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February 23, 2018

Unplug and Recharge With Arianna Huffington

Text by Saumya Sinha

We catch up with media mogul Arianna Huffington to discuss the burnout epidemic that is spreading across the globe and how to solve the problem

On the morning of April 6, 2007, Arianna Huffington found herself on the floor of her home office in a pool of blood with a broken cheekbone. She had collapsed after working herself into exhaustion. The repercussions of sleep deprivation came as a wake-up call for Huffington. She began to make mindful changes, first of them was allowing herself a minimum of seven hours of shut-eye. Her books, The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time and Thrive, talk about the transformative power of sleep and the importance of mindful living. Her arguments are backed by scientific facts. In 2016, she stepped down from her position of editor-in-chief at HuffPost to launch Thrive Global that aims to put an end to the stress and burnout epidemic by offering companies and individuals sustainable, scientific solutions for enhanced well-being and performance to help them build a healthier relationship with technology. Huffington, who took the less-travelled road, has today become a popular crusader for well-being and stability.

A practical digital detox — to simplify life — that everybody can adopt….
Start by not keeping your phone in your bedroom while you sleep, and not picking it up first thing in the morning. Instead, do some deep breathing and set your intention for the day. Then begin to add other digital-free moments in your day — go to lunch without your phone. Do family dinners without screens. Have device-free meetings. As you start noticing the benefits, you’ll begin to add more time in your life to unplug and recharge.

A routine you religiously follow
Before I go to bed, I gently escort my phone out of the bedroom! Our phones are repositories of everything we need to put away to allow us to sleep — our to-do lists, our inboxes, our anxieties. So putting your phone to bed outside your bedroom as a regular part of your bedtime ritual makes you more likely to wake up as fully charged as your phone.

The role of yoga in your day-to-day life
Yoga has played a huge role in my life ever since I visited India for the first time when I was 17 to study comparative religion at Visva-Bharati University. I fell in love with the country and its traditions and have been going back ever since. I try to practice yoga every morning.

Advice to people who are suffering from the burnout epidemic
Pay attention to the mountain of science that clearly shows people would be more successful if they didn’t burn themselves out. They might think their success is because of working 80 hours a week when, in fact, it’s in spite of that. If you truly want to take pride in your job, prioritising your own well-being is a necessary component.

Maintaining work-life balance
What we know from science is that work and life, well-being and productivity, are not on opposite sides so they don’t need to be balanced. They rise in tandem. Increase one and you increase the other.

Life before technology versus after
Technology has improved the world in so many ways. So, at Thrive, we’re looking forward, not backwards. Technology is part of our lives and it is here to stay. The question is about creating a relationship with technology that works best for us. And part of that is about using technology to help us control our technology. That’s what the Thrive app, which helps you take a break from your phone, is all about. At Thrive, we are very much pro technology but we also want to set boundaries to protect our humanity.

Biggest lessons from 2017
Last year was the year in which our relationship with technology fundamentally changed. We woke up and began to see what the technology we’re swimming in has been doing to us — from how it affects our political system to what it does to our children. Yes, it’s improved our lives in innumerable ways, but this was the year we started to see the ways in which it also consumes our attention and cripples our ability to focus, and connect with ourselves.

What should we expect from the Indian operations of Thrive Global?
Our plan is to bring everything we’ve built at Thrive Global in the US to India — our corporate services, media platform and digital behaviour-change products. We’ll be hiring a local team to build Thrive in the Indian market. Like all countries, India has challenges around stress and burnout: 80 per cent of working professionals in the country feel stressed at work and 60 per cent want to quit their jobs because of it. At the same time, India’s ancient wisdom and spiritual traditions are now at the centre of a global conversation about what it means to live a good life.

The truth and power of India’s centuries-old traditions are being increasingly and conclusively validated by modern science. India has so many leaders who are already showing how we can succeed without burning out. So we’ll be showcasing new role models — including those from business, technology, Bollywood and cricket — as part of our contributor platform. And finally, we’ll look to export Indian values to the rest of the world. Because I truly believe that, more than any other place on earth, India has the answers to what I see as the biggest question of our time: how to work and live in an age when change is exponentially faster and technology has permeated every aspect of our lives. I hope that India can take the lead in answering this, not only for Indians but also for the rest of the world.

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