How to Be a Happier Lawyer

Whether you’re a sole practitioner or one of many hard-working attorneys at a large law firm, you likely struggle to find a proper work-life balance. The legal field is notorious for long hours, burnout, stress, and even depression, so know that whatever you’re going through, you’re not alone.

If you’re wondering how to be a happier lawyer, you’re in luck. There are several proven strategies that can improve your mental well-being, without you having to look for a new career. In fact, you might find that being happier makes you even better at your job!

Find a Pursuit Outside of Work

Before you dismiss the idea that working less can solve any of your problems, consider the value of rest and engaging in something—anything—outside of work. There’s good evidence that having a hobby you take seriously is correlated with being a top performer.

For example, Nobel Prize winning scientists are 2.85 times more likely than average scientists to have a hobby that is artistic or crafty. In other words, the hobby these top-performing scientists pursue is completely unrelated to their profession.

So, if you’re someone who believes every pursuit should be in service of your career goals, then know that taking time away from the grind to focus on something completely unrelated to work can actually boost your performance.

More importantly, having a pursuit unrelated to your career will also make you happier. One study from researchers at the University of Sheffield’s Institute of Work Psychology in the U.K. found that when people have hobbies that are too similar to their profession, their levels of self-confidence in their abilities to do their jobs decline.

But when their hobby bore little-to-no similarities to the professional’s job, their self-reported levels of happiness and health were far greater than counterparts with hobbies that were related to their professions.

Don’t Overlook Time-Tested Strategies to Improve Your Happiness

A few activities are almost always included in lists for improving your mental health, and you should investigate any (or all) of them in your quest to find happiness. Those strategies include:

  • Exercise—cardio, strength-training, yoga, or any combination of these activities
  • Adequate sleep—seven to eight hours a night
  • A healthy diet—veggies, fruits (especially those low in sugar), and healthy fats
  • Meditation—mindfulness meditation, along with other types of meditation, improve self-reported levels of happiness among practitioners
  • Journaling—whether its working through your problems on a blank page or simply expressing gratitude for the good things in your life

These practices are cornerstones of improving mental well-being. If there’s anything on this list you haven’t tried for a sustained period (at least one to two months), then consider incorporating them into your daily or weekly schedule.

Help Others

Helping others, whether through charity, volunteer work, or simply expressing gratitude and compassion to others, also has a strong correlation with higher levels of happiness. Research shows that being generous activates the same part of the brain stimulated by eating delicious food.

If the idea of altruism doesn’t appeal to you, that’s okay. Helping others can still make you happier, even if it’s done for completely self-serving purposes.

Find Out What Experts Say About Happiness

Sometimes it’s helpful to simply understand what happiness could mean in your life and what research says about how you can and can’t achieve it. Fortunately, several experts have devoted their careers to find out what does and doesn’t make people happy.

For example, Dan Gilbert, a social psychologist, writer, and Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology at Harvard University is one of the leading voices on happiness research. Gilbert’s book, Stumbling on Happiness, explores what it means to be happy, and why we so often rely on the wrong strategies to obtain it.

Yale professor and cognitive scientist Dr. Laurie Santos teaches a free course on a happiness at Yale. She also has a podcast called The Happiness Lab, in which she speaks with other experts and examines what does and doesn’t improve mental well-being.

Don’t Be Afraid to Get Professional Help

Sometimes the roots of depression and anxiety run deep enough that the best treatment is through a mental health professional. If you’ve considered speaking to a therapist or counselor, or if you’ve considered taking medication, don’t hesitate to take the first step toward getting help. Talk to your doctor, friends, or loved ones for a recommendation of a mental health professional.

Schedule Time to Find Happiness

Whichever strategy you choose to become a happier lawyer, know that you’ll be less likely to follow through if you don’t actively make time for it. If you live and die by your calendar, then start scheduling time in your day or week to pursue a hobby, exercise, meditate, volunteer, read, journal, or do whatever else you’d like to try.

About backdocket

At backdocket, our contribution to happiness in the legal field comes through our practice management software. With backdocket, legal professionals can work smarter, not harder, so you can spend less of your day on tedious time-consuming tasks and give yourself room to breathe. If you’d like to schedule a free demonstration, contact our team today.

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