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Arianna Huffington touts value of self-care among keys to success in 'Thrive'

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TORONTO - It took a collapse in her home office resulting from exhaustion and lack of sleep for Arianna Huffington to truly wake up.

As she worked relentlessly to build her rapidly expanding media company, that fall on a spring morning in 2007 left Huffington with a broken cheekbone, an eye injury and a renewed resolve to re-examine her life.

Yet long before the incident, Huffington acknowledged there were other key moments that should have put her "sleep-deprived, burnt out-fuelled existence into perspective." The loss of her first child that was stillborn. A breast cancer scare. Her divorce.

In her new book "Thrive" (Harmony Books), Huffington proposes what she describes a "Third Metric" for redefining success, one that extends beyond the pursuit of money and power. The co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post Media Group touts the importance of self-care, citing well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving among the pillars of the Third Metric.

Huffington dedicated "Thrive" to her late mother, Elli, whom she saw as a true embodiment of the Third Metric, reinforced with anecdotes of the spirited matriarch woven throughout the book.

"My mother was somebody who always lived life with an open heart, making connections with people, not multi-tasking, all of the things that dominate our lives now were things that she realized were not going to lead to a life of meaning and purpose," Huffington said in an interview in Toronto. "She truly believed — she taught my sister and me — in not missing the moment, and that happiness is really about being 100 per cent present in the moment of what we are doing.

"Unfortunately, our minds often want to take us in the past, judging what we've done often, this voice that we all have in our heads that I call the obnoxious roommate living in our head that puts us down, judges us constantly, questions our dreams, or our mind wants to take us in the future worrying, being anxious about what's going to happen."

In addition to touting the benefits of meditation, the self-described "sleep evangelist" recognized the importance of getting sufficient shut-eye after her collapse and started to read about the scientific value of sleep.

"It's really a miracle drug. It affects our health and well-being, our mental clarity, our capacity for joy," said Huffington, who over time has gone from getting four to five hours of sleep a night to between seven and eight.

At the end of each section of "Thrive" she offers tips on small steps readers can take immediately to start charting a course to wellness. Among them: aiming to get 30 more minutes of sleep a night. She has also established her own wind-down routine which encompasses turning off all her devices — which includes an iPhone and four BlackBerrys — and placing them outside of the bedroom.

"We have to recognize that we are addicted to our smartphones and the impact that that has on being able to connect deeply with the people we love. I think we need to make checking our smartphones during dinner as socially unacceptable as picking your nose or scratching your private parts," Huffington said, lightly tapping on the boardroom table for emphasis.

"Otherwise, you see people who are with people they love and they can't help themselves to check their phone. And parents need to establish certain boundaries with their children so they can learn to have deep relationships."

Despite finding personal success in making changes, Huffington realized there are others who may find the prospect of following suit difficult — especially those faced with significant demands on the job and elsewhere. But if anything, she sees the steps she outlines as even more critical for those whose lives are particularly challenging.

"There are a lot of things in the outside world that we cannot control. We cannot control having a boss, say, that expects us to be on all the time. And let's say that we have to stay in that job. ... There's a lot we can do to deal with our own attitudes to our job and what we're doing when we're not on the job," she said. "When our own inner world changes, we're more likely to change our outer world."

In the book, Huffington also shares work being done by several companies — including her own — to help ensure the wellness and productivity of their employees, with on-site fitness classes, nutritional counselling and paid time off to volunteer among the measures being put to use.

"There is a global shift happening," said Huffington. "More and more companies every day are adopting stress reduction practices, not just because they're benevolent and they care for their employees, but because they see how it affects the bottom line.

"Companies pay a really heavy price for absenteeism and presenteeism, meaning employees who are present but actually too burnt out to actually effectively work."

When Huffington has extended time off, the New York-based media mogul said she loves staycations which afford her the opportunity to enjoy long walks, attend yoga classes and meditate.

During her most recent Christmas vacation spent with her ex-husband Michael and daughters Christina and Isabella, Huffington had a week of a digital detox.

"It was wonderful to have a meal without Instagramming it, to watch a sunset without Instagramming it, and to have conversations with my children when they would say something funny I wouldn't feel the temptation to tweet it. And I just felt so recharged when I got back."

— Follow @lauren_larose on Twitter.



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