Go to the gym more, eat less chocolate, save more money – all common New Year’s resolutions and ones which, by February, will inevitably be broken. But, there is one resolution all lawyers should make and commit to for 2018 – creating more time for their own wellbeing and introducing a focus on mindfulness into their lives – both personal and professional.

‘Mindfulness’ is a term that has been hard to escape in 2017, and one which is easy to dismiss as another wellbeing fad. But, like so many phrases that earn a place in popular consciousness, the true meaning of the word can be forgotten. Simply put, mindfulness, according to Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, means “knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment”. This focus on the ‘now’ can help people reconnect with their feelings and ultimately create more moments of calm and happiness.

Law can be a stressful profession – in 2016 The Law Society’s practising certificate holder survey indicated that 95% of solicitors experienced work-related stress. In Australia, the issue of stress has been high on the agenda for a while and for lawyers working across the geographically large Asia Pacific region, stress can be compounded by more travel, or having to navigate numerous time zones.

This epidemic of stress hasn’t been ignored by law firms, and mindfulness has been embraced by some firms as a way to not only ensure their lawyers’ health and wellbeing is taken care of, but practically it can also improve productivity and reduce illness.

At Pinsent Masons, we approach employee wellbeing with a three-pillar approach: personal health – both mental and physical; social wellbeing – relationships with colleagues, clients and the wider community and financial health – including financial planning and employee benefits.

All of these pillars are reflected in the firm’s wellbeing programme, which encompasses an array of offerings including: compensation and benefits, an Employee Assistance Programme (providing the means for employees to raise concerns), an employee-led Disability and Wellbeing group, private health insurance, yoga/pilates, massages, running clubs etc.

So what should lawyers be putting on their lists of resolutions as they head into the New Year?

  1. Don’t dismiss happiness
    It’s such an intangible concept, it’s no wonder there is a multitude of literature covering the subject. It appears to be found through a variety of paths – family, travel, socialising, events, fitness, food, retail, learning, financial success – I could easily go on.

At Vario we value happiness so highly that in 2017 we hired an external training company to come and talk to our Varios about it. There were many takeaways from the session and popular ideas such as altruism, gratitude and mindfulness were discussed and have since been proven to help us feel happier.

We are all unique, with our own set of values, passions and interests. So, for me, individual happiness is found when one is able to blend their personal life ingredients and create the perfect recipe to live by. I think that’s what it’s all about and it’s one of the reasons that I love working for Vario as much as I do. I’m convinced that our way of work provides a platform for our Varios to mix their own happiness cocktail and to live their life to its fullest.

  1. Practice mindfulness

This doesn’t necessarily mean taking a half hour slot every day to meditate. Simple ways to practice mindfulness include being attentive to your own feelings throughout the day and taking a moment to sit back and take a few breaths if things are getting overwhelming. Other ways to be more mindful include making sure you have a lunch break and actually leave your desk – no more crumbs in the keyboard. A walk outside, appreciating your surroundings can help centre the mind.

Likewise, cutting down on technology is also proven to lessen stress. Make sure your out of office is on when you’re away on leave and be strict with yourself about checking your emails.

  1. Look at your work/life balance
    2018 is a good time to look at your work life balance and address this if you’re spending too much time at work. Many of our contract lawyers are drawn to this different way of working after analysing their work/life balance and realising they weren’t taking enough time to devote to their families or other passions outside of work.

It’s easy to underestimate the power of mindfulness, but research shows it really does make a difference – a study published by the University of Oxford in 2013 showed that individuals who had completed a month-long mindfulness course enjoyed a 58% reduction in anxiety levels and a 40% reduction in stress. Let’s make 2018 a year where a focus on personal wellbeing is top of the resolutions list.

Posted by Matthew Kay

Matthew Kay is Director of Vario, from Pinsent Masons

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