For those suffering with depression, the search for new and effective tools for managing their disease can be a constant struggle. While formal therapy, medication, and things like a daily gratitude practice can help, sometimes people dealing with depression need additional tools to help get through their day.

Obviously, every person is different, and no one tool or practice will be the best for everyone. But the ancient Stoics developed a philosophy of life that may help manage some aspects of depression.

The Basics of Stoicism

In stoicism, the ultimate goal of life is eudaimonia,a state of living in accordance with nature that brings contentment and joy. In this case, "living with nature" means living in accordance with your reasoned choices and fulfilling your role in the world, whatever that may be.

In other words, eudaimonia is living with purpose, not being deceived by our passions, and focusing on what we can control while accepting what we can't. In some ways, the very basic tenets of stoicism are similar to the well-known"serenity prayer".

Of course, all that is easier said than done, especially for those suffering from depression. It's not always easy to focus on your rational choices when your brain chemistry may be pushing you in the other direction. That's why a Stoic practice, while not a cure-all, can be another useful tool for depression sufferers or therapists looking to add to their repertoire of useful techniques when developing their counseling practice. The psychological method of REBT (Rational-Emotional Behavioral Therapy) was based on Stoic thought!

A Brief History of Stoicism

Stoicim was founded by Zeno of Citium around 300 BC. Xeno was a wealthy merchant with a prosperous life, who lost everything when he suffered a shipwreck on a journey from Phoenicia to Peiraeus. Broke, alone, and looking for guidance, he happened upon the writings of Xenophon in a bookshop, whose philosophies set him down the path to founding Stoicism

The most famous Stoic philosophers following in the wake of Zeno are Seneca, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius. The Discourses of Epictetus and the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius are considered the backbone of modern Stoic thought. The contrast between the lives of Epictetus, who was born a slave, and Marcus Aurelius, who became the emperor of Rome, is testament to the universality of Stoic principles across all walks of life.

Stoic Principles

While Stoicism is a rich philosophy that rewards deep study, here are the basics of Stoic life, and how they may help with depression:

• To live in accordance with nature. This is the most abstract of the Stoic maxims, but basically it means applying reason to all our actions, instead of acting out of passion 'like a beast.' Remembering to stop and take control of oneself can be important in heading off self-destructive acts.

• To live a life of virtue. The Stoics encouraged embracing what they called the cardinal virtues: Wisdom or Prudence, Justice or Fairness, Courage or Fortitude, and Self-Discipline or Temperance. No one is perfect, nor can they attain perfection, but these provide something to aspire to.

• To focus on what you can control. Accepting that some outcomes are simply beyond our control is critical, especially for depression sufferers, who tend to grapple with self-blame and guilt.

• To distinguish between 'good,' 'bad,' and 'indifferent' things. One of the tougher maxims of Stoicism is the belief that true fulfillment can (and must) happen independently of misfortune. Sickness, poverty, and grief -- these things are inevitable, and we must not tie our happiness to their absence, even when that seems impossible.

• To take action. The acceptance of stoicism does not mean indifference: it's important we take some sort of action, even if it's just daily gratitudes or a journaling practice. After all, The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius wasn't written for publication -- it was his personal journal!

• To practice misfortune. This can be a challenging pillar of Stoicism for depression sufferers, who often find themselves overwhelmed by thoughts of worst-case scenarios. Practicing misfortune doesn't mean wallowing in predicting the worst -- it means being prepared for setbacks and failures, because many are inevitable and -- and not our fault. We must remember that success is not guaranteed, and think about what rational steps we will take when success doesn't come to us.

• To love your fate. The Stoic saying "Amor fati" means "love your fate" -- in other words, to accept things as they are, and not fight against things that can't be changed. This doesn't mean passively accepting everything life hands us -- it means acquiescing to events beyond our control and taking what lessons we can from them, rather than futilely combating things we can't change or undo, as much as we might wish to.

• To be mindful. Finally, Stoicism advises something very similar to a modern mindfulness practice: to live in the moment, experience our life as it is (not as we wish it would be), and choose the best action for us -- in other words, to get out of our own heads and be where we are right now.

Author's Bio: 

These stoic practices will help bring calm to the chaos we face today.