Pain and Gain—Body, Mind and Stoicism
Practicing stoicism is not unlike getting in shape. It occurs to me that I didn’t really start exploring what makes me happy until I had a few other things in order, namely my professional skills and my health. I also realize now that focusing on my mental health probably has the most impact on my life overall, since once things are running smoothly up top other areas of life are easier to tackle.
I am currently in the best shape of my life, which makes me happy every day. My personal best doesn’t mean six pack abs of anything like that, but I’ve the energy to play with my kids, I weight train 2–3 times per week and I generally feel great. I got there through a series of conscious decisions, hard work and opportunity.
Having twins in 2011 reduced the amount I ate out and had social drinks a pub; cutting thousands of calories and unhealthy carbs and fat a month. As they grow and become more active I become more active. I make sure to lift and play with them everyday I can, so my baseline activity level has increased a significant amount.
When they were 18 months my bike commute went from 6km to 14 km a day, hauling the boys to daycare in a bike trailer. A few months after that ended, because we moved and my wife opened her Montessori Preschool that the boys attend, I started up at a gym with a friend, going consistently 2–3 times a week. It’s been over 8 months an I feel in complete control of my physical well being. I don’t eat perfectly, I still allow myself to enjoy some vices high in sugar and bad fats, but I am aware of my intake and output, and I simply adjust as needed.
I hindsight, I was practicing stoic principals, such as taking note of what is in my control and exercising that control. Parts of stoicism are challenging to practice, because as Irvine discusses, practicing stoicism is about programming your mind counter to evolution. Negative visualisation, at first, can cause sadness and grief but over time you appreciate things much more and getting truer joy and happiness from the important things in life.
In the same way, not eating donuts, chips or whatever sucks, because you want it. You want the sweetness and that little endorphin rush from indulgence. These foods are toxic so the long term impact is negative. By focusing on being active through lifestyle or exercise, though initially painful and often unpleasant, over time you see the physical benefits and hopefully experience the mental benefits and begin to find pleasure in the quest for good health.