Professional Wellbeing Project Coordinator explains how letting go of 'happiness' expectations, shaking off the idea of perfection, and self-honesty have inspired her.
Over the coming weeks, the Society is shedding light on the work done for solicitors nationwide in education, public affairs, members services and regulation. Here, Professional Wellbeing Project Coordinator Julie Breen explains how she works with colleagues nationwide to develop the Society's portfolio of mental health supports, and offers practical advice for the pursuit of happiness.
I've worked in mental health for several years, and regularly meet people who choose to talk with me about their context, families, relationships, emotions, and patterns of thinking and behaving, amongst other things, to find ‘happiness’ or ‘wellbeing’. Here are just some of the things I have learned from my clients about how to be ‘happy’ or ‘well’ that I feel privileged to know:
- Honesty: When you are authentic with yourself, it is so much easier to be authentic with others. Articulating your thoughts or feelings, very honestly to yourself, can be tremendously freeing. This freedom gives space for self-acceptance, self-kindness, and a deeper sense of closeness with those who love and know you. We build a congruence between our internal feelings and external world and everyday stuff become tension-free, we laugh more (from the inside out), and we criticize ourselves and those around us less.
- Routine and rituals: It sounds simple and it is. Routines and rituals anchor us, bring us back to the simple pleasures, slow us down, punctuate our lives, and give us consistency and stability. Eating a healthy breakfast at the same time every day, going out for your lunchtime walk, dancing in your back garden every Friday evening, bathing your dog once a week, sleeping before midnight, organising your to-do list at the end of the workday. Whatever it is that fulfils you, make it an intentional routine and ritual. Writing these down (small and big) and thinking about which ones you want to keep can make these activities more intentional and more meaningful, making us more grateful for them.
- Baby steps: Thinking and worrying about the past or future is something that I used to do a lot. And I mean, a lot. When I facilitate group therapy with clients who have experienced addiction, they will often support each other by saying “hold on, baby steps - don’t think about next week, next month. Just focus on today, get through today”. Every time I hear this, I am jolted into the now. It reminds me how helpful it is to break things down – what can I get done at work today? what can I do to relax today? It’s such a powerful practice; bringing me back to what is within my control, and giving me space to breath and enjoy the moment.
'Happiness' in a pandemic?
I have to admit, when I was asked to write about happiness right now, in the middle of this painful pandemic, I did some sort of internal wince. It’s so unbearably tough for many people right now, I wondered about my own motivation levels for this topic and how receptive potential readers would be. But then I thought about the deep well of courage my clients have found through dark, dark times to find “happiness” and be “well”. In this I found hope.
Although I can’t be sure, I believe that if they were writing this article, they would say something like: “Let go of your 'happiness' expectations, shake off the idea of perfection, be honest with yourself, and notice when negative thoughts take over. Do practical stuff like giving yourself routine and rituals and take each day as it comes.”
I hope their wisdom helps you on your journey today.
If you are a solicitor and would like to talk to a mental health professional, LegalMind is available to you. LegalMind is an independent and confidential mental health support for qualified solicitors and their dependants, accessible at any time of the day or night. If you wish to speak to a psychotherapist or counsellor today, you can call LegalMind on 1800 81 41 77.
If you would like to access independent wellbeing and mental health supports/resources, why not explore the Law Society’s Professional Wellbeing Hub.
This article originally appeared in the 27 April 2021 Member eZine. For more information, and to subscribe, visit eNewsletters.