In case you missed Part I, start here. If you want to learn more about mindfulness, listen to my interview with Christina Martini, a partner at DLA Piper who has been practicing meditation and mindfulness for over 15 years.
“We find that meditation allows your brain to get over the cultural ADHD that we’ve been creating by trying to do multiple tasks at once and allows our brains to focus on the task at hand.”
Continuing the list of why every lawyer should be practicing mindfulness, here are three more reasons.
Reason #3: Mindfulness as a place to retreat.
Let’s face it, lawyering is difficult. We all have days where it feels as though the ground beneath us is about to give and we’re spiraling out of control. When you feel this way, what coping mechanism do you use to feel grounded again? Practicing mindfulness allows us to pause, reflect, and respond from a place of calm rather than reacting.
Most of us have had a situation where we immediately regret hitting the send button on an email or said something we shouldn’t have said. What we are training our brain to do is to reduce the activities in the part of the brain responsible for fight or flight response and activate the parts of our brain responsible for executive functioning so that we can respond appropriately in difficult situations.
Reason #4: Using mindfulness as a corrective measure.
Each day, we’re given 1,440 minutes. Not a single minute more. Work-life balance is all about allocating those precious minutes. How do you start your day? Do you start by checking your email? Or do you align your day with what is important to you – eating right, exercise, connecting with people you love, practicing self-care? Are you clear about what really matters to you and are you consistently orienting your life towards those values?
With the constant demand on our time, the ever-growing to-do lists, the constant distractions, it’s easy to go about your day with your mind in a state of constant fog, not really aware of what you’re spending your time on. Ever have an experience where you look up and it’s already 3:00 P.M. and you wonder where the day went? Being mindful is all about being present to each moment of your day.
Reason #5: Combating Burnout, Vicarious Trauma, or Compassion Fatigue.
Lawyers are witnesses to human suffering. Rarely do clients come into our office with happy news. Our responsibility as attorneys is to “fix” our clients’ problems. Therapists learn and are trained to recognize symptoms of burnout, vicarious trauma, and compassion fatigue as part of their training. Despite the fact that lawyers regularly suffer from being exposed to our client’s trauma, we are given little to no training on how to care for ourselves.
We can get lost in other people’s problems or pain and lose sight of self-care. Lawyers can use mindfulness to notice when we’re giving too much of ourselves and bring it back into balance. Burnout, vicarious trauma, or compassion fatigue doesn’t happen overnight. It’s generally a very gradual deterioration of our emotional and mental health. If we aren’t carefully monitoring and attuned to what is going on inside of ourselves, we may miss the obvious signs of burnout, vicarious trauma, or compassion fatigue.
When we’re mindful, we can notice when we’re feeling out of balance from working too much, not taking the necessary time to care for ourselves, or not spending enough time out of the office, and correct the imbalance.
In addition to these specific reasons why lawyers should meditate, there are also a lot of general reasons for doing so, including:
- Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations;
- Building skills to manage your stress;
- Increasing self-awareness;
- Focusing on the present; and
- Reducing negative emotions.
Physical treatment benefits of meditation include:
- Anxiety disorders;
- Heart disease;
- High blood pressure;
- Pain; and
- Sleep problems.
The good news is that you don’t need to spend hours a day meditating to see these benefits. Research shows that by spending just two minutes per day for 21 days you can “rewire your brain, allowing your brain to actually work more optimistically and more successfully.”
This article first appeared on Above the Law.