By Roger Hall, Ph.D., and Nina Corbut
The second wealthiest profession belongs to lawyers, yet they take first place for the single most miserable profession. How can you prevent yourself from falling into misery? Be proactive by following these 10 tips that will help you live a happy and successful life.
Feed your brain
The food you eat is fuel for your brain. Many talk about healthy bones and healthy muscles, but 20 percent of the fuel in your food goes to your brain. There are neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine and GABA. Where do you suppose those neurotransmitters come from besides a prescription bottle? They come from the food you eat. When you eat food, your body converts it into chemical precursors that your body attaches together so that your brain will function well. If you are having trouble concentrating, if your mood is low, if you are worried or anxious, try eating more fruits and vegetables and drinking more water.
eatingwell.com for tips and recipes on healthy eating and lifestyle.
Battle cognitive distortions
Try to see things in a better way. As a lawyer, you might often hear sad, depressing and morbid stories from your clients, so your brain might naturally think in a negative way. Negative thoughts drain your energy and make it difficult for you to sleep, which will affect your well-being. Become aware of negative thoughts when they enter your brain, and put a positive spin on them. For example, you might think to yourself: "I'm glad I graduated from law school, but what difference does it make when I have to pay back all of these student loans?" This is negative thinking. Try this instead: "I'm glad I graduated from law school. It might be tough paying back these student loans, but I will learn how to manage my finances."
Get your daily 8 and 20
Bottom line: We are an under-slept society. If you don't sleep for more than 8 hours a night, your mood and overall wellbeing will be affected. It should only take you about 15-20 minutes to fall asleep. If you find yourself falling asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow, you are exhausted and sleep-deprived.
Because of electricity allowing all the activities that we can do into the night, we stay up very late. We watch television, we check our email from our phones, we get drawn into another late-night show. Pick a time each night to shut down the electricity and get your much-needed eight hours of sleep.
Why is sleep so important? Concentrating is more difficult when you are sleepy, and it is difficult to make good decisions when your brain is fatigued. Your brain occupies about three percent of your body mass and consumes 20 percent of the glucose, which is the fuel for the brain. Twenty percent of your calories are used for thinking. If you are fatigued, then you can't think well.
You also need to rest. Rest is doing nothing, but when was the last time you did nothing? Doing nothing doesn't mean watching television, reading a book or attending a baseball game—that's recreation. Rest means just sitting and doing absolutely nothing. Rest is sitting on your back porch with a glass of lemonade for two hours watching the birds fly around. Rest gives you a time of quiet reflection to slow your brain down so you are able to think better. Strive for 20 minutes of quiet contemplation a day.
The Promise of Sleep by William Dement.
Get outside and do something fun
Recreation is doing something you enjoy outside of work and leads to improved physical and mental well-being. Recreation is supposed to be fun, and if you don't have fun on a regular basis, you're missing out on a lot of life. Think about hobbies you once enjoyed. Maybe you like to fish, go on hikes, or draw. Successful people with happy lives find time for recreation, so make sure you mark your calendar for fun activities.
ohio.gov for information on recreational activities in Ohio.
Manage your mood with exercise
Exercise is the most reliable way to improve your mood. If you are unhappy or depressed, exercise will help. If you exercise a few times a week for 30 minutes to get your heart rate up, it will improve your mood as much as an antidepressant. Exercise will also help you think better because it relieves stress by burning up extra adrenaline and sugar you built up during the day. I'm sure your clients will agree that they would like you to be at your fullest thinking capacity, so be sure to make exercise a routine.
Have a healthy home
Invariably, problems at home will creep into problems at work. If you don't get your home life right, then you're going to have trouble in your work and in every other area of your life.
We like to think that work and home are completely separate, but they are not. If you're worried about your child and how he's doing in school, can you just turn that off when you get to work? No, because it's going to creep in. It's going to bother you. If you had an argument with your spouse before work, are you going to be able to turn that off once you get to work? Again, no. It's important that you have a good love life. Not only that, but that you have healthy home relationships, which can lead to a productive life everywhere.
Ensure you have enough friends to carry your casket
You need good friends, not only for a shoulder to cry on, but also to help you recover from illness. Researchers found that both the quality and the quantity of social support was a good predictor of a person's physical health. If you are ill and have no friends, or if you have some friends but they are lousy friends, then when you are sick you'll tend to stay sick longer.
It's the quantity and quality of social support that makes a difference. If you only have one really good friend and adversity strikes you (and it will), and you call that friend every night to spend an hour on the phone kibitzing about how awful your life is, he or she will start screening your calls. He or she may love you, but will get worn out, and you will need another friend to pick up for the other friend when he or she is tired.
Some people have many friends, but if they have a thousand friends and no good friends, they are worthless. You really only need enough friends to carry your casket. If you don't have enough to carry your casket and they don't care enough about you to actually carry your casket, then you've got a problem. Take some time to consider this in your life.
Figure out how much money you really need
Money can't buy you happiness. You've heard this before. But money sure can help you avoid misery. When people have below a certain amount of money, they are likely to be miserable. Yes, you can be happy in those times, but the results of studies confirm that the lack of money will make you miserable. Let's face it. Life is hard when you have no money. Obviously you need money to buy food. If you don't have food, life is miserable. If you are sleeping under a bridge, life is miserable.
There is a range where people feel they have enough money, and people tend to be very happy in this range. The top and bottom of this range differs with everyone, but people tend to be very happy in this segment where they feel they have enough money.
When people start to move above the "enough money" amount, that's where people run into "too much money" problems.
Find your range and be happy!
Find your purpose
Research has proven that if you are a part of an established religious or spiritual community, you tend to live a better life. Spirituality is different for everyone, but at its core, it helps give your life context. Spirituality helps you relieve stress because it gives you something to believe in, it gives you access to a bigger support group, and it helps you lead a happier life.
Find your flow
Work is where we get our pleasure and our happiness. Human beings were built to solve problems in our domain of expertise. As a lawyer, your domain of expertise is helping your clients solve problems, and you probably excel in this area. When you help your clients, you feel satisfied and happy. Now thing about solving plumbing problems. That would probably be a day of hell for you, because you're not really good at solving plumbing problems. But plumbers will have a good day, because they got to solve problems in their domain of expertise.
The formula for lasting happiness is to do fun work, where nearly every day you get to solve complex problems in your domain of expertise. You have had this experience when you are working on a problem, such as working on your car or house, where you slip into "the zone." Do you ever lose sense of time when you are working on solving a problem? You are so focused and concentrated that all of a sudden you say "Oh my gosh. I've been doing this for three hours?"
When you're in the zone of the problem you're solving, this is called "flow." This experience of flow is where most people find the greatest amount of happiness. Being able to lose yourself in the task you are doing contributes to your mood. People report a greater sense of happiness when they daily slip into the flow than if they go to King's Island every day. Being in the state of flow, concentrating on solving a problem will make you happy. And where does that usually happen? At work. As Steve Jobs said, "The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle." If you are in a work place where you don't experience flow, then you will not be happy. There are plenty of other jobs; find another one if you want to be happy.
Spend time evaluating these 10 areas and rank yourself on how you are doing. Monitor them. People who are successful will see where they are weak and try to make those areas stronger.
Choose one thing to apply today. Write it down and make it happen.