, which they call “character cores”, which have a number of constituent character traits.

Some of these CIVIC character cores clearly bear some resemblance to the Stoic cardinal virtues, though this resemblance should not be overstated. All of these character cores were found to be quite strongly and positively with Stoicism

Rank CIVIC Character Core Association with Stoicism
1 EMPATHY 0.51
2 FORTITUDE 0.48
3 TEMPERANCE 0.46
4 SINCERITY 0.43
5 APPRECIATION 0.39
6 INTERPERSONAL CONSIDERATION 0.37
7 TRANSCENDENCE 0.35
8 INTELLECTUAL ENGAGEMENT 0.34

Stoicism, then appears strongly positively associated with each positive character traits as well as every broader character cores (virtue). There remains the question of whether Stoicism is strongly linked with virtues in general.

A correlation coefficient of .6 was found to exist between SABS scores (measuring the degree of Stoicism) and an overall measure of character or virtue (as measured by adding up a participant’s CIVIC item scores). This compares favourably with the  correlation coefficients for life satisfaction, emotions and flourishing, which in past years have been found to be .37, .42 and .46 respectively.

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 Stoicism (as measured by SABS) and the various well-being measures. Has this been replicated?

A: Yes, indeed it has.

  Flourishing Emotions (SPANE) Life Satisfaction (SWL) Average well-being
STOIC ATTITUDES AND BEHAVIOURS 0.47 (.46) 0.43 (.42) 0.36 (.37) 0.48 (.42)

Table 6 Overall association of Stoic Attitudes and Behaviours with various scales

Table 6 above gives the overall correlations between total SABS scores and the various well-being scales (2016 results are in brackets). This result has now been replicated with large samples over 4 years.

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

A: As in 2016, there is a significant positive association between Stoicism and each positive emotion and a negative correlation between every negative emotion and Stoicism. There is some variation between this year and last in terms of the relative size of the correlation for each emotion, so we should not be too confident in saying which emotions are most associated with Stoicism, though it seems pretty clear that the association is large for contentment and relatively small for fear.

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.  

Q: Last year you found quite a strong relationship between age and Stoicism – the under 18s were by far the least Stoic and Stoicism increased gradually with age, with the over-55s being the most Stoic. Has this been replicated?

A:  This relationship has been repeated in 2017, although the under 18s are not quite as un-Stoic as they were last year, as illustrated in Table 9 below.

This year we also looked at the average well-being of each age group. A similar pattern emerges, with the over-55s being the happiest and the under 18s being the least happy.

Q:  Last year the USA proved to be the most Stoic and the UK least. Is this still true in 2017?

A: Once again the Americas proved to be the most Stoic, though (admittedly from a small sample) South America took over No. 1 spot from USA.  The UK and Europe is a few points behind. To put this into context, the difference between regions is not that great, as shown in table 10.

Region Average SABS score 2016 Comparison % Average well-being
South America 170 165 2 23
USA 166 166 44 22
Canada 165 164 10 23
Australia 166 161 5 23
Europe 162 162 19 22
Africa 162 161 1 21
UK 161 159 15 22
Asia 159 160 3 20

 Table 10: Relationship between geographic region and degree of Stoicism

Q: Have gender differences changed at all?

A: Data from 2016 suggested that men were marginally more Stoic, averaging 164.5 on the SABS scale as opposed to 161.5 for women. In 2016 this gap of 3 points had reduced to 2 – the figures in 2017 were 165 and 163 respectively

Q: Finally, in the past you’ve told provided a big table suggestive of the “active ingredients” of Stoicism. Did you do that again?

A: Yes, the full details are in Appendix E.  These are the most active Stoic ingredients in terms of correlation with average well-being.

Conclusions

These findings replicate previous research about the relationship between Stoicism, life satisfaction, flourishing and the emotions. 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 surprising, but very positive, result is that zest turns out to be the character trait most associated with being Stoic.

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 1) Demographics by Tim LeBon

This report gives the demographics for Stoic Week 2017 which took place between Monday October 16 – Sunday October 22. Future reports will follow providing analysis of how taking part affected well-being and how being Stoic is associated with well-being.

The headlines are:

  • Over 43% of respondents are from USA, Europe (including UK) comprising 34%. Within Europe, more were from outside UK (19%) than in the UK (15%). Future questionnaires should perhaps capture individual countries as it would be useful to know whether there is a core of Stoics in, say Copenhagen or Oslo or Madrid.
  • As in previous years, the vast majority of respondents have never participated in Stoic week before. So although a few people always ask us to change the workbook significantly, for most people this is not at all important.
  • The ratio of males to females was 65% to 34%. This is similar to previous years and as in previous years perhaps we need to consider whether this ratio just needs to be accepted or whether there is something that can be done to make Stoicism more appealing to females.
  • More people completed the questionnaires compared to last year (2860 up from 1798). There was at the same time about a large increase in the number people taking part in Stoic Week. Including those who both did and did not complete questionnaires, about 7000 people registered for Stoic Week in 2017. Stoicism seems to be getting more and more popular.

Below are 5 tables summarising all the facts and figures and 2016 and 2015 comparisons

Gender Total 2017% 2016 % 2015 %
Male 1839 65 66 65
Female 972 34 33 34
Decline to state 26 1 1 1
Other 14 0.5

Table 1: Stoic Week 2017 by gender

 

Age Total 2017% 2016% 2015 %
over 55 482 17 13 17
46-55 508 18 17 18
36-45 637 22 21 23
26-35  757 27 25 25
18-25 429 15 22 16
Under 18 41 1 1 2

Table 2: Stoic Week 2017 by age

 

Location Total %  2016  % 2015 %
USA 1233 43 43 42
Australasia  141 5 5 5
Canada 274 10 12 16
Europe (outside UK)) 529 19 17 15
UK 425 15 14 17
Africa 27 1 1 1
Asia 84 3 3 2
South & Central America 69 2 3 1
Other 56 2 2 2

 Table 3: Stoic Week 2017 by geographic location

 

Number of times participated in Stoic Weeks previously Total  

%

2016

%

2015 %
0 2235 79 77 78
1 370 13 14 16
2 148 5 6 4
3 50 2 3 2
4 (or more) 36 1 1 0

Table 4: Stoic Week 2017 : Previous participation

 

Knowledge of Stoicism Total %  2016   % 2015 %
None 261 9 11 13
Novice 865 30 33 32
I know a bit  1170 41 39 38
I know quite a bit but not an expert 550 19 16 16
Expert 13 0.5 1 1

Table 5: Stoic Week 2017 : Self-rating of knowledge of Stoicism

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 4 of 4) by Tim Lebon

This article is the fourth part of the report on Stoic Week 2016. The previously published parts of the report summarised the demographics, the level of happiness and Stoicism at the start of Stoic Week, the impact of taking part in Stoic Week on well-being.

This report is divided into two sections:

  • Participant feedback at the end of Stoic week on various parts of the materials[1] and their experience.
  • Overall conclusions and recommendations

You can StoicWeek Report Part 4 2016.

Participant Feedback

How useful were the audio recordings?

As in previous years participants were invited to listen to a number of audio recordings. Table 1 below shows participants’ ratings of the recommended audio recordings. The early and morning meditations were part of the recommended daily routine, the Stoic Attitudes meditation was an optional additional resource and the View from Above was part of the programme for Sunday (Nature).

How useful was this recording (on a scale of 0-5?)

0 1 2 3 4 5 Average Rating (out of 5) No of people who listened to it (/294)
Stoic Attitudes Meditation 2
(1.74%)
1
(0.87%)
6
(5.22%)
17
(14.78%)
45
(39.13%)
44
(38.26%)
4 115
Early Morning
Meditation
2
(1.77%)
2
(1.77%)
7
(6.19%)
21
(18.58%)
42
(37.17%)
39
(34.51%)
3.9 113
Late Evening
Meditation
     2
(1.89%)
2
(1.89%)
4
(3.77%)
18
(16.98%)
45
(42.45%)
35
(33.02%)
4 106
View from Above
Meditation
3
(2.70%)
2
(1.80%)
2
(1.80%)
21
(18.92%)
39
(35.14%)
44
(39.64%)
4 111

Table 1: Ratings of Audio recordings of Meditation Routine Audio Recordings, Stoic Week 2016

All the recordings received good ratings, averaging around 4 out of 5. Similar numbers reported listening to each recording.

How useful were the recommended Daily Stoic Exercises?

Table 2 below shows how highly participants rated each of the daily Stoic exercises as well as the number of people who completed each activity and their ratings of the exercises.

  How useful was this exercise (leave blank if you did not do to it) on a scale from 0 (not at all useful) to 5 (extremely useful)?  
Daily Stoic Exercise 0 1 2 3 4 5 Average Rating /5 No of people who did activity
Stoic Self-Monitoring Record 1
(0.74%)
1
(0.74%)
13
(9.56%)
30
(22.06%)
57
(41.91%)
34
(25.00%)
3.8 136

(46%)

Monday: Life – writing your own meditations 1
(0.46%)
1
(0.46%)
12
(5.56%)
37
(17.13%)
84
(38.89%)
81
(37.50%)
4.1 216

(73%)

Tuesday :Control –What is in our control and wishing with reservation 0
(0.00%)
1
(0.42%)
7
(2.92%)
23
(9.58%)
113
(47.08%)
96
(40.00%)
4.2 240

(81%)

Wednesday: Mindfulness – Stoic Mindfulness and examining your impressions 0
(0.00%)
0
(0.00%)
6
(2.50%)
25
(10.42%)
115
(47.92%)
94
(39.17%)
4.2 240

(81%)

Thursday: Virtues: Virtue and values clarification 0
(0.00%)
1
(0.45%)
7
(3.15%)
33
(14.86%)
100
(45.05%)
81
(36.49%)
4.1 222

(75%)

Friday: Relationships: Relationships with other people and Society and the Circle of Hierocles 2
(0.88%)
4
(1.77%)
14
(6.19%)
43
(19.03%)
94
(41.59%)
69
(30.53%)
3.9 226

(77%)

Saturday: Adversity: Preparing for Adversity 0
(0.00%)
2
(0.91%)
10
(4.57%)
37
(16.89%)
92
(42.01%)
78
(35.62%)
4.1 219

(74%)

Sunday: Nature and the view from above 1
(0.49%)
8
(3.90%)
10
(4.88%)
27
(13.17%)
88
(42.93%)
71
(34.63%)
4 205

(69%)

Table 2: Ratings of Daily Stoic Exercises in Stoic Week 2016 (294 respondents) 

The activities which had the highest rating and were also the most popular were Tuesday – What is in our control and Wednesday – Stoic Mindfulness. It should be noted that all the activities had a high approval rating (3.8 or more out of 5). A large percentage of participants completed each activity.

In which areas of life was Stoic Week most helpful?

  How much has Stoic Week helped in this area? (leave blank if not relevant)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 Average Rating

/5

(2015 rating in brackets)

Relationships (friendships, getting on with people) 2
(0.75%)
9
(3.38%)
23
(8.65%)
77
(28.95%)
100
(37.59%)
55
(20.68%)
3.6

(3.6)

Becoming a better person 0
(0.00%)
7
(2.60%)
12
(4.46%)
52
(19.33%)
112
(41.64%)
86
(31.97%)
4

(3.9)

Becoming wiser 1
(0.37%)
3
(1.12%)
17
(6.34%)
52
(19.40%)
111
(41.42%)
84
(31.34%)
3.9

(3.9)

Knowledge of Stoicism 2
(0.73%)
5
(1.82%)
15
(5.47%)
43
(15.69%)
87
(31.75%)
122
(44.53%)
4.1

(4)

Other 1
(2.44%)
0
(0.00%)
0
(0.00%)
4
(9.76%)
11
(26.83%)
25
(60.98%)
4.4

(4.3)

Overall 0
(0.00%)
0
(0.00%)
8
(3.46%)
36
(15.58%)
107
(46.32%)
80
(34.63%)
4.1

4

Table 3: Ratings of how useful Stoic Week was in various areas of life?

As shown in table 3 (above), Stoic Week achieved an 82% usefulness rating overall (4.1/5). The area where Stoic Week was judged to be of most use was Knowledge of Stoicism, followed closely by becoming a better person and becoming wiser. Despite the theme of Stoic Week 2016 being love, relationships still received the lowest rating (3.6, the same as in 2015). The “other” ways in which Stoic Week helped people included “accepting myself”, “removing worrying thoughts”, “ reducing anxiety”, “structuring a daily practice” and “handling adversity”.

Some participants provided further information about exactly how Stoic Week helped, for example

Relationships

  • “definitely pausing before speaking more!”
  • “Being less critical”
  • “Letting go of the effects of awful people”
  • “My wife and I did it together this year”
  • “I don’t usually think much about relationships, so this was all kind of new.”

Becoming a Better Person

  • “Less impulsive”
  • “More introspective”
  • “Has helped me to not be emotionally hijacked in various social scenarios, thus allowing me more focus to be a better person.”

How long did participants spend on Stoic Week each day?

The average time spent by participants came out as an impressive 37 minutes (very similar to last year’s figure of 36 minutes). As shown in Figure 1 (below), most participants reported spending over half an hour on Stoic Week each day. A significant number of people spent longer each day.

Minutes per day % No of people
Less than 5 minutes 12% 5
5 -15 12% 33
15 -30 28% 77
30-45 27% 73
35-60 13% 35
More than an hour 19% 51

Table 4: How long did you spend on Stoic Week activities each day?

Which formats for the Stoic Week Handbook proved to be most popular?

As shown in table 5   (below), 39% of participants reported using the website, 36% of participants used the pdf booklet. whilst 10% used Kindle and 13% epub.[2] Compared with 2015, this shows a small but definite shift away from the pdf booklet towards epub and html.

Format % 2015 comparison  
1. HTML / Website (Modern Stoicism or other) 39 32
2. EPUB 13 8  
3. PDF 36 49
4. MOBI (Kindle) 10 10
Other 2 2

Table 5: What was the main format you used for accessing Stoic Week?

Which of these formats would be useful for you in accessing Stoic Week?

Format % 2015 comparison
Android App 34 37
IOS App 37 36
Mobi format booklet 12 12
Epub format booklet 15 12
Other 2 2

Table 6: Which formats would be useful for accesing Stoic Week?

When participants were asked which formats would be useful, a sizeable number of people requested an App, with Android and IOS in roughly equal demand. About a third as many people would like to see a booklet made available in mobi or epub format. It is debatable as to how much added value an App would bring. One view is that what people really value is push notifications which could be provided in other ways (e.g. by text or email). Your further thoughts would be valued.

Feedback on the Questionnaires

Some people appreciated having the feedback from the SABS questionnaire, which can provide pointers about areas of Stoicism to work on. There were also some criticisms as detailed below.

  • It would be good to have a list of the stoic attitudes published online
  • Found a few questions ambiguous. Also easy to game if you were so inclined.
  • It was informative
  • Personally would appreciate more distinction between what I BELIEVE vs what I PRACTICE. I believe in Stoicism but have a hard time practicing and some questions made it unclear whether it was referencing what I believe or what I actually practice.
  • They are useful but SABS is far too long (though assume you are looking to select items that “work”). The positive and negative affect measures refer to the previous 4 weeks so will pick up feelings before Stoic Week even when measured afterwards – hence diluting the effect. For people (such as myself) who already practice Stoicism, I wouldn’t expect Stoic Week to have much effect – so seems important to control for level of previous practice when analysing the effects.
  • Pretty good questions related to Stoicism.
  • Its interesting to gauge ones qualities and understanding
  • Useful

There is room for refinement of the questions so they are in some cases clearer and less ambiguous. The SABS questionnaire is long but as the commentator realised, this is deliberate as we are in the process of working out which questions are most relevant. The final version to be used with the general public should be shorter and in more simple a language. The suggestion about controlling for previous level of Stoicism is a good one. This could be done by looking at the scores of those who were the least Stoic at the beginning of Stoic week and/or who had not done Stoic week or attempted to practice Stoicism before.

Overall Conclusions and Recommendations

Drawing together the above feedback and the other qualitative feedback (found in the full report) with the findings report in the first 3 parts of these report, the most significant findings from Stoic Week 2016 are as follows:

    • 77% of respondents were participating in Stoic Week for the first time.
    • The ratio of males to females was 66% to 33%
    • Over 43% of respondents were from USA
    • Less people completed the initial set of questionnaires compared to 2015 (1798 down from 2503) although the numbers registering for Stoic Week actually increased (3365 up from 3080)

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

  • There is a correlation coefficient of .4 between Stoicism and well-being. Given the size of the sample (nearly two thousand), the chances of this association being accidental is less than one in a million.
  • Stoicism does go with positive emotions as much as with the reduction of negative emotions.
  • There is only a weak association between stated knowledge of Stoicism and average well-being (a correlation co-efficient of about .1) , whereas it’s nearly four times higher for people who practise Stoicism.
  • The over 55s were the most Stoic and in general the older people are, the more Stoic they are.
  • The Americas win the contest for most Stoic geographic areas The UK (stiff upper lip notwithstanding) trails the field.
  • SABS with by far the strongest association with well-being (however it is measured) item 22 , asking about ruminating and worrying. Stoic virtues also do very well, with courage, practical wisdom , compassion, self-control and fairness all scoring highly. Cognitive distancing (item 24) scores well, as does using the Stoic Ideal Advisor and items to do with seeing humanity as connected and Stoic Cosmopolitanism.

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

  • For the fourth year running, taking part in Stoic Week led to a significant increase in well-being on all measures. The results were remarkably similar to 2015.
  • The SABS items that showed the biggest increase, cognitive distancing and reducing rumination, are both significantly related to improvements in mental health as well as well-being.
  • Those who change most in their degree of Stoicism changed substantially more in terms of well-being than those who changed least in their degree of Stoicism. This supports the hypothesis that the change in well-being is largely attributable to participant’s being more Stoic.
  • A cause for concern is the reduced number of participants completing the questionnaire after Stoic Week.

Summary of qualitative 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.
  • There was a slight shift away from using the pdf booklet towards using other formats
  • There were some specific suggestions to improve formatting and structure of the handbook
  • There was a desire expressed to be notified more on a daily basis during Stoic Week
  • Some people would like the opportunity to interact more within a more private network group
  • 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, there follows some recommendations for future Stoic weeks

  • Repeat the experience – a lot of people took part and benefited
  • There is a case for doing something different so that people who participated in previous years will learn something new. Perhaps a Stoic handbook based on Seneca could be developed
  • There is a good case for longer experiences of Stoicism than one week. The SMRT course already addresses this, and this should be run again and incorporate the same research that is used for Stoic week.
  • In addition, it would be desirable to do a follow-up (e.g. 3 or 6 months) to see if the benefits have been maintained or not. This would be particularly relevant for the SMRT course.
  • There was an issue this year with some people not receiving notifications on a daily basis. In fact, mails were sent automatically, so it is not clear why they were not all received. Perhaps there was an issue with spam filters which needs to be addressed. Perhaps there are other “push notification” options available from WordPress other than email.
  • People should be encouraged to use formats other than pdf unless printing, as pdf is designed mainly for printing.
  • Regarding the questionnaires, there was a much reduced number of people filling in the questionnaires at the end of the week. This may have been partly due to people not receiving daily emails, or perhaps for other unknown reasons. There is a case for ensuring we can notify people about filling in the questionnaire, which we cannot do at present if they provide only a pseudonym and have not registered with Stoicism Today.
  • The SABS questionnaire should be continued to be developed and the feedback provided to people is thought useful. However there is scope for the questions to be less ambiguous in some cases.
  • Some thought should be given to how to make Stoic week more known or more appealing to those who do not take part so much currently
  • As technology changes, there will be scope for integrating new opportunities (e.g. private social media groups, videos, push notifications so people can be reliably informed each day) and these should be investigated

[1] To view the Stoic Week 2016 materials see http://modernstoicism.com/q_lesson_page/introduction-to-stoic-week/ Registration may be required.

[2] Epub is an open standard used for example on iBooks on Apple devices and Google Books on Android.

Stoic Week 2016 Report part 3 (of 4) – Impact on Well-Being by Tim LeBon

This report forms the third part of the report on Stoic Week 2016, which took place in first week of November.

Nearly two thousand participants took three established well-being questionnaires as well as the Stoic Attitudes and Behaviours scale. [i] Well-being and the degree of Stoicism were measured before and after Stoic Week, allowing us to assess the impact of doing Stoic Week on self-reports on well-being and on levels of Stoicism.

Overall Findings 

In terms of improvements in well-being over Stoic Week, the results were remarkably similar to those of Stoic Week 2015 and 2014, with increases in well-being ranging from 10-15% 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 1 below shows the overall outcome results.

Stoic Week

2016

Stoic Week

2015

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

Table 1: Overall Findings

Impact on Flourishing

Participants reported on average a 10% overall increase in Flourishing.[ii] Table 2 below shows the impact of Stoic which on each element of Flourishing. 

Flourishing Scale Item 2016

%

2015

%

2014

%

2013

%

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

 Table 2: 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.

Impact on Satisfaction with Life

Participants reported an average 15% increase in satisfaction with life overall as measured by the Satisfaction with Life Scale.[iii].

Table 3 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 far the biggest increase – 24%.

Percentage change by each question 2016 % increase 2015 % increase

 

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

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 10%) as measured by the SPANE.[iv] The positive emotions that showed the biggest changes in 2016 were “contented “(15%) followed by “joyful” (12%). All the negative emotions showed a significant reduction of between 14 and17%. Tables 4 and 5 below shows the impact of Stoic Week on positive and negative emotions.

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

9

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

Table 4: Impact on Positive Emotions

 

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

Table 5: Impact on Negative Emotions

 

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.

Table 6 below gives the changes in average scores for each item between the beginning and end of Stoic Week for 2016. Overall there was an 11% increase in assenting to Stoic attitudes and behaviours. [v]

Item number SABS item wording

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
1 As long as you have the right attitude,  you can lead a good life  even in the worst of conditions, such as being tortured or being held prisoner 8 5.3 5.7
2 It doesn’t really matter what other people think about me as long as I do the right thing 10 5.7 6.3
3 It can sometimes be a good thing to get angry when people are really rude, selfish or inconsiderate 15 4.2 4.8
4 It’s  more important to feel good than to do good. 7 5.4 5.8
5 Peace of mind comes from abandoning fears and desires about things outside our control. 7 6.0 6.5
6 If bad things happen to you, you are bound to feel upset 16 4.0 4.6
7 What is called “morally right” and “morally wrong” is in reality just a matter of personal or cultural 5 4.2 4.4
8 The only things truly under our control in life are our judgements and voluntary actions 9 5.9 6.4
9 You should go wherever your emotions leads you 2 5.7 5.8
10 Virtue (or human excellence) consists in perfecting our rational nature, through cultivating wisdom 9 5.7 6.2
11 I think about my life as an ongoing project in ethical development 13 5.5 6.2
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 15 4.9 5.7
13 I consider myself to be a part of the human race, in the same way that a limb is a part of the human body. It is my duty to contribute to its welfare. 8 5.5 5.9
14 The cosmos is a  single, wise, living  thing 11 3.9 4.3
15 I  try to anticipate future misfortunes and  rehearse rising above them 16 4.9 5.6
16 I often contemplate the smallness and transience of human life in relation to the totality of space and time. 6 5.4 5.7
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 15 3.4 4.0
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] 14 4.3 4.9
19 I try to contemplate what the ideal wise and good person would do when faced with various misfortunes in life. 17 4.7 5.5
20 It is possible to control how other people behave towards you 13 4.9 5.5
21 I treat everybody fairly even those I don’t like or don’t know very well 10 5.1 5.6
22 I spend quite a lot of time dwelling on what’s gone wrong the past or worrying about the future 24 3.6 4.4
23 I make an effort to pay continual attention to the nature of my judgments and actions. 13 5.2 5.8
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 28 4.2 5.3
25 Viewing other people as fellow-members of the brotherhood of humankind helps me to avoid feeling anger and resentment 17 4.8 5.6
26 Recognising that only virtue matters enables me to face life’s transience and my approaching death 20 4.5 5.4
27 I do the right thing even when I feel afraid. 13 4.7 5.3
28 I care about the suffering of others and take active steps to reduce this 8 5.2 5.6
29 Happiness depends on things going well for me and my family 11 3.8 4.2
30 We have to accept that some things that matter a lot for our happiness are outside our control 17 2.9 3.4
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. 12 5.0 5.6
32 I sometimes have thoughts or urges it would be unwise to act on, but I usually realise this and do not act on them 6 5.2 5.5
33 My beliefs about what is best determine my wishes and motives 9 5.1 5.6
34 When making an important decision I try to predict the consequences of my actions and aim to balance the long-term happiness of myself and others -12 2.6 2.3
35 My good name and what other people think about me matters a lot. 20 3.5 4.2
36 I am upset when I hear of the suffering of others 6 2.5 2.6
37 There’s no overall plan to the universe. 12 3.2 3.6

Table 6: Impact of taking part in Stoic Week 2016 on Stoic attitudes and behaviours

 

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

  • Cognitive Distancing (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 11% 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.

The hypotheses that it is a change in Stoicism that mediates the change in well-being was further tested by examining the differences in well-being changes for those 100 participants who changed most according to the SABS against the 100 who changed least in SABS score. If it is the level of Stoicism that is causing the change in well-being, one would expect significantly more improvements in well-being in the group who have experienced most SABS change. This turned out to be the case. The 100 participants who experienced the most changes in SABS score and hence the biggest changes in being Stoic increased in Satisfaction with Life by 20% and in Flourishing by 13%. The 100 participants who experienced the least changes in SABS scores showed increases of only 10% and 5% in Satisfaction with Life and flourishing respectively.

The SABS analysis also allows us to see which areas of Stoicism participants were most and least Stoic in at the end of Stoic week.

By the end of Stoic Week, the items whereby people were most Stoic were:

  • Item 5: Peace of mind comes from abandoning fears and desires about things outside our control.
  • Item 8: The only things truly under our control in life are our judgements and voluntary actions

The items where participants scored lowest in SABS scores were:-

  • Item 34: When making an important decision I try to predict the consequences of my actions and aim to balance the long-term happiness of myself and others  (utilitarian practical wisdom)
  • Item 36: I am upset when I hear of the suffering of others

Both these items are non-Stoic and for many people not intuitively wrong or unethical i.e. many people would agree with them. Perhaps there is room for the Stoic Week materials to clarify exactly why these items are not in accord with Stoicism.

Completion Rate

The completion rate in 2016 was significantly lower than in previous years, being only 15% compared to 29%. The reason for this is unclear. The same technology was used as in 2016 and the materials were very similar. Whilst there were still a large enough completers for the findings to be statistically significant, it is obviously a cause for concern that this figure reduced so significantly. A further discussion about how to increase the number of people completing Stoic Week will be in part 4 of this report.

Conclusions

For the fourth year running, taking part in Stoic Week led to a significant increase in well-being on all measures. The results were remarkably similar to 2015. The SABS items that showed the biggest increase, cognitive distancing and reducing rumination, are both significantly related to improvements in mental health as well as well-being. Additional analysis this year, comparing changes in well-being of those who changed in Stoicism most with those who changed least, further supports the hypothesis that the change in well-being is largely attributable to participant’s being more Stoic. One cause for concern is the reduced number of participants completing the questionnaire after Stoic Week.

[i] Details of these four questionnaires are given in Appendices A-D.

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

[iii] See Appendix B.

[iv] See Appendix C.

[v] See Appendix D for details of the SABS 3.0.

For a downloadable version of this report, complete with appendices, Click Here.

Tim LeBon can be contacted via email on tim@timlebon.com. His website is http://www.timlebon.com

Are Stoics Happy? Stoic Week 2016 Report part 2 (of 4) by Tim LeBon

“For what prevents us from saying that the happy life is to have a mind that is independent, elevated, fearless, and unshakeable, a mind that exists beyond the reach of fear and of desire, that regards honour as the only good and infamy as the only evil, and everything else as a trivial collection of things, which come and go, neither subtracting anything from the happy life nor adding anything to it, and do not increase or diminish the highest good? It is inevitable that a man with such a grounding, whether he wills it or not, will be accompanied by continuous cheerfulness and a profound happiness that comes from deep inside him, since he is one who takes pleasure in his own resources and wishes for no joys greater than those of his own heart.”
– Seneca, On the Happy Life 4. (translated J. Davie)

“‘I wonder if I might draw your attention to an observation of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius? [Jeeves] said. “Does anything befall you? It is good. It is part of the destiny of the universe ordained for you from the beginning. All that befalls you is part of the great web.’”
I breathed a bit stertorously. ‘He said that, did he?’
‘Yes, sir.’
‘Well, you can tell him from me he’s an ass.’”
– P.G. Wodehouse The Mating Season

 

Introduction

Are Stoics happy? When reading Seneca, you may become convinced that a profound happiness must accompany anyone who has developed the independent, elevated and fearless mind of a Stoic. The novelist P.G Wodehouse provides a different perspective. Who is right? Armchair philosophising cannot provide the answer. It is an empirical matter and in the twenty-first century we have access to methods of investigation that were not available to the Roman Stoics. For several years the Stoicism Today project has been working on this question – this article provides an update on some of the latest findings.

The focus in this article is what we can learn from the results of the questionnaires given to participants at the start of the Stoic Week that took place between Oct 17th and 23rd, 2016. Stoic Week has become an annual event in which anyone with access to the internet is invited to “live like a Stoic” for a week. To do this participants download and read a free booklet and audio materials carry out Stoic exercises daily and, if they are kind, help us with our research by filling in questionnaires at the start and end of the week.

This year participants completed the SABS scale (the Stoic Attitudes and Behaviours scale v3.0), a measure designed by the Stoicism Today team to measure someone’s level of Stoicism and three validated well-being scales which measure Satisfaction with Life, Flourishing and Positive and Negative emotions respectively. In this way it is possible, by using the statistical method of correlation, to ascertain whether Stoic attitudes and behaviours go with happiness, as Seneca would have us believe – or perhaps not, as P.G. Wodehouse implies.

 

Your questions answered

This year the main findings are being presented as answers to questions people have asked in past years. Detailed facts and figures can be found in the appendices at the end.

Q: Are Stoics happy?
A: Our analysis suggests that in general the more Stoic one is the happier one is too.

Taking an average of the 3 well-being scales, there is a correlation coefficient of .4 between Stoicism and well-being. Given the size of the sample (nearly two thousand), the chances of this association being accidental is less than one in a million.

Of course, correlation does not necessarily imply causation. It could be that the association exists because the happier one is, the more Stoic one is, or possibly something else (such as income) could be driving both higher levels of happiness and Stoicism. However, once this strong correlation between well-being and Stoicism at the start of Stoic Week and a significant increase in well-being during Stoic Week (which has been found to be the case in previous years, this years findings will be reported in part 3 of this report) , it would not be unreasonable to infer some causation going in the direction of practising Stoicism and being somewhat happier. This seems to be true however we define happiness, though we should also note that the association is stronger for flourishing (happiness in the round) than for life satisfaction.

Seneca 1 P.G Wodehouse 0?

 

Q: Hold on, Isn’t Stoicism all about being virtuous and not about happiness? Don’t Stoics go so far as to say that happiness is a “preferred indifferent”. So why are you bothering to do this research?
A: It’s true, the convinced Stoic would say that this finding itself is a preferred indifferent. They would doubtless be pleased that Stoicism goes with happiness, but would argue that this isn’t the main reason you should be Stoic.

However this is not the whole story. We have the testament of Seneca (quoted above) as well as Epictetus who often pointed out that Stoicism leads to greater happiness and more tranquillity. They realised that many of their audience were not convinced Stoics. Practical wisdom necessitated pointing to Stoicism’s positive side-effects (happiness and tranquillity) to win over converts. I would argue that   today we are in much the same situation as the Roman Stoics. Most of our audience are not convinced Stoics either. But their interest may be piqued when by learning that Stoicism may make you happier. Certainly they will also be reassured by learning that Stoicism is unlikely to make you miserable or emotionless. If we would like Stoicism to be promoted in companies, government and within the NHS, these findings about the relationship between Stoicism and well-being become all the more important.

Q: I can believe that Stoics are less unhappy, but you’re not claiming that Stoicism actually goes with positive emotions too, are you?
A: Actually our analysis suggests that Stoicism does go with positive emotions as much as with the reduction of negative emotions.

The SPANE scale allows us to measure the relationship of Stoicism with various emotions, positive and negative. Table 1 shows the correlation coefficient[i] between emotions and Stoicism.

Emotion Correlation with Stoic Attitudes and Behaviours
Contented 0.35
Good 0.32
Positive 0.31
Pleasant 0.30
Negative -0.29
Bad -0.28
Happy 0.28
Sad -0.26
Joyful 0.26
Afraid -0.26
Unpleasant -0.24
Angry -0.24

Table 1 : Correlation of SABS 3.0 scores and SPANE items

So perhaps Seneca is exaggerating only a little when he says that Stoicism leads to “continuous cheerfulness and a profound happiness”

Seneca 2 P.G Wodehouse 0?

 

Q: Are those who know a lot about Stoicism (without practising it) happier?
A: No. There is only a weak association between stated knowledge of Stoicism and average well-being (a correlation co-efficient of about .1) , whereas it’s nearly four times higher for people who practise Stoicism. 

Q: Which has more impact on happiness, Stoic behaviours or attitudes?
A: Behaviours are significantly more impactful – a coefficient of .38 as opposed to.29 for attitudes.

Q: You previously published a report on the demographics of Stoic Week 2016. Can you now tell us anything about which groups are most and least Stoic?
A: Yes, absolutely, what would you like to know?

Q: Do you get more or less Stoic as you get older?
A: Interestingly, there seems to be quite a strong relationship between age and Stoicism. The under 18s (admittedly a very small group) were by far the least Stoic. The over 55s were the most Stoic and in general the older people are, the more Stoic they are. The average SABS scores for each age group are as follows:

Age Average SABS score
over 55 168.6
46-55 165.3
36-45 165.3
26-35 162.10
18-25 159.00
Under 18 148.50

Table 2: Relationship between Age and degree of Stoicism

 

Q: Which area of the world is most Stoic?
A: The Americas win . The UK (stiff upper lip notwithstanding) trails the field.

Region Average SABS score
USA 165.9
South America 165.4
Canada 163.7
Europe 162.1
Australia 161.5
Africa 161.2
Asia 160.1
UK 158.7

 Table 3: Relationship between geographic region and degree of Stoicism

 

Q: Are men or women more Stoic?
A: Our data suggests that men are marginally more Stoic, averaging 164.5 on the SABS scale as opposed to 161.5 for women.

Q: In what ways are people most Stoic?
A: The items which score highest are given in table 4 below.

No. SABS Item Average score (0-7)
5 Peace of mind comes from abandoning fears and desires about things outside our control. 5.97
8 The only things truly under our control in life are our judgements and voluntary actions 5.78
2 It doesn’t really matter what other people think about me as long as I do the right thing 5.65
10 Virtue (or human excellence) consists in perfecting our rational nature, through cultivating wisdom 5.59

Table 4:  The ways in which participants are most Stoic

 

Q: If you had to ask one question to find out if someone was Stoic that didn’t mention the word “Stoic” what should it be?
A: Surprisingly, I should ask them whether they believe that “Recognising that only virtue matters enables me to face life’s transience and my approaching death” (item 26). This has a correlation coefficient of .6 with the SABS scale as a whole, higher than any other SABS item.

Q: Surely PG. Wodehouse was right about something? You have to agree that there are some parts of Stoicism which seem pretty implausible these days – like destiny and “the great web”. Does your research shed any light on this?
A: It is indeed possible to dig deeper and find the associations between specific elements of Stoicism and well-being. Table 5 below shows the items most associated with well-being.

No SABS Item

(non-Stoic items in italics, these are reverse scored)

 

 

Theme

Correlation with average well-being
22 I spend quite a lot of time dwelling on what’s gone wrong the past or worrying about the future Non-Stoic Rumination and worry (reverse scored) 0.47
27 I do the right thing even when I feel afraid Stoic Courage 0.31
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 Cognitive Distancing 0.29
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 Stoic Practical Wisdom 0.26
19 I try to contemplate what the ideal wise and good person would do when faced with various misfortunes in life Ideal Stoic Advisor 0.24
13 I consider myself to be a part of the human race, in the same way that a limb is a part of the human body. It is my duty to contribute to its welfare Stoic Humanity Connected 0.24
25 Viewing other people as fellow-members of the brotherhood of humankind helps me to avoid feeling anger and resentment Stoic Brotherhood on Humankind 0.24
11 I think about my life as an ongoing project in ethical development Stoic Ethical Development 0.23
28 I care about the suffering of others and take active steps to reduce this ( Stoic Compassion 0.23
23 I make an effort to pay continual attention to the nature of my judgments and actions Stoic Mindfulness 0.22
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 Non-Stoic Short- term hedonism (reverse scored) 0.22
26 Recognising that only virtue matters enables me to face life’s transience and my approaching death Stoic coping with death 0.21
32 I sometimes have thoughts or urges it would be unwise to act on, but I usually realise this and do not act on them Stoic Self Control 0.20
6 If bad things happen to you, you are bound to feel upset Non-Stoic Upset is Inevitable (reverse scored) 0.20
21 I treat everybody fairly even those I don’t like or don’t know very well Stoic Fairness 0.20

Table 5:   SABS 3.0 Items most associated with well-being
As in previous years, the SABS with by far the strongest association with well-being (however it is measured) item 22 , asking about ruminating and worrying. Stoic virtues also do very well, with courage, practical wisdom , compassion, self-control and fairness all scoring highly. Cognitive distancing (item 24) scores well, as does using the Stoic Ideal Advisor and items to do with seeing humanity as connected and Stoic Cosmopolitanism.

No SABS Item

(non-Stoic items in italics, these are reverse scored)

Theme Correlation with average well-being
16 I often contemplate the smallness and transience of human life in relation to the totality of space and time View from Above 0.09
10 Virtue (or human excellence) consists in perfecting our rational nature, through cultivating wisdom Virtue is Wisdom 0.10
8 The only things truly under our control in life are our judgements and voluntary actions What we can control 0.11
5 Peace of mind comes from abandoning fears and desires about things outside our control Focussing on what we can control 0.13
14 The cosmos is a  single, wise, living  thing Wise Cosmos 0.13

Table 6: SABS 3.0 Items least associated with well-being

 

The above 5 items all have a positive association with well-being, but it is fairly weak relationship. Contemplating the smallness and transience of human life in relation to the totality of space and time (item 16) as in the View from Above is not especially associated with well-being, despite the popularity of the View from Above meditation. Item 14, “The Cosmos is a single, wise living thing” most closely resembles the Stoic idea satirised by PG. Wodehouse. To be fair to Wodehouse it is one of the least strong predictors of well-being, although it is still a positive association. Perhaps on this one point, we should concede a tie.

The final score – Seneca 3 PG. Wodehouse 1

[i] A correlation coefficient of 1 would indicate a perfect relationship, 0 no relationship at all – a negative number indicates an inverse relationship

For a PDF file of the full report, including appendices, click here.

Tim LeBon can be contacted via email on tim@timlebon.com. His website is http://www.timlebon.com

Stoic Week 2016 Demographics Report by Tim LeBon

Stoic Week 2016 Demographics Report 

by Tim LeBon

cropped-socrates-v1 2

This report gives the demographics for Stoic Week 2016 which took place between October Monday 17th – Sunday 23rd October. Future reports will follow providing analysis of how taking part affected well-being.

The headlines are:

  • The ratio of males to females was 66% to 33%.
  • Over 43% of respondents are from USA.
  • The majority of respondents have never participated in Stoic week before.
  • Less people completed the questionnaires compared to last year (1798 down from 2503) although the numbers registering for Stoic Week actually increased (3365 up from 3080).

Below are 5 tables summarising all the facts and figures and 2015 comparisons

 

Gender Total % 2015 %
Male 1183 66 65
Female 602 33 34
didn’t say 13 1 1

Table 1: Stoic Week 2016 by gender

 

Age Total % 2015 %
over 55 234 13 17
46-55 314 17 18
36-45 382 21 23
26-35  455 25 25
18-25 394 22 16
Under 18 17 1 2

Table 2: Stoic Week 2016 by age

 

Location Total   % 2015 %
USA 774 43 42
Australasia  85 5 5
Canada 215 12 16
Europe (outside UK)) 310 17 15
UK 255 14 17
Africa 10 1 1
Asia 51 3 2
South & Central America 54 3 1
Other 36 2 2

 Table 3: Stoic Week 2015 by geographic location

 

Number of times participated in Stoic Weeks previously Total % 2015 %
0 1389 77 78
1 253 14 16
2 101 6 4
3 48 3 2
4 12 1 0

Table 4: Stoic Week 2016 : Previous participation

 

Knowledge of Stoicism Total     % 2015 %
None 202 11 13
Novice 594 33 32
I know a bit  705 39 38
I know quite a bit but not an expert 288 16 16
Expert 13 1 1

Table 5: Stoic Week 2016 : Self-rating of knowledge of Stoicism

 

Whilst the overall picture is not unhealthy, here are some questions to consider – answers please in the comments section!

  • Why does Stoic Week seem to appeal more to men? How can we get the gender ratio more equal?
  • Can Stoic Week spread to other geographical areas? What would facilitate this?
  • Is it realistic to expect people to participate more than once in Stoic Week? If so, would changing the materials help?
  • What should we base the handbook on next year? We’ve had Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. Should it be based more on Seneca? Or is it fine as it is?

Let us know your thoughts.

What can we learn from Stoic Week 2015? by Tim LeBon

What can we learn from Stoic Week 2015?

by Tim LeBon

This, the  final part of the report, summarises key findings from Stoic Week 2015 as well as reporting on participant feedback of their experience.

Key findings

Participating in Stoic Week led to a significant increase in flourishing, life satisfaction and a balance of positive over negative emotions for most people.

Participants who at the start of Stoic week had more Stoic attitudes and behaviours also had higher levels of flourishing, satisfaction with life, and a balance of positive over negative emotions.

Whilst more tightly controlled research is required, the above two findings strongly suggest that Stoicism is positively associated with happiness, well-being and flourishing.

The following six Stoic attitudes and behaviours have a strong association with well-being and also increased significantly during Stoic Week and so may have been the most “active ingredients” in helping improve well-being for participants:

o    22. I spend quite a lot of time dwelling on what’s gone wrong the past or worrying about the future  [reverse-scored i.e. the opposite of this is Stoic]

o    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

o    18. I am good at controlling my urges and impulses when that’s better for me in the long run

o    25. Viewing other people as fellow-members of the brotherhood of humankind helps me to avoid feeling anger and resentment

o    15. I  try to anticipate future misfortunes and  rehearse rising above them

o    19. I try to contemplate what the ideal wise and good person would do when faced with various misfortunes in life

Significantly more people took part in Stoic Week 2015 compared with Stoic Week 2014.  There were similar completion rates and improvements in well-being as in previous years.

Basing the materials on Marcus’s Aurelius’s Meditations rather than Epictetus’s Enchiridion appeared to have neither a positive nor a detrimental effect on the benefits of participating in Stoic Week.

Most of the participants had not participated in Stoic Week before and just under a half rated themselves as a “Novice” Stoics or knowing no Stoicism at all at the start of Stoic Week.

All of the Audio recordings of Stoic Meditations received a rating of 4 or more (out of 5) from the 724 respondents to this question. The Early Morning Meditation was the most listened to, the View from Above the highest rated.

All the activities recommended in the Stoic Week Handbook had a high approval rating (3.8 or more out of 5).  The activities which had the highest rating and were also the most popular  were Tuesday – What is in our control and Wednesday – Stoic Mindfulness.

Stoic Week achieved an 80% usefulness rating overall (4/5).  “Knowledge of Stoicism” was the area where it was rated as most useful, for participants, followed closely by “becoming wiser” and “becoming a better person.”

On average participants spent 36 minutes per day on Stoic activities during Stoic Week.  Most people used the pdf version of the booklet.  A significant number of people said they would find a Stoic App (Android or IOS) useful.

The positive results from Stoic Week 2015 suggest further value in conducting future Stoic weeks as outreach, as well as for conducting more sophisticated research as recommended in the report from Stoic Week 2014, in order to further establish the evidence base for Stoicism.

For the full report click here.

For the three previous reports on Stoic Week 2015 see

Tim LeBon can be contacted via email on tim@timlebon.com. His website is http://www.timlebon.com

'Does Stoicism make you Happier?' by Tim LeBon

Does Stoicism make you Happier?

by Tim LeBon

We might well envy the Romans for being able to attend Epictetus’ lectures and having a ruler as wise as Marcus Aurelius. But we have at least one advantage over them – the internet.  Modern technology enables the Stoicism Today project to connect thousands of people and carry out large-scale research on Stoicism and its effectiveness.  In November 2015 over two and a half thousand participants filled in questionnaires at the start of Stoic Week asking them 31 questions relating to their level of Stoicism and 25 questions about their well-being. By using statistical analysis (another innovation not available to the ancients) we can infer whether being Stoic is associated with well-being – or not. Furthermore we can start to tell which Stoic attitudes and behaviours appear to be the most “active ingredients”

You can read the full report here. Here are some headlines:

  • The vast majority of Stoic attitudes and behaviours are strongly associated with well-being.  This is true however you measure well-being – whether as satisfaction with life, flourishing, or the balance of positive over negative emotions
  • The Stoic attitudes and behaviours most strongly associated with well-being include the cardinal virtues (self-control, practical wisdom, courage and justice), Stoic mindfulness and cognitive distancing.  You can see how each of the 31 items fared here.
  • Some (but not all) plausible anti-Stoic attitudes turn out to be negatively associated with well-being.
  • We asked some experts on Stoicism for their predictions as to which items would be the most “active ingredients”. Although their predictions were generally good, the connection between well-being and the cardinal virtues was significantly under-estimated.

These findings need to be qualified in a number of ways. Participants were self-selecting, correlation does not imply causation, and the questionnaire we have developed to measure levels of Stoicism (the SABS scale) requires further psychometric validation. Further research is clearly needed,  yet taken with the other findings from Stoic Week – including the fact that doing Stoic Week increases well-being for most participants– the indications all point towards Stoicism making you happier.

The fourth and final report from Stoic Week will appear on this site in a few weeks time.

Tim LeBon is a BABCP accredited CBT psychoptherapist and UKCP registered existential therapist, an APPA and SPP registered philosophical counsellor and is also trained as a life coach and integrative counsellor. He is a past Chair of the Society for Philosophy in Practice (SPP) and the founding editor of Practical Philosophy. He is  the author of Wise Therapy (Sage, 2001) and Achieve your Potential with Positive Psychology (Hodder Teach Yourself Books, 2014). You can read more about Tim’s work on his blog, Socrates Satisfied, and his website.

Report on "Stoic Mindfulness and Resilience" eLearning Course

This is a PDF copy of the report compiled on the Stoic Mindfulness and Resilience Training (SMRT) online course.

SMRT_BannerThis is a link to the PDF copy of the report we’ve compiled on the Stoic Mindfulness and Resilience Training (SMRT) course, 2014.

SMRT Report

Summary

This report provides a brief description of the Stoic Mindfulness and Resilience Training (SMRT) online course, which started on 19th May 2014 and ran for four weeks. Just over 500 people took part in the course, which involved reading lessons, listening to audio recordings, practising daily meditation techniques, and online discussion of concepts derived from ancient Stoic literature. Preliminary data are reported without tests of statistical significance, based on comparisons between the means for all participants pre-study and means for completers post-study. Completion rate was 31.%. Improvements were found on the Satisfaction with Life Scale (27%), scale of positive emotions (SPANE_P, 16%), scale of negative emotions (SPANE_N, -22.7%), and Flourishing Scale (17%). These all show improvements over Stoic Week 2012 and 2013, which is probably to be expected as this study was four weeks long, as opposed to one week, and participation was more carefully controlled.

Report on Stoic Week 2012 now available – 10 things we learnt from Stoic week

We’ve now had time to look at all the questionnaires you’ve filled in and the results make some interesting reading.  You can read the full report here.

Below  is a quick summary, which answers the questions posed in an earlier post.

For those with a very short amount of time for this, a one sentence management summary of the findings is

Extremely promising, interesting results, much scope for further , more focussed research

N.B. Please read the limitations of the research section of the full report before quoting from  this post or the report. Although the findings are very promising, further research is required before more definitive conclusions can be drawn.
10 Things we know now as a result of Exeter Stoic week that we didn’t know before
1) Participating in Stoic week led to approximately a 10% increase on a number of well-validated and widely used measures of well-being.
2) Participants felt both that the one week had increased their knowledge of Stoicism considerably and also expressed a thirst for more knowledge about Stoicism
3) Some Stoic exercises are much more popular and perceived as much more useful than others
4) Stoicism (as experienced in Stoic week) appears to be much more effective at reducing distress than it does at facilitating positive emotions.
5) Stoicism (as experienced in Stoic week) appears to help with some aspects of life satisfaction more than others.
6) Stoicism (as experienced in Stoic week) appears to help with some aspects of flourishing more than others.
7) Stoicism (as experienced in Stoic week) appears to help with reducing some negative emotions more than others.

8) Many participants perceived that Stoic week had helped them roughly equally with various areas of their lives including relationships, becoming a better person and becoming wiser.
9) The detailed “Overall Experience of Stoic week” questionnaire provided us with participants’ experiences of a whole range of topics including :

a. Demographics
b. Satisfaction with Stoic week
c. Use of social media
d. How participants would like to take their own experience forward
e. Feedback on the booklet
10) Whilst there are significant Limitations in the methodology and scope the of research so far, there is reason to think that further more focused research would be worthwhile.

To find out a lot more detail, download the full report on Stoic week here.