The ancient philosophy of Stoicism offers profound insights into how to live a meaningful life. We can find calm and purpose even in chaotic times by focusing on what is within our control, appreciating the present moment, and progressing in wisdom and virtue.
One way to incorporate Stoic principles into your daily life is to follow a thoughtful routine each night. The consistent habits we engage in before bed impact our mood, self-awareness, and ability to get restful sleep. Below are seven Stoic practices you can add to your evening wind-down period for more mindful days and restful nights.
1. Reflect on Your Day
Take 10-15 minutes before bed to review your day – your conversations, decisions, and challenges you faced. Consider what went well and what you could improve on. Where did you act virtuously and prudently? Where did you miss chances to exercise wisdom?
This aligns with the Stoic practice of the evening meditation, looking back on your actions and behaviors to learn and make progress. Reflection helps you release negative emotions from the day while retaining the lessons. It also provides perspective on what was truly important versus what distracted you.
For example, you may reflect on a tense meeting at work and realize you reacted impatiently when compassion may have been better. Or you remember a friend’s Gratitude when you helped them, affirming your virtues of kindness and service. Make this review constructive rather than self-critical.
2. Express Gratitude
Take a few minutes to call to mind three things you feel genuinely grateful for from the day. This could include pleasant interactions with others, enjoyable activities, accomplishments, moments of natural beauty, or simply things like your health or basic comforts.
Focusing on what you appreciate counters the tendency to become fixated on desires or dissatisfied with what you have. Stoics aim to take joy in the good already present in their lives—gratitude grounds you in the gifts of the moment at hand rather than taking them for granted.
For example, you might be grateful for an intellectually stimulating discussion, quality time with a loved one, the satisfaction of a job well done, or the sun warming your face. Articulating Gratitude helps cement the learning and pleasant memories.
3. Plan Tomorrow
Once you have reviewed today and expressed Gratitude, take a few minutes to look ahead to tomorrow. Envision how you would like the day to go and critical goals or behaviors to help make it excellent. Picture yourself acting with the virtues you aim to embody – wisdom, justice, courage, and moderation.
While reflection grounds you in today’s experience, previewing tomorrow focuses you back on the present moment so you can fully engage the next day. Stoics avoid dwelling on the unchangeable past or unknowable future, instead maximizing the day at hand.
For example, you may envision staying calm when facing a challenge at work, having enriching conversations with loved ones, or getting an exercise habit back on track. Think of 2-3 realistic, positive goals to strive for tomorrow.
4. Prepare for Sleep
Wind down your mind and body for rest using relaxing activities that you find calming and pleasurable. You may try meditating, listening to soothing music, sipping herbal tea, stretching, reading an uplifting book, or writing in a journal.
Transitioning smoothly into sleep aligns with the Stoic value of living according to nature. Your mind and body function best with adequate rest, so sleep preparation restores your ability to self-regulate and manage disruptive emotions. It returns you to a calm, centered state.
For example, you may reflect on a mantra or passage on courage or wisdom as you drink chamomile tea, do some deep breathing, and then engage in a calm hobby like knitting before getting in bed. Find what resonates most.
5. Review Your Goals
Take a moment to call to mind your long-term goals and the purpose or mission underlying them. This could relate to your character, contributions, relationships, or anything you find deeply meaningful.
Stoics live with intention, directing their actions toward virtue, self-mastery, and service to humankind. Reminding yourself of your driving motivations and highest aspirations realigns your daily habits with your true north.
For example, you may envision your goal of running a nonprofit to aid struggling teens, a lifelong mission of environmental advocacy, or simply your aim to show more patience and less anger. Let this re-center you and inspire your days.
6. Forgive Yourself
Think over any self-judgment or criticism you may be harboring about mistakes or shortcomings, either from today or the past. Then, consciously remind yourself that you are human, doing your best and learning daily. Let go of negative self-talk.
Stoics practice clear, honest self-assessment to improve but resist falling into counterproductive feelings of guilt or shame. Your self-worth remains intact regardless of what happened. Maintain compassion for yourself as well as others. Forgiveness fosters peace of mind.
For example, reflect on any embarrassment or disappointment from the day, then tell yourself out loud: “I am enough. I acted to the best of my ability today. I forgive myself for any errors and choose to move forward.” Release self-judgment.
7. Reflect on Death
Finally, take a moment to reflect deeply on the fact that your time in life is limited, as is everyone’s. Truly absorb the reality that this exact day will never come again. Appreciate the gift of being able to experience this moment.
Stoics use the contemplation of mortality to focus their minds on living meaningfully, shedding superficial concerns to pursue virtue and wisdom. An awareness of death inspires profound Gratitude for the opportunity to be present today.
Consider what it would mean to fully appreciate this day, knowing it is your last chance. Let this perspective guide you toward fulfillment, quality time with loved ones, and joy in each moment. Cherish this ephemeral gift.
Case Study: Marco’s Transformation
Marco implemented a Stoic evening routine after feeling distracted, stressed, and emotionally drained from work and life demands. He started small by picking 2-3 of the steps each night.
After a few weeks, Marco noticed better sleep and waking up feeling more purposeful. Reflecting helped him identify unproductive habits like scrolling on his phone when bored. Expressing Gratitude reminded Marco of all he was blessed with, shifting his mindset to appreciation.
Marco reported feeling less anxious and fulfilled in his job and family time within two months. Forgiving himself eased the burden of perfectionism. The evening ritual gave structure and meaning to his days. Marco could focus on what truly mattered, letting trivial worries go.
Adopting a thoughtful Stoic-inspired routine can profoundly impact your well-being, mindset, relationships, and sense of purpose. By closing each day skillfully, you open yourself up to more significant meaning, self-control, virtue, and serenity in life.
Implementing a thoughtful nightly routine of reflection, planning, self-care, and meditation fosters a more intentional life aligned with Stoic principles. By making space for these positive habits at the end of each day, you prime yourself for restful sleep and greater mindfulness the next day.
Over time, the compound benefits are significant. You gain self-awareness, release unhelpful emotions, focus on virtue and service, appreciate the present, and live in harmony with nature. Your days become more meaningful by properly closing each one.