A few months ago, I was fortunate to attend an event that Arianna keynoted. She asked us to submit written reflections on how we thrive, as individuals. (If you haven't yet read it, my friend's response -- "How Do You Define Success?" -- is a great read.)
At first, I thought I needed a deep, existential response. But as I've thought about the question, I've realized my answer is pretty simple. I experience the sensation of "thriving" not so much because of grand visions and sweeping events, but more as an accumulation of micro-moments and choices I make every day.
To that end, here are the three daily habits I cultivate. I've learned that they position me to experience joy -- as a person, lover, friend, artist and entrepreneur. That feeling is how I define "thriving:" Those moments where who I am at play is indistinguishable from who I am at work.
1) Start your alphabet with Zzzs.
Obesity rates may be skyrocketing, but there's no arguing we are living in a famine. A sleep famine, that is. According to Sleep in America polls, about 20 percent of Americans today report that they get less than 6 hours of sleep on average.
Solve this problem, and:
- Tech back the night. Put your technology away at least 30 minutes before bed. The lights prevent your body's production of melanin, a sleep-inducing chemical.
- Ritualize your pre-sleep. Take a bath. Make some tea. Dress like Arianna, and wear some silk pajamas. I also find it helpful to count backwards from 400, in threes.
- Go all in. Wear earplugs to block sound, and a headband to keep out the light.
- Avoid alcohol. Too many alcoholic beverages prevents you from getting into REM sleep, the kind that really helps you recharge. No bueno -- especially for women.
Bottom line: What you can really learn from a sleep tracking device is that, hey, it's important to you.
2) Excise your diet of processed food
If your habits are like mine several years ago, you self-medicate at night with Nyquil and wine; Slap yourself into consciousness with Slurpie-sized cups of coffee in the morning, and grab granola bars on-the-go in between.
They're protein-enhanced, so they've gotta be healthy... right? Hello?
I was shocked when I learned what is actually in those protein bars -- much less the "natural" protein I was putting on my plate. In a word, processed sugar. And corn, which metabolizes as sugar. You might as well eat a Snickers.
The same goes for a lot of the "health food" we think we're eating. It toxifies our bodies, impacting how we feel, think, and sleep. To get start making changes:
- Make like HonesTea. Take an honest inventory of your nutrition. Most likely, your "healthy" chocolate (aka "chemical-covered") acai berries need to go. They may trump a Big Mac, but then again, maybe not. A good rule of thumb: Consume items as close to how they came out of the ground as possible.
- Plan ahead when traveling. Get a fridge in your hotel room, and visit the nearest organic grocery. Carry raw almonds for satiating fiber. Buy olive oil tuna cans in bulk, and store them in your suitcase, for good fat and protein.
- Get to know the difference between hunger and loneliness. Far too often, as Americans, we lump together physical and emotional sensations.
3. Control your stress with exertion
Like any good Type-A perfectionist, I can really struggle with anxiety. I've learned to use exercise as an outlet. It teaches me to commit to a goal, look my fear of underperformance face-on, and conquer it. (It's one I have to learn over and over.)
- Do intervals, on a non-interval basis. Prancing on the elliptical while reading Vogue or watching ESPN does not count. Do something that makes you lose your breath. It'll make you more thankful for it.
- Weight it out. Several years, I started weight-lifting with the help of an expert. (The psychological effect of exercise is well-documented.) I can't tell you what the process of building strength physically has done for my psyche.
- Walk it off. As much as I can, I take a walk at night -- to process the day, listen to inspiring music, or just appreciate the feeling of the night. I think of it as meditation that moves.
As a brilliant line says in "My Secret to Work-Life Balance as an Entrepreneur: Athletics": Doubt is the hurdle. For me, exercise transforms self-doubt into daring.
Science clearly shows that we are scintillating-ly rich as humans, if we only tap into the potential of our own minds, especially when it comes to metabolizing traumatic experiences. The habits that we cultivate matter, just as much as the things we tell ourselves.
Action influences emotions, which crystalize beliefs. These in turn inspire us to pursue what we hope for with that much more joy, focus and hope.
That's what these three practices do for me.