Joyspotting – the legal way

maple leaves

About 6 months ago, I discovered the term ‘joyspotting’. Similar to nature meditation where you focus on being aware of our surroundings whilst in nature, joyspotting is the mindfulness practise of becoming attuned to the joy in our surroundings.

What is joyspotting?

The beauty of joyspotting is its simplicity. In contrast to its (at times) intimidating counterpart meditation, you can practice joyspotting at any time, it’s free, and it only takes a moment – it also has significant health and wellbeing benefits. Research has shown that when we access joy, we experience a biological change, and given that the practice takes no time at all, it is an excellent hack to find calm in any environment. Joy is an emotional state that can enable the human mind to resile from even the darkest of circumstances. Finding joy in the small things strengthens our resilience, acting as a useful tool for managing the stress that may arise throughout the day-to-day happenings at a law firm.

So, how do we practise joyspotting while rushing to work and going about our day – knowing that we barely have time to order coffee let alone drink it…

How to (expeditiously) joyspot as a lawyer?

Here’s a list of legally related ways that you might spot some joy:

  • Appreciate the manicured green lawn of the Courts precinct while you are waiting for your matter to be called on;
  • Gaze at the Brisbane river from the conference room while you’re waiting for the mediation to begin;
  • Anyone who is lucky enough to be practising law in one of our gorgeous coastal towns, take a breath of salty air, and enjoy;
  • If you are lucky enough to be practising law in one of our rugged regional towns, admire the grand historical buildings;
  • Look at the clouds before you step inside;
  • Touch and admire the spine of a law book;
  • Wear fun socks – look at them and congratulate yourself on a gratifying purchase;
  • Check the foam on your coffee – did your barista create a beautiful piece of caffeinated art for you?
  • Look at your office plant.  Really look at it.  Count the shades of green, describe (in your mind) the leaves – are they glossy? Are they rough? 

Give yourself permission to seek out joy.

Joy can bring about a feeling of connection, and to snap us out of the focus and hustle of everyday life.  This leads to the experience of a positive emotion and enhances our psychological resilience – a term that we are all familiar with.  As lawyers we are aware that resilience is a necessity to practice.  We all know the feelings that can rise in our throat, or the beating in our chest, as we face the day full of deadlines, Court appearances, or challenging clients.  Simply taking a moment to be aware of your surroundings, breathing, and spotting some joy, can assist in calming those thoughts, and centring yourself.   

I think, as lawyers, we can feel as though we may be undeserving of these tiny pleasures. In the midst of turmoil and client files, it can seem indulgent to allow yourself a moment of joy. Perhaps you feel although your clients’ grievance requires your full attention, and to take a moment to yourself would be a disservice. My greatest advice is to lean in and allow yourself to be present in these beautiful moments. Taking notice of the positive things in life will not produce a negative impact on your productivity, in fact quite the opposite. Use these moments to ground yourself and to step back and gain perspective. You may find that your relationships and critical thinking change for the better.


Sharing the joyspotting.

Research has shown that sharing positive news and information with another person (or more!) can boost both your joy levels, impacting our mood from a biological level Sharing your joyspotting discoveries with your family for example, can open discussion about your life outside of the home, and encourage your loved ones to share their experience as well. This can be a positive way to discuss your work-life without feeling as though you need to compartmentalise the two. Our identity as a lawyer is core to our true identity and sharing the positive experiences from our day job permits our work-life and home-life to coexist.

Additionally, there is something to be said about the positive impact of sharing good news stories. Within the current climate, we are inundated with news of doom and gloom, so the simple act of sharing feel-good stories can go a long way. Perhaps you had a win with a client, perhaps your colleague checked-in with you today, prompting a meaningful conversation. Relish in the wins and allow yourself to bask in the positive feeling.

Small mindset changes make the greatest impact.

I often think about the simple everyday acts that make life worth living. Joy is not measured in hours spent doing yoga or eating a kale salad. Wellbeing is at its core, the act of finding joy in whatever you do. This may not seem like newsworthy or life-changing information but I find it empowering to think that wellbeing does not need to come from a massive life change. Rather, small every day changes can make the greatest impact.

Enjoying small pleasures such as the embrace of a loved one, the warm sun on your skin or smell of coffee in the morning, is what life is all about. These tiny joys are the thread that binds the beauty of human life. The way we experience the world informs who we are as individuals, and when you take the time to think about it, we have a lot to celebrate.

So, don’t wait.  Seek it out, spread the joy, and remember that we really are allowed to have moments of joy in our busy lawyering lives. 

Lauren Phelps is the Legal Workplace Culture Consultant for Queensland Law Society.  Having spent 14 years in private practice, she understands the day-to-day stresses that come with being a lawyer and running a law firm.  Lauren is a passionate advocate for wellbeing, and cultural change within the legal workplace and beyond.

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