How To Accept The Impermanence Of Life


Moments come and go. Days pass by, turning into weeks, then months, then years. You and the life you lead are constantly changing. Nothing is permanent.

It is beneficial to remind yourself of this as you confront adversity and as negative emotions become overwhelming. At some point, nearly all of us experience grief resulting from the loss of a loved one.

Many of us will be in states of sadness, pain, and anguish over a breakup or a termination of a job. And a number of us will become the unfortunate victims of crimes or wrongdoings.

Considering these possibilities doesn’t have to be morbid or morose. There’s no denying that each of us will experience challenges to our well-being over which we have no control. If we are able to face these situations knowing that nothing is permanent, then we are more likely to appropriately handle and overcome them.

Awareness of impermanence and appreciation of our human potential will give us a sense of urgency that we must use every precious moment.

Dalai Lama

Just as negative occurrences are not permanent, neither are positive ones. Realizing this is important to constructing a balanced perspective. Becoming aware of the impermanence of all situations can fuel one’s passion for relishing and savoringthe wonderful parts of life.

Rather than viewing these situations as inevitable, one can begin to see them as the precious gifts that they are.


Accepting Impermanence Helps Cultivate Positive Well-Being

While clinical psychology has largely focused on diagnosing and treating mental illness and diseases, positive psychology is concerned with cultivating positive well-being, not merely eliminating negative mental states.

A 2006 study examined how Buddhist traditions and modern Western ideologies could be combined to attain mental balance (Wallace & Shapiro, 2006). This desired mental balance is predicated on the idea of impermanence, a foundational Buddhist concept.

Living with balanced mental states that are founded in impermanence counteracts the negative cycles of rumination that cause many people to suffer.

It’s one reason why Buddhist ideas have made their way into mainstream Western culture: All people seek to live with a calm and relaxed mind.


Cope More Easily With Trying Times

Research in the field of positive psychology suggests that external factors don’t determine one’s happiness. Certainly, positive external factors compound and complement one’s overall contentment, but internal factors are required to achieve an authentically joyous life.

Genuine happiness comes from within, and it can be cultivated through mindfulness meditation and other activities, including gratitude journaling, awe journaling, and focusing on the good.

In difficult times, people are often unhappy because they lost some of the external things to which they have attachments. In some cases, even the mere threat of losing an external element is enough to raise negative emotions.

Impermanence allows people to cope more easily with trying times. If someone comes to the conclusion that life is not permanent, and neither is anything in it (like one’s partner, children, job, physical capabilities, financial and social status), then one is more likely to react gracefully when something perceived as valuable is taken away (LaBier, 2012).


You Can’t Force Happiness

According to Buddhism, attachment is the root of suffering, and it is usually the reason why impermanence is difficult to fathom for many people. Rationally accepting that everyone and everything is temporary is a refreshing concept, and whether you want to believe it or not, it’s true.

It is also important to understand that grasping for positive thoughts, emotions, and occurrences in life is not what positive psychology suggests. If you accept the notion of impermanence but still attempt to force happiness and joy into your life, you are missing the point.

We each have the capacity to enjoy our lives completely as long as we understand that negative situations are unavoidable and none of our experiences last forever. Everything in your life, including yourself, has an expiration date.

This quote from Paul T.P. Wong (2007), a positive psychologist specializing in Chinese traditions, beautifully sums up the concept of impermanence.

It is excerpted from a paper he wrote outlining the differences between positive psychology in America and China:

Craving for happiness necessarily causes us to fear or reject anything that causes unhappiness or pain. Attachment to possession and achievement invariably leads to disappointment and disillusionment, because everything is impermanent. Thus, the positive psychology of pursuing positive experiences and avoiding negative experiences is counterproductive, because the very focus on happiness contains the seed of unhappiness and suffering. Failure to embrace life’s experience in its entirety is at the root of suffering.

What do you think about accepting impermanence? Is it a helpful coping mechanism for you? Tell us in the comments below.



  • LaBier, D. (2012, March 17). Live with impermanence…And discover your true self. Psychology Today. Retrieved from
  • Wallace, B. A., & Shapiro, S. L. (2006, October). Mental balance and well-being: Building bridges between Buddhism and Western psychology. American Psychologist, 61(7), 690-701. Retrieved from
  • Wong, Paul T.P. (2007). Chinese Positive Psychology. International Network on Personal Meaning. Retrieved from

About the Author

Mike Oppland, BA, MBA, is a professional basketball player, basketball coach, Kindergarten teaching assistant, Physical Education teacher, and English teacher. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from Calumet College of Saint Joseph and an MBA in Sports Business from Saint Leo University.


  1. Art

    This is exactly what I needed to read this morning, especially the last part and excerpt. You have knowledge and wisdom beyond your years. Please continue to share it. Thank you, Mike!

  2. Vajira

    Impermanence in material is known to every one.even small kids understand that their toys are subjected to break.
    The noble philosophy of impermanence taught in Buddhism is the impermanance of Sankara or mind formation. This teaching is based on cause and effect or paticca samuppada.

  3. Stefanie

    I have been trying to explain this to everyone in my life.. And they look at me as if I’m nuts.. I’m going to save this article so when I do have to explain impermanence to anyone hopefully they will read this article and have more understanding about the reality of life. A LOT OF PEOPLE CANT HANDLE THE TRUTH.. That is the major problem.. If people could be more willing to be more open minded and see the bigger picture of life. Than they can handle the truths of reality than life will become much easier and there will be less fear and less anxiety as well as less depression… We our own individual self are our own worst enemy and we hurt our selves not anyone eles. We make our self suffer in pain and agony…I also tell people that this is not the end we are immortal souls we don’t die we just leave body and go home because earth is not our home, earth is just temporary… ..

  4. Sherri

    I take it as meaning, “Take the good, with the bad”. It’s up to me, how to interpret it.

  5. Suzy

    Something I have never really considered but it makes so much sense when you think about it. Acceptance is one of the most difficult concepts to grasp. One can hold onto hurt, grievances and emotions which give you a reason for blaming another for your feelings. When one accepts one can move forward without dis-ease in one’s life but this is so hard to do. Likewise one holds on to all aspects of life as permanent possessions, not wanting to give anything up or face change. Therefore accepting impermanence can change one’s whole outlook on life and be grateful for every little thing, grateful for just ‘being’!

  6. Randi

    I was keep on searching for a slogan since years now. unfortunately I couldn’t find one. after reading this valuable article, I found one ” Everyone and Everything is Temporary “. now I feel more relaxed.

    I feel anxious most of the time, now feel calm.

  7. Paul

    Lovely piece, and as a Buddhist I happen to agree with all these points. But is this really positive psychology as the website would suggest, or just plain old Buddhism? I think they should re-title it “The Buddhist take on impermanence” and drop the “how” as it doesn’t really answer that question. I look forward to more material on the overlap between Buddhism and positive psychology, ideally (but not necessarily) informed with research.


    Coming across this article in the midst of all the changes and talk of a ‘new normal’ arising from COVID-19 has been refreshing.
    Life indeed is impermanence and my suffering is self inflicted when I think otherwise and insist on try to make the impermanent, permanent.
    Thanks for sharing

  9. Nia Duong

    Impermenat is all there is in life. Experience whatever life offer. Expect the unexpected. Weather is love or pains in etc. At the end whatever the out come embraced it and let it all go. Understand the concept of letting go, so one can be at peace and free. Hold no regret when you leave this planet.

  10. Ven Dr Sumedh Thero

    Thanks for posting such studies mat be more person could found useful as impermanence means happiness -Wish you all the best Blessings

  11. graham yates

    This is very much in the philosophical teachings of Stoicism.I feel that stoicism should get the same research attention as mindfulness as it is in the western tradition and therefore culturally easier to understand for westerners.

  12. Seph Fontane Pennock

    Thanks for this breath of fresh air Mike. Wow, did this article resonate with me. The ‘digital nomad’ life that I’ve been living last 6 months finds its roots in the impermanence you describe. Traveling around with as few material possessions as possible makes it very clear that everything is fleeting and that you are only a temporary owner of everything you think you ‘have’ in life. More importantly, what it taught me is that that impermanence can become a source of happiness, instead of anxiety it usually invokes. You are appreciating everything and everyone in real time, not for their endurance, for their always being there for you, but for their sheer being in that moment.


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