Around the Institute

Arianna Huffington Knows How to Thrive

July 2, 2014  • Jessica Puckett, Aspen Institute College Journalism Scholar

Seven years ago, co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post Arianna Huffington experienced burn out. She was so overtired and overstressed that she collapsed in her office, hit her head, and temporarily damaged her eye. That’s when she knew she needed to make a change. Huffington spoke at the 2014 Aspen Ideas Festival about unplugging, resting, and enjoying life; and her fourteenth book “Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder.”

“Defining our lives by two metrics — money and power — is like sitting on a two-legged stool. You’ll fall off,” she warned the audience. Before her wake-up call, Huffington said she couldn’t remember a time when she was not tired. Every time she sat down somewhere, like to watch a movie or even at a meeting, she would fall asleep. She was only getting around four hours of sleep per night, which she has now upped to about seven. “If someone else were doing this to us, we would be suing them. If someone made me work so hard that I hit my head, I would sue them,” she said.

Huffington offered tips to the audience, including unplugging from email when off the clock. She compared email to a postman ringing the door bell every time you got a letter. “If you’re one of those people who needs to answer every email before going to bed, get over it. That’s like trying to get water out of a boat with a hole in it. It just keeps coming in.”

She also highlighted the dangers of checking one’s smartphone immediately upon waking up.“When you wake up in the morning, take one minute before you check your smart phone. Otherwise you allow it to hijack your day.”

She went on to detail the purpose of having “device-free” zones. Hers is her bedroom where she reads novels and philosophy instead of work-related books. These changes have helped Huffington live with a sense of wonder. She said she now sees beautiful things that she never noticed when she was burnt out, such as a historic building outside her apartment and even the mountains in Aspen.  

She advised the crowd to start small. “Sleep for an extra 30 minutes,” she said. “And if you don’t have 30 minutes, don’t watch House of Cards.”