The Stoics and Stoic philosophers like Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, and Epictetus have been called upon throughout history by those of us looking for guidance and wisdom on how to live happier, more resilient lives.

Stoicism contains lessons on all sorts of life’s hardships, and the difficult questions we try to answer along the way. One of these subjects is gratitude.

Gratitude is often quoted as a core practice to a wholesome and fulfilling life. It is a central pillar in Buddhism, and it also forms a core part of the Stoic philosophy for life.

Gratitude; why is it so important?

Gratitude is, in part, a way in which we see the world around us. If we look at the extremes we have these two world views:

  1. PERSPECTIVE 1: I’m not owed anything; we have been given the opportunity to experience life, to create, to think, to build relationships. There are many people who have less than I have, and most of what I have would be missed if it were taken away from me.

  2. PERSPECTIVE 2: I deserve more. I have a lot of things, but I really want to have a bigger house, better car, and more money. I get jealous when I see people with things that I want, and it makes me want them even more.

One of these perspectives helps build a mindset of enjoying what you have, being grateful for the life you lead, and building a resilience against feelings of envy, entitlement, and dissatisfaction.

The other perspective creates a mindset that’s prone to jealousy, entitlement, dissatisfaction, and a life that’s always looking forward to the future, rather than enjoying what you have in the present.

Here are some of my favourite quotes on gratitude from the Stoics and other thinkers.

Stoic Quotes on Gratitude:

When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love

– Marcus Aurelius

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”

– Epicurus

“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.”

– Seneca

“Pass through this brief patch of time in harmony with nature, and come to your final resting place gracefully, just as a ripened olive might drop, praising the earth that nourished it and grateful to the tree that gave it growth.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.”

– Epictetus

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”

– Marcus Tullius Cicero

“It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor. ”

– Seneca

“All you need are these: certainty of judgment in the present moment; action for the common good in the present moment; and an attitude of gratitude in the present moment for anything that comes your way.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“If you admit to having derived great pleasures, your duty is not to complain about what has been taken away but to be thankful for what you have been given…”

– Seneca

“Remember that you must behave in life as at a dinner party. Is anything brought around to you? Put out your hand and take your share with moderation. Does it pass by you? Don’t stop it. Is it not yet come? Don’t stretch your desire towards it, but wait till it reaches you. Do this with regard to children, to a wife, to public posts, to riches, and you will eventually be a worthy partner of the feasts of the gods. And if you don’t even take the things which are set before you, but are able even to reject them, then you will not only be a partner at the feasts of the gods, but also of their empire.”

― Epictetus

He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.

– Epictetus

Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now take what’s left and live it properly.

-Marcus Aurelius

We should try by all means to be as grateful as possible. For gratitude is a good thing for ourselves, in a sense in which justice, that is commonly supposed to concern other persons, is not; gratitude returns in large measure unto itself. There is not a man who, when he has benefited his neighbour, has not benefited himself, — I do not mean for the reason that he whom you have aided will desire to aid you, or that he whom you have defended will desire to protect you, or that an example of good conduct returns in a circle to benefit the doer, just as examples of bad conduct recoil upon their authors, and as men find no pity if they suffer wrongs which they themselves have demonstrated the possibility of committing; but that the reward for all the virtues lies in the virtues themselves. For they are not practised with a view to recompense; the wages of a good deed is to have done it. I am grateful, not in order that my neighbour, provoked by the earlier act of kindness, may be more ready to benefit me, but simply in order that I may perform a most pleasant and beautiful act; I feel grateful, not because it profits me, but because it pleases me.

– Seneca

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

The desire for imaginary benefits often involves the loss of present blessings.

– Aesop

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