112 Stoic Quotes on Happiness and Contentment

Updated October 10, 2022

In Stoicism, the ultimate goal is to reach a state known as eudaimonia, roughly translating to property, flourishing, or happiness. We've gathered more than one hundred Stoic quotes on happiness and contentment to explore the reality that we have everything we need to be happy right now.

The founder of Stoicism, Zeno of Citium, believed that "happiness is a good flow of life." To lead the best, happiest life, one should strive to be virtuous in all of their actions.

Marcus Aurelius Quotes on Contentment

If you feel like you rarely experience contentment, the writings of Marcus Aurelius can be a priceless resource. We often expect that contentment should come from the external realities of our lives, but the great Stoics knew that it is in our power to be at peace with our lives no matter what is happening to us.

112 stoic quotes on happiness

“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.“

— Marcus Aurelius

“Live with the gods. And he does so who constantly shows them that his soul is satisfied with what is assigned to him.“

— Marcus Aurelius

“Perfection of character is this: to live each day as if it were your last, without frenzy, without apathy, without pretense.“

— Marcus Aurelius

Epictetus Quotes on Contentment

Epictetus was born in present-day Turkey nearly 2,000 years ago. He was born a slave.

If you feel like the conditions of your life as so cruel that it isn't in your power to be content, you might gain some valuable insight from the ideas of Epictetus.

Even though he gained his freedom and was able to teach philosophy in Rome sometime after the death of Nero, Epictetus lived a life of great simplicity with very few possessions.

If being a slave wasn't enough hardship for one life, he was banished from Rome in AD 93 when Emperor Domitian banished all of the city's philosophers (as seemed to happen from time to time.)

The fact that Epictetus was able to be content and accomplish so much in his life despite (or perhaps because of) all of the adversity he faced illustrates that we all have the power to find contentment in our lives no matter our circumstances.

 

epictetus image and stoic quote about happiness

“Contentment, as it is a short road and pleasant, has great delight and little trouble.”

— Epictetus

“Freedom is not procured by a full enjoyment of what is desired, but by controlling the desire.”

— Epictetus

“I must die. Must I then die lamenting? I must be put in chains. Must I then also lament? I must go into exile. Does any man then hinder me from going with smiles and cheerfulness and contentment?”

— Epictetus

“Contentment comes not so much from great wealth as from few wants.”

— Epictetus

“Fortify yourself with contentment, for this is an impregnable fortress.”

— Epictetus

epictetus image and quote about happiness

“Seek not that the things which happen should happen as you wish; but wish the things which happen to be as they are, and you will have a tranquil flow of life.”

— Epictetus

Stoic Quotes on Contentment

Some of the greatest minds of history have been influenced by Stoicism directly or indirectly. Let's explore some of the best Stoic quotes that come from people other than the ancient Stoics themselves.

"I am too easily contented with a slight and almost animal happiness. My happiness is a good deal like that of the woodchucks."

— Henry David Thoreau

"Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship."

— Gautama Buddha

"Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you."

— Laozi

"He who is contented is rich."

— Laozi

"When you are content to be simply yourself and don't compare or compete, everybody will respect you."

— Laozi

"If you can find true contentment, it will last forever."

— Laozi

"Content makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor."

— Benjamin Franklin

"Who is wise? He that learns from everyone. Who is powerful? He that governs his passions. Who is rich? He that is content. Who is that? Nobody."

— Benjamin Franklin

"Let thy discontents be thy secrets; if the world knows them 'twill despise thee and increase them."

— Benjamin Franklin

"Content and riches seldom meet together, riches take thou, contentment I had rather."

— Benjamin Franklin

"Temperance puts wood on the fire, meal in the barrel, flour in the tub, money in the purse, credit in the country, contentment in the house, clothes on the back, and vigor in the body."

— Benjamin Franklin

Marcus Aurelius Stoic Quotes on Happiness

People often talk about happiness being one of their major goals in life, but what is stopping you from obtaining it now? To paraphrase the great Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, you have everything you need right now to be happy.

“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature.“

— Marcus Aurelius

“He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe.“

— Marcus Aurelius

“To live happily is an inward power of the soul.“

— Marcus Aurelius

“No man is happy who does not think himself so.“

— Marcus Aurelius

“The happiness and unhappiness of the rational, social animal depends not on what he feels but on what he does; just as his virtue and vice consist not in feeling but in doing.“

— Marcus Aurelius

“A man's happiness, to do the things proper to man.“

— Marcus Aurelius

“I can at once become happy anywhere, for he is happy who has found himself a happy lot. In a word, happiness lies all in the functions of reason, in warrantable desires and virtuous practice.

Happiness is no other than soundness and perfection of mind.“

— Marcus Aurelius

Seneca Quotes on Happiness

Seneca the Younger has a lot of good advice about how to be happy. In particular, he focuses a lot on the fact that being able to focus on the present and not get fixated on the past or future is essential to happiness.

seneca image and stoic quote about happiness

“A man's as miserable as he thinks he is.”

— Seneca

“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.

— Seneca

“A good character is the only guarantee of everlasting, carefree happiness.”

— Seneca

“What's the good of dragging up sufferings which are over, of being unhappy now just because you were then.”

— Seneca

“Learn how to feel joy.”

— Seneca

“It is more fitting for a man to laugh at life than to lament over it.”

— Seneca

“The true felicity of life is to be free from anxieties and pertubations; to understand and do our duties to God and man, and to enjoy the present without any serious dependence on the future.”

— Seneca

“Whatever is to make us better and happy God has placed either openly before us or close to us.”

— Seneca

“Happy is the man who can endure the highest and lowest fortune. He who has endured such vicissitudes with equanimity has deprived misfortune of its power.”

— Seneca

“Wisdom allows nothing to be good that will not be so forever; no man to be happy but he that needs no other happiness than what he has within himself; no man to be great or powerful that is not master of himself.”

— Seneca

Epictetus Quotes on Happiness

We've seen what Epictetus has to say about contentment, but what about happiness?

“The pleasure which we most rarely experience gives us greatest delight.”

– Epictetus

“The essence of philosophy is that a man should so live that his happiness shall depend as little as possible on external things.”

– Epictetus

“God has made all men to be happy.”

– Epictetus

“Whoever does not regard what he has as most ample wealth, is unhappy, though he be master of the world.”

– Epictetus

“Happiness is an equivalent for all troublesome things.”

– Epictetus

Stoic Quotes on Happiness

What do Teddy Roosevelt, Thoreau, Laozi, and Napoleon Hill have in common? They all had very Stoic perspectives on happiness and how to obtain it in life.

"From the greatest to the smallest, happiness and usefulness are largely found in the same soul, and the joy of life is won in its deepest and truest sense only by those who have not shirked life's burdens."

— Theodore Roosevelt

"I am a happy camper so I guess I’m doing something right. Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder."

— Henry David Thoreau

"You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment."

— Henry David Thoreau

"Remember that the smallest seed of faith is of more worth than the largest fruit of happiness."

— Henry David Thoreau

"We are made happy when reason can discover no occasion for it. The memory of some past moments is more persuasive than the experience of present ones. There have been visions of such breadth and brightness that these motes were invisible in their light."

— Henry David Thoreau

"Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting some on yourself."

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Until you have learned to be tolerant with those who do not always agree with you; until you have cultivated the habit of saying some kind word of those whom you do not admire; until you have formed the habit of looking for the good instead of the bad there is in others, you will be neither successful nor happy."

— Napoleon Hill

"Happiness is found in doing, not merely possessing."

— Napoleon Hill

"Success in its highest and noblest form calls for peace of mind and enjoyment and happiness which come only to the man who has found the work that he likes best."

— Napoleon Hill

"The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship."

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

"To fill the hour──that is happiness."

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

"The crowning fortune of a man is to be born to some pursuit which finds him employment and happiness, whether it be to make baskets, or broadswords, or canals, or statues, or songs."

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Health, south wind, books, old trees, a boat, a friend."

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

"The way to happiness is: keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry. Live simply, give much. Fill your life with love. Do as you would be done by."

— Gautama Buddha

"Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle. Happiness never decreases by being shared."

— Gautama Buddha

"May everyone be happy and safe, and may their hearts be filled with joy."

— Gautama Buddha

"In our lives, change is unavoidable, loss is unavoidable. In the adaptability and ease with which we experience change, lies our happiness and freedom."

— Gautama Buddha

"Happiness comes when your work and words are of benefit to others."

— Gautama Buddha

"Seek not happiness too greedily and be not fearful of happiness."

— Laozi

"Happiness consists more in small conveniences or pleasures that occur every day, than in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom to a man in the course of his life."

— Benjamin Franklin

"Be in general virtuous, and you will be happy."

— Benjamin Franklin

Stoic Quotes on Money Doesn’t Buy Happiness

You've heard it a million times before-- money doesn't buy happiness. Even though the idea is practically a cliche at this point, it doesn't mean that we don't fall prey to the illusion that wealth will take our problems away and give us joy.

Let's check in with Seneca and some other Stoic-minded thinkers about the reality that you don't need riches to find happiness. In fact, the mere thought that being wealthy will make you happy is a source of unhappiness in itself.

“For many men, the acquisition of wealth does not end their troubles, it only changes them.”

— Seneca

"Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation of work must no longer be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits."

— Theodore Roosevelt

"That man is rich whose pleasures are the cheapest."

— Henry David Thoreau

"Can anything be so elegant as to have few wants, and to serve them one's self?"

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Times of luxury do not last long, but pass away very quickly; nothing in this world can be long enjoyed."

— Gautama Buddha

"Money has never made man happy, nor will it, there is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more of it one has the more one wants."

— Benjamin Franklin

"If you teach a poor young man to shave himself, and keep his razor in order, you may contribute more to the happiness of his life than in giving him a thousand guineas."

— Benjamin Franklin

"If I knew a miser, who gave up every kind of comfortable living, all the pleasure of doing good to others, all the esteem of his fellow-citizens, and the joys of benevolent friendship, for the sake of accumulating wealth. Poor man, said I, you pay too much for your whistle."

— Benjamin Franklin

"Our first mistake is the belief that the circumstance gives the joy which we give to the circumstance."
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Stoic Quotes About Fear as the Enemy of Happiness

It is easy to spend our whole lives being afraid. Afraid of death, afraid of pain, afraid we won't have enough money, afraid of commitment, afraid of heights. Whatever your particular flavor of fear is, it's worth noting that being afraid of just about anything will get in the way of your ability to be fully happy.

seneca image and stoic quote about happiness

“Where fear is, happiness is not.”

— Seneca

"Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight."

— Benjamin Franklin

Quotes About Our Personal Responsibility for Happiness

If you aren't happy and you're looking for someone to blame, take a short walk to your closest mirror. Happiness isn't something the world gives us, it's something we make for ourselves.

Humanity is fortunate, because no man is unhappy except by his own fault.”

— Seneca

“The mind is a matter over every kind of fortune; itself acts in both ways, being the cause of its own happiness and misery.”

— Seneca

"Life brings sorrows and joys alike. It is what a man does with them - not what they do to him - that is the true test of his mettle."

— Theodore Roosevelt

"There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself."

— Henry David Thoreau

"It is what a man thinks of himself that really determines his fate."

— Henry David Thoreau

"Man is the artificer of his own happiness."

— Henry David Thoreau

"I'm happier. I guess I made up my mind to be that way."

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Every human being is the author of his own health or disease."

— Gautama Buddha

"The mind is the source of happiness and unhappiness."

— Gautama Buddha

"Learn to be happy with what you have."

— Gautama Buddha

"Speak or act with a pure mind, and happiness will follow you as your shadow, unshakable."

— Gautama Buddha

"Do not blindly believe what others say. See for yourself what brings contentment, clarity and peace. That is the path for you to follow."

— Gautama Buddha

"Happiness depends more on the inward disposition of mind than on outward circumstances."

— Benjamin Franklin

"Who is strong? He that can conquer his bad habits."

— Benjamin Franklin

"The only thing over which you have complete right of control at all times is your mental attitude."

— Napoleon Hill

Stoic Quotes on Joy

Many Stoic-minded thinkers have lovely words to speak about the experience of joy. It can be so elusive and so fleeting, but through self-work and dedication, we can increase the amount of joy in our individual lives. By doing so, we help to increase the amount of joy present in the world at any given time.

"Comparison is the thief of joy."

— Theodore Roosevelt

"Allow yourself to trust joy and embrace it. You will find you dance with everything."

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Of cheerfulness, or a good temper - the more it is spent, the more of it remains."

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Think about a piece of music - some great symphony - we don't expect it to get better as it develops, or that its whole purpose is to reach the final crescendo. The joy is found in listening to the music in each moment."

— Alan Watts

"The more we try to live in the world of words, the more we feel isolated and alone, the more all the joy and liveliness of things is exchanged for mere certainty and security. On the other hand, the more we are forced to admit that we actually live in the real world, the more we feel ignorant, uncertain, and insecure about everything."

— Alan Watts

"The greater part of human activity is designed to make permanent those experiences and joys which are only lovable because they are changing."

— Alan Watts

"Joy comes not through possession or ownership but through a wise and loving heart."

— Gautama Buddha

"Who pleasure gives, shall joy receive."

— Benjamin Franklin

"Joy doesn't exist in the world, it exists in us."

— Benjamin Franklin

"I have learned there is no joy without hardship. There is no pleasure without pain. Would we know the comfort of peace without the distress of war?"

— Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Stoic Quotes About Controlling Your Thoughts

One of the lessons of Stoicism that has been popular in the rise of modern Stoicism is the reality that you can control your own thoughts.

This doesn't mean you should force yourself to feel differently than you do or deceive yourself.

What this means is that you have the power to be self-aware and watch your own thinking processes. You can overcome the types of thoughts that only cause pain and help to ensure that you don't create any unnecessary pain through your own mental processes and reactions.

"You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength."

— Marcus Aurelius

"The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another."

— William James

"The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives."

— William James

"Dream delivers us to dream, and there is no end to illusion. Life is like a train of moods like a string of beads, and, as we pass through them, they prove to be many-colored lenses which paint the world their own hue. . . "

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Quotes About Gratitude

Did you know that practicing gratitude can make you happier? If you want to increase the amount of joy and contentment in your life, you might consider starting a thankfulness practice, whether that means journalling, praying, or simply going out of your way to tell people when you are grateful to them.

“All you need are these: certainty of judgment in the present moment; action for the common good in the present moment; and an attitude of gratitude in the present moment for anything that comes your way.”

— Marcus Aurelius

“Pass through this brief patch of time in harmony with nature, and come to your final resting place gracefully, just as a ripened olive might drop, praising the earth that nourished it and grateful to the tree that gave it growth.”

— Marcus Aurelius

“It’s in keeping with Nature to show our friends affection and to celebrate their advancement, as if it were our very own. For if we don’t do this, virtue, which is strengthened only by exercising our perceptions, will no longer endure in us.”

— Seneca

“Remember to conduct yourself in life as if at a banquet. As something being passed around comes to you, reach out your hand and take a moderate helping. Does it pass you by? Don’t stop it. It hasn’t yet come? Don’t burn in desire for it, but wait until it arrives in front of you. Act this way with children, a spouse, toward position, with wealth—one day it will make you worthy of a banquet with the gods.”

— Epictetus

“It is easy to praise providence for anything that may happen if you have two qualities: a complete view of what has actually happened in each instance and a sense of gratitude. Without gratitude what is the point of seeing, and without seeing what is the object of gratitude?” 

— Epictetus

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Say thank you! I want to hear you say it now. Out loud. 'Thank you.' You're saying thank you because your faith is so strong that you don't doubt that whatever the problem, you'll get through it. You're saying thank you because you know that even in the eye of the storm, God has put a rainbow in the clouds. You're saying thank you because you know there's no problem created that can compare to the Creator of all things. Say thank you!"

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Stoics believed that people can achieve a good flow of life and happiness through the use of the right reason and virtuous action. There is a universal reason that governs everything, and the right reason coincides with this overarching reason.

If you're struggling to find happiness in your life, you won't find it by gaining wealth, fortune, or material goods. Happiness and contentment is something that is within yourself, not external to you, and therefore completely within your control.

Searching for more wisdom from the Stoics and other great minds? Be sure to check out the rest of our Stoic quotes blog with quotes on topics from everything from success and control to life and death.

Written by: Sophia Merton
Sophia received her BA from Vassar College and has always maintained a deep interest in the question of how best to live one’s life. She hopes to help others understand how they can apply Stoicism in their day-to-day lives in order to become the person they want to be, embrace the present moment, pursue their purposes, and rid themselves of unnecessary anxiety.

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