How Can Mindfulness Help if you Work within the Field of Law?
Mental Health for all of us has been recently highlighted by the Royal Family with their Heads Together Campaign, and the Mental Health Foundation’s Mental Health Awareness Week (8-14 May). For lawyers, judges, professors or law students this is hugely relevant. As a Mindfulness Coach, I’d like to introduce you to mindfulness as a means of maintaining good mental health. The basic skill of mindfulness is not only a helpful tool to manage the stresses of a busy life, but also a foundational block to emotional intelligence.
What Does Being Mindful Mean?
Being mindful means to be present and with equanimity. For much of the time none of us are fully present! If you think about your situation at work, you are inevitably caught up in complex cases and demands on your time. As you rush through your day, in what sometimes feels like a roller-coaster ride against time, your mind is on over-load.
With a mindful approach it is possible to:
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• Live your life in a more fully present way.
• Increase your self-awareness and self-knowledge.
• Manage difficult and stressful experiences with effective action.
• Create space for wise choices and problem-solving.
• Shift from habitual negative reactions to more resilient & life-enhancing responses.
• Access your deeper wisdom and clarify the values you live your life by.
‘Do everything quietly and in a calm spirit’
Francis De Sales
The Stress Response
The human default setting when dealing with challenges is to push on diligently with the underlying belief that you can gain control over your circumstances. Have you noticed how your body carries the stresses and tensions of working full-on like this? It is experiencing the ‘fight-flight’ response that reacts to perceived dangers, stresses and demands. Hence the tense muscles, stomach problems, nausea and high blood pressure, to name just a few, that you may have experienced. Your body elicits adrenaline as part of this process. The adrenaline and tension naturally falls away when you rest.
We may be able to complete tasks with a high degree of success, but we also attempt to manage the difficult feelings we all experience. It’s natural to want to push them away with over-reliance on excessive alcohol, food, drugs, computer games, exercise etc. Especially when the work day has stopped, yet your brain is still problem-solving, mindful skills allow you to take a step back more effectively. Unless you can do this, you will keep feeding the difficult thoughts, which in turn, exacerbate the adrenaline and tension. Our bodies are designed to be relaxed while still being alert. Mindfulness gives you the capacity to let this happen.
Mindfulness and Being the Best You Can Be
You no doubt have a desire to succeed in meaningful work. You want to be a good lawyer, solicitor, P.A. With mindfulness, you nurture values-based skills. These include qualities like kindness, compassion, acceptance and present-moment awareness. When you incorporate these into your life, the result can lead to you being a better listener with an increased ability to understand clients and colleagues (ie. emotional intelligence). Being more mindful leads to greater self-awareness which evolves alongside your work skills. One without the other can lead to life imbalance. Without valuing self-care, for example, the long-term result could be burn-out, insomnia and a variety of health issues.
Mindful Tips to Get Started
Your breath as an anchor
• Wherever you are, whatever you are doing you can always become aware of your breath.
• Gather up your scattered mind and place your focus in front of you.
• Get a sense of your breath.
• Make an effort to breathe in and out deeply.
• Notice any tension or frustration that you’re feeling.
• Say to yourself, ‘I breathe in calm, I breathe out tension.’
• Continue with your tasks now embodying greater sense of calm presence.
• As you are reading this right now, notice your body. Are you hunched up or leaning to one side?
• Where is your head in relation to your spine?
• Notice your shoulders and arms and any tension there.
• Where are your feet? Place them firmly on the floor.
• Acknowledge what feelings and distracted thoughts may be present.
• Soften in to your body and realign it as you continue your tasks.
As we all are creatures of habit, learning the skills of mindfulness are simple, profound, and yet take daily discipline. Your brain creates pathways of habit which become default settings so it’s often easier to return to old reactions, both behavioural and emotional. It can be more fruitful to attend a course or seek some support to get started with mindfulness and learn how to live a more meaningful life. There will be plenty of courses near to where you live or work. Schedule it into your diary and keep your appointment to develop your mindful self!
Helpful Links for support and further understanding:
Heads Together – Initiative for mental wellbeing supported by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry
The NHS, Mindfulness and mental wellbeing
The Mental Health Foundation – Mental Health Awareness Week
Mind for better mental health
Place of Serenity
A useful read:
Buddha’s Brain The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love & Wisdom by Rick Hanson, PH.D. with Richard Mendius, MD
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