Arianna Huffington: Redefining Wellness

My take on the week's news, plus some fun and inspiring extras.

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In case you missed it, here’s the text of my new Weekly Thoughts newsletter. Each weekend I share my take on the week’s news stories, my favorite pieces on how we can thrive even in our stressful world, and some fun and inspiring extras. Subscribe here.

And if you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to Thrive’s daily newsletter highlighting our favorite reads with actionable tips for enhancing your well-being, productivity, and sense of purpose.


Old Bogey: The week began with a stirring comeback by Tiger Woods, who won his first major in 11 years. The commentary was so focused on his advanced age — 43 years old! — that I was half expecting him to be given hearing aids to match the traditional green jacket.

“La flèche s’est effondrée” (“The spire has collapsed”): Monday brought the opposite of a comeback, with the horrific fire at Notre-Dame, which dates back to 1160, the year Tiger won his first Masters. The fire was a terrible way to be reminded that institutions that took centuries of collective action to construct — whether churches or democracy — can be so quickly destroyed.

Winter Has Come: Millions tuned into the return of the dark, Gothic saga of revenge, infighting and the violent struggle by an endless cast of ruthless combatants to rule a primitive kingdom. I’m talking, of course, about the Democratic primary, which was officially joined this week by Pete Buttigieg, Ruler of the SouthBendLands.

Weapon of Mass Obstruction: The Mueller Report was finally released by Attorney General Barr, or, as he’s now known, Trump 2020 campaign spokesman. One memorable passage showed Trump reacting to the appointment of a special investigator by saying, “I’m f****d.” It also marked the first time in his presidency that he was speaking for all of us.

Deep Six 9-9-6: Alibaba founder Jack Ma provoked debate by defending 9-9-6, the controversial tradition in the Chinese tech sector of working from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week. Though his point was nuanced — it was also about finding “passion beyond monetary gains” in your work — it was a surprising take from the man who:

  • Said that to be competitive in the last century you needed muscle, but this century would be about wisdom and love.
  • Has put Tai Chi floors in his office buildings and works with a Tai Chi master.
  • Said the future will be about the two Hs: health and happiness.
  • Said the secret of success in the future will be less about having a high IQ or EQ than a high LQ (“love quotient”).

Not only is it not a badge of honor, it is based on the delusion that being always on and exhausted is the only way to succeed.


Penny-wise, Wellness Foolish 

On Tuesday, the medical journal JAMA published a study on wellness programs. Researchers followed 33,000 workers from BJ’s Wholesale Club who were given “modest incentives,” like $25 gift cards, for completing various wellness modules like nutrition and physical activity. The upshot, as the New York Times put it, was that “wellness programs yield little benefit, study shows.”

There are many problems with this conclusion. First, the finding was based solely on the lack of cost savings. And the even greater problem was in the definition of wellness itself. In fact, the study validated the need to redefine employee wellness, which is exactly what Thrive Global is doing.

It’s not surprising that siloed, “check-the-box” programs aren’t very effective. We bring our whole selves to work and a true well-being program has to reflect that. It’s not about taking a few more steps. It’s about embedding the principles of well-being and performance into the DNA of company culture at every level. It’s about going upstream to empower employees to create habits that allow them to lead healthier, more fulfilling lives.

The purpose isn’t just to reduce costs, it’s to increase performance, creativity, engagement, innovation, collaboration, retention, and productivity. Those outcomes are harder to measure in one study — though the JAMA study didn’t try to — but there’s plenty of science connecting them to well-being.

The study, as the Times put it, might prompt companies to “rethink” their approach to employee wellness. I hope that’s true. They need to go bigger and deeper — that’s where the benefits are, and that’s what the study really shows.


Before You Go

Commercial of the Week: AI assistants as the butt of the joke in a Michelob Ultra ad. AI can do many things, but it can’t do humor. Or drink beer. So far.

Trend of the Week: Sleep concierges: “I’ll send Somnus right up!”

Study of the Week That Has Nothing Whatsoever to Do With Politics: “Primates with smaller genitalia compensate by being flashy and aggressive”

Neologism of the Week (new words, terms or phrases that define our time): Finishable news” — news that’s presented in a way that’s manageable, digestible, and, most importantly, finite.

Photo of the Week: The South Rose Window of Notre-Dame, which survived the fire.

Godong/Getty Images

Rethink, Rename: the Phone
The actual phone function is the one thing we hardly use our phones for anymore, and yet that’s still what we call them. It’s time for a more accurate name for what they really represent in our lives. Any ideas? Send yours here. A few to start you off: 

  • Distraction Device
  • Addiction Box
  • iSurrender
  • Time Sucker
  • Security Blanket
  • FOMOchine
  • Kryptonite

Subscribe here for my Weekly Thoughts Newsletter, where you’ll find my take on the week’s news, my favorite pieces on how we can thrive even in our stressful world, and some fun and inspiring extras. 

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