Stoicism is one of the most practical philosophies from the ancient world and, as such, means that it can fit snugly into our daily lives to help us live more happily and more resiliently.

The Stoics themselves stitched the philosophy into their daily routine. Marcus Aurelius had his journal and deliberately avoided the overindulgence of comfort, and Seneca The Younger made a habit of reflecting on the day’s events after his wife had gone to bed at the end of each day.

Here are some of the ways we can create a nightly Stoic routine to constructively end each day.

Reflect on the Day’s Events:

One of the most descriptive accounts of an ancient Stoic’s nightly practice comes from one of Seneca’s letters to his friend Lucilius. In the letter, titled “On the Philosopher’s Seclusion“, Seneca sheds light on his own personal practice of reflection and how it can benefit others:

“When the light has been removed and my wife has fallen silent, aware of this habit that’s now mine, I examine my entire day and go back over what I’ve done and said, hiding nothing from myself, passing nothing by.”

Seneca suggested that at the end of the day, one should retreat into solitude and mentally review all of one’s actions, thoughts, and words from the day. Honestly reflecting on how we approached them, reacted to them, and the things we did well or fell short.

This practice is a way of taking a moral and behavioral inventory. He believed that by highlighting our mistakes, we can become more aware of them, learn from them, and look for ways to be better in the future.

I think it’s important to clarify that the purpose of this self-examination is not to promote guilt or self-punishment but instead to help develop a self-awareness of how we approach the world around us and commit to self-development in the areas we find that need it.

One of the first things we can do is review the events of the day and spend a few minutes asking ourselves some questions. This can be done through journaling or simply as part of a meditation.

The process:

  1. Find a Quiet Place: This should be a space where you can feel free from distractions. It doesn’t have to be a separate room; it can simply be a quiet corner of your home.

  2. Recount the Day’s Events: Mentally walk through your day, starting from the morning and moving through the day to the moment you’re in now. Reflect on your actions, decisions, desires, emotions, conversations, and reactions.

  3. Evaluate Your Actions: Ask yourself questions like:

    • Did I act according to my principles and values?

    • Where did I fall short?

    • How could I have handled situations differently?

  4. Acknowledge Mistakes and Learn: Instead of dwelling on or being overly critical about your mistakes, see them as learning opportunities. Consider how you might approach similar situations in the future.

  5. Plan for Improvement: Think about how you can integrate the lessons learned into the following day. Make a commitment to try to act more wisely or virtuously.

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Reframe Negative Events:

Reframing is not unique to Stoicism; it’s found in psychotherapy, the Socratic method, and a handful of other practical philosophies and practices used to create a more constructive mindset.

In Stoic philosophy, one of the core teachings is that the individual is responsible for how they interpret the world and their reactions to it.

The way we react to the events around us is influenced by what we believe to be true about the world, about ourselves, and about other people.

These beliefs are our responsibility, and in order to react more positively and constructively, we need to weed out and reframe negative beliefs.

For our Stoic practice, an evening can include:

  1. Reflecting on any challenges or negative interactions that occurred throughout the day.

  2. Think about the way we perceive these challenges and negative interactions and whether we make them worse because of negative or unrealistic beliefs.

  3. If we find a belief or expectation that’s unrealistic, think about a more constructive belief that can replace it.

  4. If we find ourselves making assumptions about people or things, can we be more charitable or give them the benefit of the doubt?

  5. What can we learn from the experience?

  6. How can we use all of the above to help us grow?

These are just some examples of the questions we can ask. The Socratic Method is also a common tool used to reframe our beliefs and assumptions, and I’d recommend giving it a look if you’re interested in this kind of personal development.

Read Stoic Texts:

The two examples above are self-driven. By this, I mean that we sit with our own thoughts and explore our own minds.

However, there is also benefit to be had in reminding ourselves of the core philosophy of Stoicism, revisiting lessons from Epictetus, Seneca, Musonius Rufus, or Marcus Aurelius, and using their wisdom to help guide us through our own practice.

For this, we can incorporate 5 to 10 minutes of reading into our daily routine to revisit the insights of the ancient Stoics and keep us from wandering too far from the foundations of the philosophy.

While there’s no harm in wandering and finding our own practice outside of Stoicism, reading the works of the ancient Stoics often helps us find advice that we may have forgotten and inspiration we might need.

Some of these books may include:

  1. Meditations of Marcus Aurelius

  2. Enchiridion of Epictetus

  3. Seneca’s letters

  4. Seneca’s Essays

  5. Lectures and Fragments of Musonius Rufus

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Practice Negative Visualization:

The Stoics had a rather unconventional way in which they developed gratitude and dealt with the fear of loss.

Instead of tightening their grip in an effort to keep hold of what they had and loved, they would spend time visualizing losing the things they held dear, failing at things where they wanted to succeed, and experiencing outcomes they wanted to avoid.

In this way, they achieved two things:

  1. The visualization of loss helped them develop a feeling of gratitude for the things they had. Knowing that one day it will be gone, be it a person or a possession, makes us appreciate the thing while we have it.

  2. By imagining loss, we lessen our fear of it. When we put ourselves in a state of mind of loss, we often find that, while we will feel grief and pain, we will ultimately be OK. The grief and pain simply mean that we value what we have, further developing our feelings of gratitude.

For our evening Stoic practice, we can reflect on:

  • How would I feel if I lost a loved one, a possession, or a certain circumstance?

  • Am I taking these things for granted?

This isn’t meant to be morbid, but rather a tool to appreciate the present moment and the blessings currently in your life.

Prepare for Tomorrow:

To round out our evening practice, we can prepare for the day to come. We can look to tomorrow and decide in advance how we want to approach the day, what virtues we’d like to embody, and how we can build upon how we’ve behaved in the past.

We might have a meeting, a birthday party, an anniversary, a sports game, or any number of life events that provide us with an opportunity to behave in alignment with our values.

Or we may have a challenge on the horizon that will test our patience, our willpower, or our integrity.

The Stoics believed in being mentally prepared for challenges, and to this end, we can consider questions like:

  • What potential challenges might I face tomorrow?

  • How are these challenges similar to challenges I’ve faced in the past, and can I approach them differently?

  • How can I best approach them with virtue and wisdom?

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