The difficulties that COVID-19 has created in our lives has led many to seek psychological counseling , which has put mental health services to the test.
But classical philosophy can also help us. Specifically, the Stoicism defended by the Greek philosopher Epicurus .
Epicurus and negative visualization
Epicurus , influenced by Democritus, Aristotle, and the Cynics, turned against Platonism and established his own school, known as "The Garden," in Athens, where he allowed women, prostitutes, and slaves to enter the school.
Using rationality to understand human nature, the Stoics devised numerous brain tricks that can be used to cope with stress, misfortune, and pain. The Stoics recognized that a quiet life is a happy life and that it can be obtained for all through the cultivation of reason, virtue, and self-control.
A useful tool in the Stoics’ toolkit is negative visualization , which involves imagining worse things that could happen. If you feel lonely, imagine what life would be like without virtual communication. Imagine if COVID-19 disrupted infrastructure so that goods and services could no longer be delivered.
If you are tired of working from home, be thankful that you still have a job and that this arrangement is temporary.
Instead of complaining that you can’t go to a concert, bar, or sporting event, be grateful that you don’t have to go to the hospital. If you are bothered by COVID-19, take comfort in the fact that talented scientists have developed vaccines.
No matter what happens to you, there is almost always something worse that could have happened. Visualizing more negative scenarios allows you to better appreciate the good fortune you have .
Furthermore, the Stoics would advocate that we ‘grant’ our circumstances. This is a useful trick that involves stepping outside of yourself to examine your lot in life more objectively. When you feel like you are the victim of an unsettling situation, pause and take a deep breath. Then talk to yourself as if you were talking to a friend who was the victim. When we talk to a friend about a complaint, we usually remind them to calm down and help them see that things are not too bad. Sometimes we help them see the bright side. We should advise ourselves as we would advise a friend .
Importantly, the Stoics realized that we need very little in life to be happy. In fact, lusting after money or fame is wrong. There is always more money and fame to pursue, and our insatiable nature will prevent us from enjoying what we already have. A safer path to happiness and well-being is to gain virtue by living a life of worth.
Numerous studies have shown that there is also a strong correlation between happiness, health and longevity of people who help others . With the rise of COVID-19, there are many ways to make a positive impact, from donating to food banks and charities to volunteering as a crisis counselor. Especially if we remember that poverty is, on a systemic level, worse than viruses like coronavirus :