August 22, 2007

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Seven Positive Psychology Steps to Thriving in Law School Lots of students are starting law school for the first time. Although they may not know it yet, they are heading into a set of experiences that many find extraordinarily toxic. Studies going back more than 15 years have repeatedly shown that law students suffer significant negative psychological changes during law school. Although they look much like other undergraduates coming in, by the end the first year 30% are depressed, and it goes to 40% by the end of law school. Drinking as a coping behavior goes up. Anxiety, hostility and paranoia increase. And, there is a shift from intrinsic to extrinsic motivations for practicing law. In other words, students go from wanting to do good to wanting to get the goods. And these trends continue into practice where lawyers lead the professions in the rate of depression. However, beyond just avoiding bad things, recent research in positive psychology suggests reasons to maintain a positive emotional space. In general, we are more creative, better able to connect with others, more action oriented, more helpful, and better leaders when we are experiencing significantly more positive than negative emotions. This is Barb Fredrickson's "Broaden and Build" explanation of the results that have been found in positive psychology. Basically, this theory states that the evolutionary function of positive emotions is to help us broaden our thought/action repertoire and build psychological and social capital. Here are some positive psychology suggestions to help navigate the experience: #1. Other people matter.Pay attention to relationships. If you...

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