Our eulogies celebrate our lives very differently from the way society defines success. They don’t commemorate our long hours in the office, our promotions, or our sterling PowerPoint presentations as we relentlessly raced to climb up the career ladder. They are not about our resumes — they are about cherished memories, shared adventures, small kindnesses and acts of generosity, lifelong passions, and the things that made us laugh.
So, this month’s book is a change of pace. I rarely choose a new release book (because I like libraries, so like books that you can find IN libraries) … but I when heard an interview with author Arianna Huffington this week, well, I knew straight away I’d found my book club choice for April!
From the reviews I’ve read, the philosophy behind Thrive is nicely aligned with what I’m trying to do with Your Brain Health and the Walking Book Club.
In Thrive, Arianna Huffington presents a new paradigm for redefining how to systematically build a life of purpose and balance and accomplishment.
In the book, I pull together three threads: my personal journey and my hard-earned lessons; scientific studies about the importance of slowing down, sleep, meditation, and disconnecting from our devices; and many daily practices, tools, and techniques that can begin to transform our lives.
Drawing on the latest research in the fields of psychology, sports, sleep, and physiology that show the profound and transformative effects of meditation, mindfulness, unplugging, and giving, Arianna shows us the way to a revolution in our culture, our thinking, our workplace, and our lives. Not dissimilar to my (somewhat smaller) brain health revolution!
Who is Arianna Huffington?
As the cofounder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group — one of the fastest growing media companies in the world — celebrated as one of the world’s most influential women, and gracing the covers of magazines, Arianna was, by any traditional measure, extraordinarily successful. But after injuring herself in a fall brought on by exhaustion and lack of sleep she found herself going from brain MRI to CAT scan to echocardiogram, to find out if there was any underlying medical problem beyond exhaustion.
As she notes after her research into success,
It’s time to sleep your way to the top. Humans cannot be sustainably productive in the constant crisis mode. We need an opportunity to decompress and disconnect. Even a five-minute nap can recharge you and make you more productive.
I like this woman!
Why did Arianna write Thrive?
Arianna likens our drive for money and power to two legs of a three-legged stool. They may hold us up temporarily, but sooner or later we’re going to topple over. We need a third leg — a third metric for defining success — to truly thrive. That third metric, she writes in Thrive, includes our well-being, our ability to draw on our intuition and inner wisdom, our sense of wonder, and our capacity for compassion and giving.
There is more and more scientific evidence about the impact of mindfulness and meditation in our lives. The list of all the conditions that these practices impact for the better—depression, anxiety, heart disease, memory, aging, creativity—sounds like a label on snake oil from the 19th century! Except this cure-all is real, and there are no toxic side effects. Indeed, 2013 was the year when meditation and mindfulness finally and overwhelmingly stopped being seen as something vaguely flaky, vaguely New Age-y, definitely California, and fully entered the mainstream.
What happens after I read Arianna Huffington’s book?
In about two weeks time I’ll send out my newsletter with questions for you and your book club to discuss while you walk (and I’ll also put the questions here on the blog). If you haven’t already signed up for the Your Brain Health newsletter you can sign up here.
Please don’t stress too much if you don’t get to read all of the book. For a start, stress is bad for your brain health (you know that now, right?), and the questions will be designed to spark discussion about broader issues raised in the book, not a page-by-page analysis of Arianna’s stories!
And, if you need a reminder of the philosophy behind The Walking Book Club you can read more here….
Discussion starters for your Walking Book Club
- What is your definition of ‘success’.
- Has your idea of what makes a successful life changed as you’ve read Arianna’s book?
- Have you ever had a ‘wake-up call’ like Arianna did when she woke in her own pool of blood?
- Have we got it all wrong when we talk about work-life balance. Is it a myth? What IS balance, anyway?
- Afternoon naps or early nights?
- How do you recharge or reboot?
- Meditation has gone mainstream. Do you practice?
- Arianna talks a lot about ‘inner wisdom’, what does this phrase mean to you?
- Discuss Arianna’s idea of of ‘experiencing wonder’.
- “Helping others makes us happier.” Do you agree?
About Dr Sarah
I’m an Oxford University-educated neuroscientist, presenter of ABC Catalyst, director of The Neuroscience Academy, and author of The Women's Brain Book. The neuroscience of health, hormones and happiness.
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