Our Interview with Arianna Huffington: Part II

Have you read Part I of our inspiring interview with Arianna Huffington, author of the international bestsellers Thrive and The Sleep Revolution? We are so excited to have collaborated with Arianna, and are so inspired by her words and work.
Here’s Part II of our interview with her…

Kristina x

Kristina Karlsson
kikki.K founder & stationery lover


Kristina Karlsson: Do you think the constant barrage of technology we now all face — text messages, emails, social media — make it harder to live a mindful life? Or are there ways we can use technology to our advantage when it comes to mindfulness?

Arianna Huffington: The barrage of technology certainly creates challenges when it comes to living a mindful life – and that includes making it harder to get the sleep we need. The unquestioning belief that work should always have the top claim on our time has been a costly one. And it has gotten worse as technology has allowed a growing number of us to carry our work with us— in our pockets and purses in the form of our phones— wherever we go.

The good news is, more solutions to this crisis exist now than at any other time in recent history. That includes an exploding market in wearable technology has emerged that tracks our sleep and overall well-being, and a range of smart products — from smart mattresses to smart headphones — has entered our lives.

So yes, we can certainly use technology to our advantage when it comes to mindfulness. To give just one example, at The Huffington Post, we’ve always made it very clear that no one is expected to check work email and respond after hours, over the weekend, or while they’re on vacation. But in spite of this, as we all know, it’s very common for people to go on vacation and put up an out-of-office message, but still respond to incoming emails – often seconds after the sender receives an out-of-office email! Why? Because we are addicted, and because once we see an email, we feel obligated to answer it.

So, inspired by the German auto company Daimler, we decided to create a tech solution that would eliminate the temptation. With our new vacation email tool, all emails sent to you during your time off will be automatically deleted. The sender gets an auto response asking them to resend their message when you’re back or to contact someone you designate if it is urgent.

KK: Tell us about your experience with doing a digital detox. How often do you think people should do something like this?

AH: A few years ago, I decided to do something radical and take a weeklong unplugging challenge with my friends Cindi Leive and Mika Brzezinski, which meant no social media, and limiting myself to two email check-ins a day with our HuffPost editors. Instead of being constantly connected, I spent Christmas in Hawaii with my daughters, my sister and my ex-husband, not photographing beautiful sunsets, not tweeting pictures of my dinner, and skipping Throwback Thursday on Instagram in favor of, you know, just talking about things that happened in the past, and being immersed in things happening right now.

There’s no one way or “right” way to do it. To be effective, a detox doesn’t have to involve travel, or go on for a certain length of time. Even taking moments to recharge throughout the day –a short walk or some time away from your work – can be incredibly effective and allow you to return feeling refreshed and reinvigorated.

KK: Since making the decision to lead a more mindful, present life, do you ever catch yourself going back to your old habits? If so, what do you do when this happens?

AH: I consider myself a work in progress – and I always will — but I find that creating a routine and building habits are what really help me stay on track. That said, on some days, life intervenes or we get off track. And when this happens, I try not to judge myself or let it negatively influence the rest of my day. I’m a big proponent of silencing the voice of self-doubt in our heads, which I call the obnoxious roommate. It’s the voice that feeds on putting us down and strengthening our insecurities and doubts. I have spent many years trying to evict my obnoxious roommate and have now managed to relegate her to only occasional guest appearances in my head! I’m a big proponent of silencing the voice of self-judgment and self-doubt in our heads.

KK: Why do you think so many people think it’s necessary to burn themselves out in order to succeed? Where does that idea come from?

AH: For far too long, we’ve been operating under the collective delusion that burnout is the necessary price we must pay for accomplishment and success. Recent scientific findings make it clear that this couldn’t be less true. Our golden age of sleep science is revealing all the ways in which sleep plays a vital role in our decision making, emotional intelligence, cognitive function, and creativity. Not only is there no trade-off between living a well-rounded life and high performance, performance is actually improved when our lives include time for renewal.

Still, the glamorization of sleep deprivation is deeply embedded in our culture. Everywhere you turn, sleep deprivation is celebrated, from “You snooze, you lose” to highly burned out people boasting, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” The combination of a deeply misguided definition of what it means to be successful in today’s world—that it can come only through burnout and stress—along with the distractions and temptations of a 24/7 wired world, has imperilled our sleep as never before.

It goes back to the Industrial Revolution, when sleep became just another commodity to be exploited as much as possible. Indeed, sleep became not just devalued but actively scorned. After all, every hour spent sleeping was another hour spent not working—therefore another wasted hour. And despite a growing awareness of the importance of well-being, so many of our modern attitudes still reflect this.

KK: In the Thrive Journal, we have multiple sections where people are asked to do a ‘life audit.’ Can you tell us a bit about how you did your own life audit and what you learned from it?

AH: I did a major “life audit” when I turned forty, and I realized how many projects I had committed to in my head—such as learning German and becoming a good skier and learning to cook. Most remained unfinished, and many were not even started. Yet these countless incomplete projects drained my energy and diffused my attention. As soon as the file was opened, each one took a little bit of me away. It was very liberating to realize that I could “complete” a project by simply dropping it— by eliminating it from my to-do list. Why carry around this unnecessary baggage? That’s how I completed learning German and becoming a good skier and learning to cook and a host of other projects that now no longer have a claim on my attention.

KK: I think it’s a common feeling to think that we don’t have time to take care of ourselves because we all have too many more ‘urgent’ things to do. How would you suggest someone begin to break free from this mindset?

AH: It is definitely an all-too-common feeling. To break free from this mindset, remember what we’re told on airplanes – to “secure your own mask first before helping others,” even your own child. One of the fundamental truths of well-being is that the better we are at taking care of ourselves, the more effective we’ll be in taking care of others, including our families, our co-workers, our communities, and our fellow citizens.

KK: We both know that making the choice to live a healthier, more mindful life is an ongoing process. What would you say is the best first step for someone who has just decided to go on this journey?

AH: The first step is understanding that it’s within our power to make the changes we need in our lives. Once we change our minds, we can begin to change our habits.

KK: Who are some of your heroes and role models when it comes to the idea of thriving and living your best life?

AH: Ever since I was researching Thrive I’ve had great deal of admiration for a group of writers, thinkers and role models whose work has laid the scientific foundation for so much of the conversation about mindfulness and its benefits: Richard Davidson, professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin; Mark Williams, professor of clinical psychology at Oxford; Jon Kabat-Zinn, founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School; and Adam Grant, professor of management at the Wharton School and author of Give and Take.

We hope you enjoyed our interview with Arianna Huffington. Don’t forget you can shop our gorgeous Thrive Journal in store and online now.

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