“As to being happy, I fear that happiness isn’t in my line. Perhaps the happy days that Roosevelt promises will come to me along with others, but I fear that all trouble is in the disposition that was given to me at birth, and so far as I know, there is no necromancy in an act of Congress that can work a resolution there.” – Benjamin N. Cardozo, February 15, 1933
Are you a healthy thinker?
Healthy thinkers are more optimistic, happier, physically healthier, exercise more often, have a stronger immune system and live longer than their negative counterparts.
Much attention has been paid to the fact that many lawyers are pessimists and that it is the one profession in which a pessimist is likely to succeed. If you’re a pessimist, however, you needn’t worry! The brain is one organ we can train, and focusing on optimism can lead not only to a healthier, happier you but a you who can deal with awkward and difficult situations in a more positive way.
Here are some mental tricks you can apply to increase healthy thoughts, reduce self-doubt and negativity and achieve a healthier and happier perspective in all aspects of your life:
- Listen to your inner monologue – What are you thinking? Are you mentally criticising a colleague for what she is wearing? Thinking someone else’s work is hopeless? Wishing a customer would just go away? Negativity becomes a habit, but you can’t break it if you’re not aware of it.
- Identify one area of your life affected by negative thinking – Whether it’s your weight, a personal relationship or your career, focus on an area you want to change. Become aware of your thoughts, so you can start to counteract poor thinking. For example, if you’ve been overlooked for promotion, don’t think “I’m not experienced enough,” instead think, “How can I gain more experience so I’m a real contender?” When you couch a problem as a challenge, you are more likely to find ways to overcome it.
- Meditate – Research has shown that the mental state is significantly calmed by meditation – less anxiety and stress, more mindfulness, better focus and creativity, and consequently a healthier state of mind for positive energy. In Sharon Begley’s book, Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain, she reports that not only does thinking positive thoughts help us to feel better and have a better attitude. Positive, productive thinking can actually change the biological structure of our brains. Brain changes can be generated by pure mental activity; something as seemingly insubstantial as thought has the ability to act back on the very stuff of the brain, altering neuronal connections in a way that can lead to recovery from mental illness and perhaps to a greater capacity for empathy and compassion.
- Be persistent – Don’t give up because it’s all too hard. Healthy thinking requires effort! It’s easy to sit around and be a misery guts, because being positive in your outlook and actions demands energy. Persist and your healthy thoughts will become a habit.
- Be honest – Often we blame others for what happens to us, when our own actions may have triggered the events. Change requires honesty. Practise seeing yourself from another’s perspective and become aware of how you present yourself to others.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself – We are often our own worst enemies. Write a list of 10 of your best qualities and put it somewhere you will see it every day.
- Give yourself permission to be happy – Sometimes we’re so trapped in unhealthy thoughts we just won’t let ourselves be happy. While you can’t expect to be constantly happy, grab those moments of joy that come by and let them lift you up! Find the opportunity to PLAY! Something that will give you real contentment, adventure and plain silly fun!
Are there any lawyers or law students out there who have trouble with healthy thinking? We realise that life in the law can be stressful and we’re here to lend an ear. We’d love to hear what’s on your mind – literally!
Guest post: By Maria Micallef, Health Writer, Programmer and Director of Hear Me Raw and Raw Corporate