To help us navigate the increasingly blurred lines between work and home life, I interviewed mindfulness teacher Paula Vital to provide her insights and advice on how to regain a greater sense of balance and perspective.
1. How would you define a healthy work/life balance?
I prefer using the term ‘balance in life.’ Life balance is about being clear on what you would like to achieve with your life. It is about acknowledging your priorities and organizing your time in a way that helps you work towards those goals.
Spending a lot of time at work can become unproductive and unhealthy when it becomes an unconscious choice.
The key is to be aware of your intentions and establish the right balance for yourself when it comes to different aspects of your work and home life.
2. In the age of remote work it is difficult to establish concrete boundaries between work and home life. What is some advice you can offer to help us disconnect from our work, and how can we prevent overwork or burnout?
It is important to be transparent and ensure that there are clear boundaries within your organization. In a hyper connected world, the ability to disconnect is important to maintain one’s mental and physical health.
Government or workplace policy can assist in making the line between work and home life clearer. An example of this is recent legislation in Ontario, Canada which requires employers to develop policies and expectations for employees to disconnect from e-mails and calls outside of regular work hours.
Openness and clear communication are also significant when letting your employer know about your physical and mental health boundaries.
It can sometimes be seen as a badge of honour to work long hours late into the night, and shame can set in for those who don’t fulfill these societal expectations. However, research indicates that this has a negative effect on both productivity and on the quality of your work.
Time to recharge is therefore not only beneficial for our mental health but also benefits our organization.
3. In the modern age, it is so easy to get caught up with never ending to-do lists. We are always busy and on the go. How can we reclaim meaningful leisure time? What leisure activities do you engage in to help recuperate from work?
We need to alternate between states where we are ‘goal or task oriented’ and states of spontaneity or ‘flow’.
Leisure that is rejuvenating and refreshing for me involves pursuing activities which allow me to cultivate a degree of presence and embodiment. It is being grounded in the present moment and doing things not because I care about the outcome per say, but rather for the sake of themselves.
A way to break through the mindset of productivity and efficiency is to practice spontaneous movement and non-linear movement.
Sometimes our best thoughts and ideas come when we least expect it.
4. How does mindfulness and contemplative practice, or more generally the time you spend outside of work, fit into your idea of the ‘good life’?
It is often thought that we have to achieve a certain goal or milestone in life to be happy. However, we seldom realize that happiness and contentment is available to us in each and every moment. Being mindful and present can turn any seemingly mundane task, such as washing dishes, into an act of joy.
Our desires for fame, status and fortune often reveal a deeper yearning for affection, love and recognition. As the acclaimed actor Jim Carey said,
I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.
We should always ask, how are we defining ourselves?
If we step back and look at the earth, we can see how we are all closely interconnected to other humans as well as to nature in general. This perspective can inspire us to feel connected to something greater than ourselves and motivate us towards a life of service.
You can view a previous interview with Paula on mindfulness here: A Mindful Approach to Uncertainty: An Interview with Mindfulness Teacher Paula Vital – A Life of Virtue: Philosophy as a Way of Life
To learn more about her work through her free course of 3 Minute Meditations: 3 Minutes to Your Greatest Self check out her website www.livethepresent.ca.
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