Warning: Mnemonic Ahead

Warning: this blog post has undertones of law school. Mnemonic ahead: B.R.E.A.T.H.E.

Personally, I was never a huge fan of mnemonics. I felt they added more work than necessary to the already burdensome task of studying. However, I confess that I use this mnemonic for an interactive presentation I do for incoming 1Ls, figuring that if they only thing they remember is to B.R.E.A.T.H.E., and none of what it stands for, that’s a win.

Why am I sharing this mnemonic here?

I saw a LinkedIn conversation among lawyers this week about the effort that it takes for them to do simple things that benefit them, like cook healthy meals or get regular sleep, because they worry that they’re “wasting time.”

Here’s my take on that: anything that we do that benefits us, also benefits our work and our lives. Nourishing food and sufficient sleep are an investment in being, and sustaining, our best selves, never a “waste of time.” I would go further and say that not making that investment harms us, our work, and our relationships—most importantly with ourselves.

Back to the mnemonic.

It may not be quite as entertaining as the live event, but if all you remember is to B.R.E.A.T.H.E., that’s a win. Here’s the lightning round.

B – Brain breaks. Thinking is “work” that takes energy, which drains our brains as we think. A brief brain break—an unfocused state of nondirected thought like gazing out of a window or taking a walk—replenishes the brain for the next round of thinking. Download the Brain Tips infographic for more on this.

R – Relationships. Cultivating authentic professional relationships makes a career more rewarding and meaningful. Good relationships literally keep us happy and healthy. This is borne out by Harvard’s 80-year adult development study that’s worth checking out.  

E – Eat real food. Everything that goes into our bodies has a metabolic impact on our thinking and performance. Real food improves our focus, lowers stress and makes us feel better. Studies show that people who eat more fruits and vegetables experience eudaimonia, which means flourishing—who doesn’t want that? Yep, there’s a Focus Foods infographic, too.

A – Attention. A distracted brain is an anxious brain. Train your attention by practicing short rounds of being hyper-focused on what’s happening right now. When we’re selective and intentional with our attention, we stay in charge of experience, lower stress, work more productively, and enjoy life more.

T – Time out. Even if it’s just for five minutes, take a purposeful time out to laugh. I’ve written about laughter’s benefits in this space before, or check out the infographic. Here’s your laugh for today: A University of Virginia Law School professor said to a graduating class, “Three years ago, when asked a legal question, you could answer, in all honesty, ‘I don’t know.’ Now you can say with great authority, ‘It depends.’”

H – Health. Contrary to prevailing thought, lawyers aren’t invincible. Pay attention to your health; too often, we ignore warning signs or wait for them to become an emergency before taking action. One of the best ways to preserve and improve our health is sleep. Sleep is necessary for proper brain function, immunity, memory, stress management, and much more. What can you do to improve your sleep, even a little? Get your ZZZZZs.

E – Exercise, but any movement is meaningful. Movement is a biological necessity. Our brains and our bodies are interconnected, and our bodies are designed to move. Movement fuels thinking, problem solving and lowers stress, so it’s good for us and our work. Work standing when you can, pace on the phone, or move every hour.

And if you don’t remember any of this, simply B.R.E.A.T.H.E. Breathing regulates our nervous system. One breath into the bottom of our lungs interrupts a stress response. Re-learning to breathe the way we did as infants is one of the easiest and best investments in ourselves and our professions that we can make.

Keep thriving!