The MarketWatch Q&A: Arianna Huffington: ‘I’m a risk-taker in every part of my life — except my finances’

Arianna Huffington founded, developed and ran the Huffington Post for over a decade, and is now dedicating her time to helping people improve their lives.

She co-founded the Huffington Post in 2005 and stayed on as its editor for five years after it was sold to AOL in 2011 for $315 million. She now runs Thrive Global to “help individuals, companies and communities improve their well-being and performance and unlock their greatest potential.” Huffington has also written 15 books; the most recent is “The Sleep Revolution,” in which she argues that sleep plays a critical role in keeping us healthy and helping us achieve our goals.

“Unlike our devices, we’re not machines — we need downtime to recharge.”

— Arianna Huffington, on what she discussed at the NEXUS: ISRAEL conference

She recently spoke with MarketWatch about her work, her passions — and the stock she regrets not buying in 1980.

MarketWatch: Tell us about the NEXUS:ISRAEL conference you recently spoke at, and the importance of mental health and “powering down” when it comes to technology.

Arianna Huffington: You can’t really talk about mental health without talking about our relationship with technology. The science is now clear that the way we use our devices and the pace they set for our lives is deeply connected to our mental health and to the global epidemic of stress and burnout. Unlike our devices, we’re not machines — we need downtime to recharge, and if we’re not deliberate about building time to unplug into our daily lives, our mental health will suffer.

MarketWatch: Did you read the recent New York Times article on how being on our phones too much can shorten our lives? What did you think of it?

Huffington: I thought it was great — and it was based on the science Thrive Global has been highlighting since we launched. We know that our phones can increase our levels of the stress hormone cortisol. And we also know the negative and even potentially deadly effects of chronically elevated levels of cortisol, and the piece was making that connection in a dramatic though not unwarranted way. Smartphones have only been around for just over a decade, and the science on how they affect us has mostly been about the short-term effects. So it’s great to widen the discussion and look at the long-term effects as well.

MarketWatch: How come you wrote “The Sleep Revolution”? And what are a few reasons it’s critical that people sleep more — and better?

Huffington: The idea for The Sleep Revolution grew out of my previous book, Thrive, which was about widening our definition of success to include well-being, wisdom, wonder and the power of giving. And sleep is just one element of that. But as I went around the world talking about the book, sleep was the topic everyone wanted to discuss. Everywhere I went, I’d hear versions of what one young woman said to me after a reading in San Francisco, “I don’t remember the last time I was not tired.” So I realized the role of sleep in our lives needed a fuller exploration.

And that’s because it’s critical to our physical health, our mental health, our relationships and our job performance. It’s really the foundation of our overall well-being. And of course, all the elements of our well-being are connected — poor sleep gives rise to habits during the day, like too much caffeine and spending too much time on screens, which in turn drive poor sleep. So sleep is the gateway to talking about all aspects of well-being.

MarketWatch: What’s the best financial advice you’ve been given?

Huffington: Know your risk profile! And I know I’m a risk-taker in every part of my life except my finances, so my investments are conservative.

MarketWatch: What do you “hate” spending money on?

Huffington: I love repeating outfits and do it all the time. And I’m trying to get more women to join me — celebrating and owning the idea of repeats is a great way to begin to close the style gap, affording women the same freedom (in the form of time and money and thought) that men have in putting together their outfits for the day.

MarketWatch: What’s your favorite possession?

Huffington: Memories of my daughters, if that counts!

MarketWatch: The last great thing you purchased?

Huffington: Westman Atelier Vital Skin foundation stick. I was introduced to it by my daughter Christina and I love how natural it feels and looks and that it uses all safe, non-toxic skin care ingredients.

MarketWatch: Have you made any money mistakes?

Huffington: Not buying Apple AAPL, +1.20%   stock when they went public in 1980!

MarketWatch: Anything unique you’ve done with the money you’ve made?

Huffington: I bought a photo called Boy with June Bug by Gordon Parks and hung it on my bedroom wall. It shows a young boy lying on the grass with his eyes closed and a June Bug resting on his head, and I love it because it helps give me a sense of calm and put the problems of the day behind me when I look at it.

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