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Happiness lies in striking a balance. As millennials, we are entering the phase of life where we end up focusing on work, hoping and believing that work is the only thing that is going to make us happy. What we tend to ignore is the inevitable burnout. Your body is going to give up at some point! That is the classic definition of neglect of the self, as described in Ayurveda.
Ayurveda treats the body as sacred—if you respect your own body and mind and take care of it, only then will you be able to function optimally. As a part of the Ayurveda for Millennials series, let’s take a look at the Ayurvedic principles that can act as guidelines, or a set of rules, to help you achieve health and happiness in both your personal and professional life.
Born and raised in a family with rich Ayurvedic traditions, I am myself a millennial facing the same challenges that our generation is going through today. The millennial generation has aspirations that are similar to the previous generations, but they are just a bit misplaced in my opinion. We still want stability and security, we still want close relationships, but we also want freedom and autonomy.
COVID-19 has forced us to rethink our relationship with work. As more and more people are able to work from home, employers are seeing large benefits because of it. They are able to downsize offices, save money on rent, and have even more access to their employees. At the same time, employees are more comfortable in the work environment, they can disconnect when needed, and they can manage their time better around diet, family, or exercise.
Ayurveda Principles for Work-Life Balance
In this section of the series, Ayurveda for Millennials, we are going to explore how the traditional Vedic principles of Yamas (restraint) and Niyamas (rules) can be applied to our 21st-century notions of work-life balance.
Striking the balance between work and personal life has become even more difficult. It’s almost as if there is no disconnect from our technological environment. The boundary between work and personal life has blurred because of technology. We are more connected than ever before to the digital world, and at the same time just as disconnected from ourselves.
One eye is constantly checking phone notifications, while a part of our mind is drafting a work email during game night with family or friends. This constant multitasking is actually hindering our growth and self-evolution.
Poor health and poor work-life balance are directly correlated. According to a recently published BMC Public Health study, those who worked for long hours and said that they had a poor work-life balance were twice as likely to report poor health.
Depression and anxiety lead to about $1 trillion per year in lost productivity on a global level, as per the World Health Organization. Even though work is essential for us to feel productive, a negative environment can result in long-lasting physical and mental health issues.
Let’s take a look at the Ayurvedic principles that help us solve some of the challenges that we millennials face, especially when it comes to juggling our hectic work schedules and personal life.
Yama stands for restraint. A moral principle. A list of don’ts for humans as social beings. These principles are considered to be universal guidelines on how to act and behave with other humans. If you look at the principles outlined here, you might realize that these can apply toward self-care as well as work-life balance.
Ahimsa means nonviolence. It not only refers to refraining from being physically violent toward others, it also refers to doing your best to avoid hurting another person in any way. Millennials can extend this principle even further in creating an inner dialogue that is kind and nourishing.
By cultivating a habit of being truthful not only to others but to yourself, especially without being overly critical, you are able to develop your genuine truth, or true nature. It is a restraint and asks you to become more aware of your own judgments and preconceived notions about the world. Becoming aware of your thoughts and using speech in a nonharmful yet constructive way can help in reducing workplace conflicts.
This Yama goes beyond the realm of not taking something that belongs to you physically. The much deeper version of this can be related to the amount of content that is being created today—taking anything like ideas, thoughts, even time. When Asteya guides your daily life, you are more likely to think twice before calling a colleague during nonworking hours. Or write a work-related email when you’re supposed to be spending time with your family. This principle can actually help you develop a work ethic that empowers you to balance work and life, and in a way, have it all!
This Yama is often mistranslated or misconstrued as celibacy or abstaining from sex. But in all reality, it is much deeper than that. Brahma means “creator” and acharya is broken down as “actions or behaviors.” So, a Brahamachrya is someone who reflects the behaviors of a higher power—someone who can emulate a higher level of consciousness. When you increase your vibration, you increase the vibe in the room and elevate your friends, family, and coworkers!
This is one of the most profound themes of the Bhagavad Gita. It is about being more involved in a specific action rather than the outcome, such as when you can dispassionately perform an activity without having a concrete expectation or desire from the outcome of that activity. “Enjoy the journey, not the destination.” In a deadline-riddled society, you may sometime forget to enjoy the process of doing the work and rather look straight to the satisfaction of completing an assignment or task.
While Yamas are a list of don’ts or restraints, Niyamas are a set of do’s—some guidelines to help you unlock the best aspects of your life and become the best version of yourself! Millennials joke about being “woke,” but in reality, all that means is simply understanding the following and applying it to your personal lives.
Niyamas on the other hand can be looked at as a set of rules that are defined in Ayurveda for you to live your life to the fullest. A Niyama can loosely be translated to a “routine.” They might sound like commandments but they’re more like guidelines on how to set yourself up for success.
This is simply training your five senses! Not allowing your sensory pleasures to take you for a wild ride. When you can control your urges and maintain a state of balance, you lead a much more resilient life.
This is something I feel as a generation has been left out for a lot of millennials. There is such a rat race to get ahead that it’s difficult to stop and smell the roses. I know a lot of people who are afraid to take the PTO simply for fear of being replaced. But even in a personal sense, not being happy with familial relationships, or romantic ones, usually give rise to some sort of deep-rooted discontent within the psyche.
This is probably the hardest Niyama to accomplish because it is an ever-evolving finish line. Being clean … mentally, physically, emotionally. This goes beyond eating clean and meditating, including things like pranayama or cleansing breathing, tongue scraping, keeping a tidy home/office, positive thoughts, etc.
In my opinion, this is one of the best Niyamas that can be practiced. Allowing yourself to understand who you are from a fundamental perspective will give you clarity like nothing else. There is a lot of stress or emphasis being put on figuring out your Dharma, or life’s purpose. But in all honesty, it just depends on where you are in your personal self-exploration. By looking at where you have been, the actions you chose to take, and the thoughts that arose while making those decisions, you can understand what type of work that is meaningful for you. You are able to get a better insight into why you think the way you do. Or even better, why you have what you have or the reasons you don’t have what you need.
This simply means that you believe in something greater than yourself. Doesn’t have to be a God; it can be any higher power. Even just believing in natural law—a belief that the rules of right and wrong are inherent in humans. This consciousness of what is right and what is wrong is not just created by the society or the court—it exists naturally within all of us. When you understand that there is a power, or energy, that is of more magnitude than yourself, it humbles you a little. Eerily like staring out at the vast ocean or being surrounded by tall peaks. This faith or belief is what you should tap into when in duress. It’ll give you the strength to fight and the knowledge to allow things to happen at their own pace without forcing things.
When applied to your work and personal life, this particular Niyama makes it possible for you to accept the factors that are beyond your control. In a way, this feeling of acceptance empowers you to keep working toward your goal without prematurely worrying about the results. It ties in with the Yama of Aparigraha, or non-possessiveness, that we touched upon earlier.
Transforming Your Life
If you take a comprehensive look at everything covered in this article, it boils down to a set of rules that will help enhance your approach to your work-life balance. By using these rules as a loose set of morals, you are giving yourself the perfect opportunity to balance your personal as well as professional life. Do your best to be the best and enjoy the trip there.
The millennial generation is powerful when we collectively raise the level of awareness of our fellow brothers and sisters. It is chock full of amazingly talented people who have so much to offer the world. We have to take care of ourselves and take care of those around us. As the adage goes, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” The Vedas in general have all the tools necessary for a healthy and happy life. I hope you will continue to follow along with the series and learn how to transform your life!
During the next part of this series, we’ll discuss the difference between career and education. A lot of people grapple with the idea of continuing school to further their professional resume but also understand that there is no such replacement for work experience especially when applying for jobs. Come learn how millennials can apply Vedic principles to the 21st-century struggle of developing a career and pursuing higher education simultaneously.
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