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.

Author: Gregory Sadler

Editor of Stoicism Today, president of ReasonIO, adjunct professor at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design Sadler's Lectures podcast - https://soundcloud.com/gregorybsadler YouTube channel with 1700+ philosophy videos - https://www.youtube.com/c/GregoryBSadler

One thought on “Stoic Week 2019 Report Part 3: Impact of doing Stoic Week Tim LeBon”

  1. Hi – My name is Theresa M Di Ambrose, I would like to find it somebody to guide me to take a class for beginner’s to guide me to Stoicism to understand it better how to be calm, how to step back from things they are out of control,
    I can’t control which is costing my health the stress and nervous taking me to become emotional diabetes making sick.
    I was a person more organized all my errands not into almost a year and half I started looking into what’s happening to me or maybe I been a coward to face the reality.
    I have like twice enroll in meditation sections I was going to go even I have paid for the section which I end up loosing the money because I never show up.
    Thanks
    — Phone number removed by admin —

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