Jeannie Mai, the Emmy-award winning co-host of the live talk show “The Real,” is in the middle of a shift in how she manages her energy. 

Mai, the executive producer of the documentary Stopping Traffic: The Movement to End Sex Trafficking and host of the new web lifestyle series “Hello Hunnay,” says this shift, for her, starts with cutting down unneccessary distractions so she can listen to her inner voice, and surrounding herself with positivity. “Now that I’ve turned 40, I’m starting to quiet the noise so I can hear my sound, but in order to do that I need less information,” Mai told Thrive during a recent visit to our Soho offices. “I’ve really been trying to cleanse my mind of things that I don’t need to know. When I notice that a conversation around me starts to go into a gossipy mode, I just start to zone out. Friends want you to jump in and you just say nothing. Then, it dissipates, they stop and it’s the best feeling because you controlled that energy to keep it in a positive space,” she says.

It’s great advice, and Mai, full of energy and laughs, had plenty more to share. Here and in her How I Thrive video, Mai opens up to Thrive about how she sets her day up for success, the  way she calms when she is feeling stressed, and how Ashton Kutcher made her more efficient at work.

Thrive Global: How do you set your day up for success?

Jeannie Mai: There’s this little thing that I’ve been doing since eighth grade. My grandma told me that if you look for it, God gives you a surprise every single day. So, I would write in my journal in the morning what I’m hoping to get as a surprise. If I know that I’m going to go to work and I’m super tired, I’m going to say I hope that I get something that energizes me or I hope that I get something that makes me smile. Then at the end of the night I look back and every single time I got a surprise. It almost makes me feel like I was manifesting it. Which makes me wonder if it was God or me, but I think we both kind of worked together. Sometimes you look back and you’re like, “Damn that was a long a*s day!” You don’t even remember the morning, but when you see your writing and you were like, “I really hope that there’s something that energizes me,” and then you remember  there was this dope little puppy that came and licked your heel and made you smile — that might be just that little thing you needed that you wouldn’t have remembered if you hadn’t looked for it.  

TG: Do you have any small things that you do to destress when you’re feeling overwhelmed?

JM: I just learned this thing and it’s so grown up! Agapi [Stassinopoulos], who happens to Arianna Huffington’s sister, was so kind to sit down for an evening and to teach me how to breathe. I’m not just talking about what you’re doing right now to stay alive. I’m talking about intentionally picturing every breath you take as a purposeful inhale in order to fuel yourself with positive and clean energy, and to exhale all the nasty and the burdensome thoughts that you have. I mean, you have to breathe to survive, but for this, you actually sit there and you think about each breath in a purposeful way, where you take your time and you can actually feel it. You feel all of whatever it is that you know doesn’t belong in you — almost like a toxin that you don’t want inside of you, and you flush it out with your breath. You feel it actually leave your fingertips. It takes a few moments, and the first couple of times you feel stupid. Get over it. But really,  just find a moment, find a place where you can be in solitude and just listen and feel and enjoy your breathing. Take your time with it. I would say after about 10 breaths, you’ll get to a place where you can zone in on this, anywhere you are — and it’s saved me in certain situations.

TG: How do you manage your inbox?

JM: Emails, the bane of my existence. I don’t answer every email. I feel like I know my nucleus of people that I need to connect with and I discern who I really need to respond to. Nowadays, when everybody gets your contact from somebody else, I don’t feel you have to answer everybody. I used to try to answer every single email. I was almost answering spams. Now, I’m at a place where I’m like, unless you know me or I give you the permission to email me, I don’t have to answer you.  

The second thing I actually learned from Ashton Kutcher. Which is to answer with one word. Answer with the poignant part of your email. I used to be like “Hi, I hope you’re having a great day. Thanks so much.” I think those niceties are still important. But it’s just, people get it. “Great see you then.” Or “Nope, can’t make it. Thanks.” Short and sweet, man. Think when Twitter was only so many characters. Whatever that was, that worked for me. I think everybody understands and appreciates when you’re just straight and to the point. You find yourself being way more profound when you work to get to the point. People appreciate it.

TG: What is a strategy that helps you to focus and prioritize?

JM: I would love to say that I have a mental strategy for focusing, but since I have an extra hard time focusing, I use this app that’s super dope. It’s called Trello. It’s exactly what we used to do if you were trying to be organized where you have a vision board and you have Post-it notes and magic markers and you color code everything. Trello is an online vision board. I have my important things to do. My must-do today. My didn’t do but, you know, you wanna get to’s. It’s all color coded and I can move it around and it’s just like having that damn wall with you wherever you go. 

TG: What is your nighttime routine that helps you unwind after the day and your best tip for getting good sleep?

JM: The best tip I have to end your day and chillax at home is to take off your damn bra. Take that thing off. Just seeing that thing on the floor — it’s the best feeling! And then for a really good sleep, if you have a cool T-shirt or any material. Lay that over your eyes, it’s the best feeling. It’s not an eye mask. An eye mask doesn’t do the same thing. It’s gotta be heavy, and it’s gotta be cool. They sell these too, but I’m Vietnamese, so I like to save money, I use my t-shirt. You can buy yours on Amazon, I use mine in my drawers, it’s the same thing. Now that I’ve gotten my bra off. I’ve gotten my nice cooling t-shirt for my eyes. I go back to that trusty journal and I flip back to see what it was that I wrote to myself in the morning and I play back the moments of my day to look for what that surprise was that I had hoped to get in the morning. And just taking the time to write that, always makes me feel super blessed.

Directed by Matt Kwiecinski


  • Lindsey Benoit O'Connell

    Deputy Editor, Entertainment + Partnerships at Thrive

    Lindsey Benoit O'Connell is Thrive's Deputy Editor, Entertainment + Partnerships. Prior to working at Thrive, she was the Entertainment + Special Projects Director for Good Housekeeping, Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, Redbook and Woman's Day booking the talent for covers and inside features. O'Connell currently lives in Astoria, NY with her husband Brian and adorable son, Hunter Fitz.