The Happy Overlap Between Stoicism and Buddhism

The Happy Overlap Between Stoicism and Buddhism

There’s so much we can learn from so many sources.

From religions and philosophies, from great thinkers and great leaders.

In fact, I recently published an Audible Audiobook on this (see HERE).

But today, I’m sharing this interesting article that focuses on what we can learn about happiness from the Stoics and Buddha.

via Psychology Today by Jordan Fiorillo Scotti


  • Even the earliest humans sought the secrets to happiness.
  • Ancient philosophical traditions, such as Stoicism and Buddhism, offer guidance on the true nature of happiness.
  • Happiness comes from wisdom and acceptance, rather than the pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain.
  • Contemplation on the darker sides of life, such as adversity and death, help clarify our values and priorities, resulting in a happier life.
 Antonius Ferret/Pexels

Joy!Source: Antonius Ferret/Pexels

The human brain is not designed to experience a steady state of contentment. Instead, it’s wired to help us survive. This necessarily means that we tend to focus on and remember negative experiences while moving on fairly quickly from positive ones.

This tendency is quite useful for survival but not so great for our moods. Is it any surprise, then, that so much of human life is spent chasing pleasure and avoiding pain? Indeed, some of the earliest recorded philosophies, religions, and traditions document the human desire to understand and pursue happiness. Remarkably, much of the ancient wisdom on happiness that emerged from China, Greece, and India around 2,500 years ago is consistent with what psychological science today teaches us about how we can increase our experiences of happiness and live our best lives.

The pursuit of happiness

Stoicism, an ancient Greek school of philosophy from the 3rd century BC, is making a major comeback. Stoicism is worthy of far more detailed exploration than I can offer in this article, but I would like to highlight some of the similarities between Buddhism and Stoicism in their approach to helping us achieve our greatest potential and manage the struggles of life with grace and wisdom.

Below, I offer three lessons on happiness shared by Stoicism and Buddhism. The similarities in these teachings are extraordinary, though they emerged independently in very different parts of the world and several hundred years apart. These lessons have stood the test of time and are the bases of many of the philosophical foundations of cognitive-behavioral therapy approaches.

1. Wanting to be happy all the time makes us unhappy.

In Buddhism, it’s called craving or attachment: that nagging desire for more or for something different than what is. When we strive for constant happiness or pleasure, we attach ourselves to a feeling that is, like all things, impermanent. This leads to disappointment and craving when our positive feelings wane, or desired circumstances change. Buddhism teaches that such suffering comes from our mindset and attachments, not the actual events or circumstances, which are simply behaving within the predictable laws of nature.

The Stoic philosophers also taught that wanting more, and wanting what we don’t have, is a sure path to unhappiness. Stoicism proposes that happiness comes from learning to want what we have rather than have what we want. The Stoic philosopher Epictetus said, “Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” This concept is remarkably simple but also pretty revolutionary for those of us raised in a consumerist, capitalist society that implicitly and explicitly takes for granted that more is better and what we have is never enough. The concept isn’t limited to material possessions, however; it works just like our sense of dissatisfaction with personal attributes, life experiences, and even minor annoyances (e.g., traffic.)

Learning to want what we already have is at the heart of Buddhist gratitude meditation. We can easily cultivate this mindset with a brief daily gratitude practice. Listing three or five things we are grateful for (before bed, upon waking, or while brushing teeth can help make this habit stick) is all it takes.

We can also use contemplation or journaling to experience the Stoic practice of amor fati. This is a mental exercise of learning to not only accept but love whatever life gives us, including adversity. To give it a try, spend 5-10 minutes reflecting with a journal on the landscape of your life and appreciating the way it’s shaped you, taught you, and helped you become resilient

… keep reading the full & original article HERE