What's the saddest profession?
What do you think is the saddest profession, characterized too often by disillusionment, addiction, and depression? Did you guess the law? A Johns Hopkins study found that lawyers suffer from major depressive disorder at a rate 3.6 times the average employed person. Lawyers are likely to have pessimistic personalities that practicing law reinforces and rewards, and they play a zero-sum winner-loser game that's guaranteed to generate negative emotions. But, happily, positive psychology offers hope for even the most pessimistic among us. The 5-Minute Recharge is here for you with a fresh batch of evidence-based wellness strategies, tips, and encouragement, including advice for lawyers or anyone who would like to become more optimistic (see Idea #1). Let's get started! ONE CHAMPIONSHIP QUOTE “I just tried to find a way to escape mentally by doing a lot of reading, getting out and walking, talking to a lot of the people...to share my experience with them, to listen to their experiences and find hope within each other.” – Dwight Howard of the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers talks about basketball bubble coping strategies ONE IMAGE OF AMUSEMENT
“I don't know whether to enjoy the view or do the work.” Yomiuriland, an amusement park in Tokyo, is offering workers alternative offices inside pods on a slow-moving observation Ferris wheel. THREE IDEAS #1 HOMO PROSPECTUS Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, considers the most important neurological discovery of his lifetime to be the default circuit. You may not know what the default circuit is, but you spend roughly half your life immersed in it. The default circuit is a fancy term for mind wandering or daydreaming, and when our mind is allowed to roam, it tends to wander into the future. According to Seligman, it's crucial for our happiness and success to become more future-minded, to extract the best from our past and present, eliminate the worst, and imagine a positive future. During a pandemic, and especially if you're a lawyer during a pandemic, imagining positive scenarios can be difficult. Pessimism distorts reality and stops you from trying: it undermines action and invites depression. Seligman recommends using a disputing technique to control negative emotions and argue for optimism. First, identify a catastrophic thought (Idea #2 can help you with this) and then treat this thought as if it came from another person whose mission it is to make your life miserable. Now find evidence against the worst-case scenario and for a best-case scenario. Between the two scenarios, leaning toward the best case, you'll find the most likely realistic and optimistic outcome. Let this be the go-to daydream on your default circuit. “Optimism is the right mental state for human progress...optimism is our future.” – Martin Seligman, from The Art of Happiness podcast “Happy Monkey” #2 WHAT'S YOUR BACKGROUND MUSIC? Even meditation masters such as Joseph Goldstein can get lost in the dreamy default circuit. Just as background music can create tension in a horror movie, the background thoughts of your default circuit are creating your moods, positive or negative. Goldstein advises us to tune into the background music of our lives and notice our quickly passing thoughts. Unnoticed, our thoughts create an emotional environment, but when we become aware of our thoughts we can free our minds from conditioned mental reactions. Goldstein recommends taking just five minutes to keep an eye out for the thoughts that pop up while you're in the shower, driving, or doing mindless chores. “Our background thoughts are functioning almost exactly the same as the background music in a movie, influencing how we feel without our awareness.” – Joseph Goldstein, from the Ten Percent Happier podcast, “Three Mindfulness Strategies” #3 HOW TO BE A LIFELONG MOVER There is overwhelming scientific evidence supporting how physical activity both prevents and treats depression, the world's leading cause of disability. New evidence-based guidelines published by the Public Health Agency of Canada provide insights you can use to bring more sadness-busting physical activity into your life. The guidelines recommend framing physical activity as something you have control over (see Dan Pink on the gift of exercise) that will enable you to feel good; recognizing that even a few minutes of weekly activity is better than nothing; and, perhaps most importantly, doing something you enjoy. To maximize enjoyment, build your frequency, duration and intensity slowly, get outdoors, listen to music, and move with others. To solidify the link to improved mood, you might also want to keep a physical activity journal to remind you how good it feels to move your body. “An hour of basketball feels like 15 minutes. An hour on the treadmill feels like a weekend in traffic school.” – David Walters *********************************** THE FAST FIVE 1. Why You Should Still Take Vacation Time During the Pandemic - Fast Company (“Recharging your battery can have a big impact on the quality of your work and your life.” Yes!) 2. How to Prepare for a Winter in Lockdown - The Big Story Podcast (Time 20 minutes) (Guest David Robson, author of The Intelligence Trap tells us how to avoid the mental trap of winter gloom.) 3. In a Former Taliban Stronghold, Defiant Women Hit the Gym - The New York Times (“I feel so healthy and I have more energy--I'm so happy!” A feel-good story about a feel-good activity.) 4. Nature got us through lockdown. Here's how it will get us through the next one - The Guardian (“There is no salve quite like nature for an anxious mind...”) 5. Time Confetti and the Broken Promise of Leisure - Behavioral Scientist (We need to protect our leisure time from the confetti of distraction.) *********************************** YOUR 5-MINUTE RECHARGE CHALLENGE MAKE YOURSELF SMALL According to happiness researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky, a major source of life's problems is excessive self-absorption and focus on what's wrong with ourselves. If you're dreading the approach of winter, one of the best ways to keep gloom at bay is to turn your focus away from your inner world and outward to others, to cultivate what some psychologists call “the small self.” This week's 5-Minute Recharge Challenge is to take a few minutes to brainstorm five acts of kindness that you can perform over the next five weeks. It could be helping someone get out to vote, making a donation to a favorite cause or simply connecting with a friend you haven't heard from in a while. Five acts of kindness will take you through the end of November when you can repeat this simple exercise. “I do a lot of research on kindness, and it turns out that people who help others end up feeling more connected and become happier.” – Sonja Lyubomirsky Wishing you a safe, connected, and happy week ahead, The 5-Minute Recharge