The long hours and high stakes of many lawyers’ jobs necessarily mean experiencing more than one human’s fair share of stress without a lot of opportunities to decompress.
For many people, some form of artistic expression is imperative to help them remain happy and healthy, and can absolutely contribute to a successful career. Those who practice law are no exception.
Art is Good for You
Art has been empirically proven to lower stress levels, enhance problem-solving skills, encourage creative thinking, and increase dopamine, the feel-good chemical in the brain. Artistic expression can take many different forms—it certainly can mean painting watercolors on large canvases, but it doesn’t have to. Painting, photography, singing, playing an instrument, dancing, writing, drawing, knitting, crafting, building models, and even coloring (there are coloring books for adults!) are all forms of artistic expression, and all have mental health benefits.
Lawyers have a reputation for being analytical, left-brain types—all buttoned up and without the soul that artists have. But of course, lawyers are just people, and people are complex beings with many sides. Creativity and art belong to everyone, and we can all benefit from expressing ourselves artistically.
Art is particularly useful for lawyers who seek stress relief. Clearing your mind of the things you usually think about and focus on—say, by sculpting or playing the piano—can put you in a meditative state. Becoming immersed in creating something is called a state of “flow.” Just picture the last time you saw a child concentrating on a coloring book or building something with Leggos, happily shutting the rest of the world out, and you know what flow looks like.
People who practice law tend to have higher rates of depression and substance abuse. Art is used by therapists to treat these conditions, but you don’t need to go to a professional to benefit from using art in this way. Sketching at your desk, making up a song in your living room, creating a collage, writing a poem—even simply viewing and experiencing art—have been shown to have positive effects on mental health.
Art Can Improve Your Practice
The benefits of art for lawyers don’t end at stress relief and mental health, however.
Allowing your mind to be stimulated in a different way often means you can come back to a problem with a unique, innovative solution you hadn’t thought of before, helping to foster the outside-the-box thinking that is so often expected and prized. And simply viewing art can increase empathy—a capacity that lawyers are sometimes accused of lacking.
You don’t have to be a great talent or have any kind of training to create art and experience therapeutic results. Simply use your imagination and do something you enjoy that makes you feel good. Leave your perfectionism and ego at the office. You will not be judged or graded on whatever you create, and it doesn’t matter if you can’t paint like Picasso or sing like Pavarotti. Just make and enjoy art for its own sake.
At least twice this week, take time out to do something artistic. Sing in your apartment, sketch in the park, write a poem, or even break out some crayons and start coloring—without worrying about your skill level. Note your mental state and level of relaxation when you’re done.