It’s no surprise that unhappiness among Americans is at an all-time high or the number of unhappy lawyers is rising, too: The current state of the world is jeopardizing nearly all our fundamental needs.
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Our physical health is jeopardized on a daily basis as we go out in public with masks and hand sanitizer, hoping for the best. Our financial security is unclear. The economy is stricken. We cannot connect with others in many of the meaningful ways that make us feel loved and appreciated. For those who’ve lost jobs, self-esteem may be shaken. And many people are uncertain what to believe amid the noise of constantly conflicting “news.” All of it combined is making us feel powerless or victimized. No wonder anxiety and depression levels are soaring. What can we do about it?
Small Changes to Mitigate Negative Feelings
So, how can we help ourselves and others get through to better times? For the unhappy lawyer, here are five steps to reduce the negative effects of the current state of the world.
1. Exercise Outside With Someone You Care About
This tip tackles three problems with one solution. Exercise is known to increase endorphins and dopamine that make us feel happier and relieve stress. Spending time in nature reduces feelings of isolation, promotes calm, reduces stress hormone levels, increases self-esteem, and reduces anxiety. Connection with others increases our resilience and ability to handle life’s difficulties. Receive all these benefits by connecting with a friend, colleague or family member for a social distance outdoor walk, run or hike. You’ll be helping each other.
2. Limit Your Social Media Time
The use of social media is linked to loneliness and feelings of social isolation. Why is this? Social media is largely an exercise is comparing ourselves to others. It’s been said that “comparison is the thief of joy.” The act of comparing steals our joy even if we deem our lives as better than others we see on social media. Add to that the misinformation and fearmongering that are often present on social media, and we have platforms that make us feel worse, not better. If you use social media to stay connected to others, that can be positive. But limit your time to less than an hour or so a day, and skip the “fake news” and highly curated photos of people trying to convince us that their lives are perfect.
3. Limit Your Consumption of News
I know many people who keep the TV on all day while working from home to stay abreast of every minute detail in the news. While you may feel highly informed with this practice, you’ll also feel highly anxious and depressed. The truth is that much of the news is “fluff” and speculation and isn’t anything we really need to know. It is well known that sensationalism and negativity are better received than news of happy events or calm interpretations of potential problems. Watching the morning news and then the evening news, or scanning the headlines a couple of times a day, will keep you sufficiently informed and allow you to save your sanity.
4. Develop a Meditation and Mindfulness Practice
Anyone who knows me or my work knows that I advocate meditation and mindfulness as part of the solution to every problem. Not every problem can be solved with meditation, but every problem can be helped with meditation. Benefits include calm, ability to shift perspective and see the bigger picture, less reactivity, lowered blood pressure and anxiety, decrease in depression, and increase in creativity. Anytime you face a challenge, a meditation practice can help you craft a solution. It takes just five minutes a day, and it’s free. You’ve got nothing to lose by giving it a try.
5. Focus on the Small and Meaningful Moments
When the world seems out of control, it is empowering and calming to focus on the little things that we can control and find meaning in small moments. A meditation and mindfulness practice can help cultivate this perspective. Each day, focus on what you can control, which might include what time you wake up, what you eat, how much you exercise, when you schedule conference calls, and what you wear. When we focus on all the decisions that we make each day, and how much control we have in many situations, we begin to feel more empowered. This sense of empowerment gives us self-confidence and reduces stress. The same is true when we cherish the everyday moments, like seeing a hummingbird, or watching our child learn to ride a bike, or hearing the sound of a favorite wine being poured into a glass. As Henry David Thoreau said, “It’s not what you look at that matters; it’s what you see.”
These times are challenging, but we can help ourselves and others with these small changes.
More From Attorney at Work on Dealing With Attorney Unhappiness During the COVID-19 Crisis:
- “Handling Fear and Stress During a Prolonged Crisis” by Shawn Healy
- “Five Ways to Reduce Anxiety in a Worldwide Pan(dem)ic” by Jamie Spannhake
- “Start Sleeping Better Tonight: 3 Tips for a More Restful Night” (on Health Food Radar)
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