- Clear away brain fog
- Ignite your digestive fire
- Rev up your energy
On my personal journey in medicine, although I loved helping people in the conventional medical environment, over time practicing in the western medical paradigm became increasingly dissatisfying and not in alignment with why I became a doctor. One day, when I realized that I was calculating how many years until I could retire, I had an ‘aha’ moment where I decided that rather than stay in a job that was unsatisfying, or count the days until I could quit, I needed to make a change.
Although there were things that I enjoyed immensely about the work itself, I was feeling more and more that there was something else out there that would allow me to facilitate healing and help people in a way that was more in alignment with my purpose. Instead of calculating how long until I retire, which was never something I thought about previously, I wanted to feel inspired, fulfilled, purposeful, and happy with my career and workplace. As we are finding in our modern world, more and more people are becoming dissatisfied with their work environment which takes a toll on their mental health. For me, this meant finding another environment in which I could help people heal, but for others it can mean creating practices both at work and at home that help tap into more contentment and joy.
Let’s Talk Gunas
In Ayurveda, rooted in the eastern Samkhya philosophy, there are three basic qualities of nature that are present in everything in the universe and that make us who we are. The balance of these qualities also dictate our thinking and behaviors and impact every aspect of our lives, including our relationships, our physical health, and our state of mind. The gunas are not material, but are subtle qualities that impact how we experience our life. The balance of these qualities, or gunas, determine the level of satisfaction we can experience in our day-to-day lives, including at work.
Let’s review these concepts, or gunas:
This is the experience of clarity, lightness, purity, stillness, and contentment. Anything that has these qualities within it will increase sattva within us. This can include foods, thoughts, or activities. When we cultivate sattva in our lives we feel happy, at peace, creative, fulfilled, and inspired. Examples of things that increase sattva include:
- Fresh and unprocessed foods such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains.
- Clean, orderly, and calming environments
- Spending time in nature, gardening, or moderate exercise
- Reading uplifting or spiritual literature
- Meditation and service to others
This is the experience of activity, motion, stimulation, energy, and passion. With excess rajas we can feel restless, greedy, anxious, and aggressive. Anything that increases these qualities will increase the rajas within us. Some of these things include:
- Overly spicy or salty foods, sugar, caffeine
- Noisy, chaotic, and disordered environments
- Too much activity, excessive exercise, or travel
- Watching sensationalist news or action-packed, fast-paced movies
This is the experience of dullness, inertia, inactivity, sluggishness, and lethargy. With excess tamas we feel unmotivated, sad, bored, and apathetic. Things that increase tamas in us include:
- Processed foods, refined flour and sugar, meat, alcohol
- Cluttered, dirty environments
- Too much passive entertainment such as TV or internet surfing
- Watching extremely violent movies
All of the gunas play a role in our life, as there are times when we need rajas to engage in activity and movement. There are also times we need tamas so we can wind down, rest, and sleep. Ideally, we minimize things that increase rajas and tamas. Overall, these gunas need to be kept in balance in order for sattva to be dominant in our lives.
Sattva in the workplace
When we establish practices that increase sattva in our lives, we increase the qualities of lightness and contentment. This then flows over into our attitude and experience at work. Although our satisfaction at work is influenced by others around us, such as managers and colleagues, as well as the company’s culture, there are things we can do to create our own satisfaction.
In addition to the sattvic practices we put into place through our daily routines, we can also implement practices directly in the workplace to increase our work satisfaction. Here are a few examples:
- Reconnecting to why you do what you do and how you help others every day. This can be simply helping your coworkers or playing a role in helping society at large. Find joy and inspiration in the little things, not only the big things.
- Make a list of things you appreciate about your current situation or some of the good that is being done and reviewing it daily before work.
- Trying to find meaningful connections in the workplace. Finding like-minded colleagues that are positive and happy will increase your sattva; spending too much time with colleagues who gossip or complain will increase your rajas and tamas.
- Establish open communication between you and your colleagues and supervisors and be clear on your requests, if any. The more sattva you cultivate in your daily life, the more clarity of mind you will have and will be better at communicating your needs at work.
- If not already done at your workplace, start a group that gives back to the community in some way. Discuss with HR or management how the company can be involved in supporting this and it may give you a renewed sense of connection to the company.
- Be open to feedback; when your mind is sattvic and clear, you don’t take things personally, but take feedback as an opportunity for growth.
If all else fails, or if you are in a toxic work situation, have the courage to make changes that supports your own evolution, growth, and happiness. This may mean developing a plan to find a workplace where you can feel inspired and where you can work with people that uplift you.
Identify your natural gifts and talents and find situations where you can use those talents to feel purposeful. Trust that the right thing will arise when you make the space and set intentions for what you really want so you can feel fulfilled and satisfied in the workplace.