Ever since encountering the redwood trees they have fascinated me deeply, with so many lessons to be learned from them. Today I will share with you what they teach us about thriving together through crisis and some techniques to form deep interdependent connections for more resilience, (group) flow, happiness and health.

Back to the Roots...

The redwoods are among the oldest and most resilient trees in the world having survived for millennia, reaching over 100m in height and 500 tons in weight. So, what made them so resilient throughout the centuries and helped them thrive to soaring heights?

No, it’s not the depth of their roots if you suspect that. As a matter of fact, their roots are rather shallow going only about 1,5m deep. Beneath the surface of these humongous, tall, statuesque trees are root systems connecting all trees with each other like an army of people who have their arms interlocked, standing, and supporting each other. They are preventing the adversaries of life from knocking each other down. They also make sure there is plenty of nutrients for growth to continue. The trees are intertwined and interconnected - supportive, dependent - yet interdependent. Interlocking with each other and holding each other up.

Survival of the Interdependenest

The same is true for you and me and goes even further. We, humans, are the most dominant species on the planet not because we were fitter or stronger than any other species but because we are interconnected and interdependent - cooperating both flexibly and in very large numbers. From the moment we're born, we rely on others to help raise us, nurture us, care for us. No matter how independent or self-reliant we become, we are inherently social creatures. But individualistic western modern life tends to compartmentalize us instead of bringing us together leading to loneliness.

From Isolation to Motivation

Further research [2] has linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions: high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even premature death.

Conversely neuroscientists found [3], people who engage in meaningful, productive activities with others tend to live longer, boost their mood, and have a sense of purpose. Furthermore, it may help maintain their well-being and improve their cognitive function.

So how can we re-connect and deepen those connections? How can we grow a bit more redwoodish? Even more so in corona-crisis-times marked by lost connections, social distancing, and quarantine?

Creating Group Flow

Here are 3 simple, yet profound things, that you can do in order to reach out and grow your roots to intertwine them with others, for more resilience, (group) flow, happiness and health.

1. Circling

“Circling” or “Authentic Relating” are extensively tested experiences that give people a hands-on taste of both the joy and skills of interpersonal connection. It is a practice for anyone who wants more fulfilling relationships and a deeper experience of community and can be practiced one-on-one or in larger groups. Circling, like love, cannot be taught in a book, which is why you have to try it yourself. Experience connection like you do with long-time friends. Except for strangers. Within a few hours. Find your local circle at https://www.authrev.com/worldwide-connection/ or go to https://circleanywhere.com/ to do it from the comfort of your home in your favorite pajamas.

2. Digital Gangs

Forming “Digital Gangs” aka small accountability groups is one of the easiest and most effective strategies to change things in your life with the bonus of forming deeper connections and strengthening your bond with others. According to a Stanford study [4], people who are encouraged to collaborate stick to a given task 64% longer than peers who work alone, while reporting higher engagement levels, less fatigue, and higher success rates.

So here is how it works: 3 weeks – 3 members – 3 commitments
Get together with 2 other friends for maximum accountability and minimum risk. More people would increase the risk of dropouts and less people would decrease the positive peer pressure. Meet for a 15 minute kickoff to talk about one thing you would like to change and schedule it in your calendar! Meet once a week thereafter for 3 weeks at a fixed day and time for 30 minutes max. This is impactful enough to observe some transformation yet helps keep motivation. Everyone has 5 minutes to share how they did throughout the week and 5 minutes for feedback from others. What happens when someone fails? To help get back on track use the following set of questions: What went wrong? Why did it go wrong? What will you do differently? From 0-100%, how certain are you, you will do it? (Extra question if the answer is less than 100%: What do you need to get 100%?)
That’s it!

3. Group Flow over Zoom

This was created by our friend Jamie Wheal over at the Flow Genome Project and we cannot recommend it highly enough. An easy and fool-proof guide to Group Flow over Zoom in 1 hour or less.

If you want to take things even further and find out how you can use the power of flow to make feeling your best and performing your best your new normal in times of hardship and challenge, make sure to scroll down, subscribe to our newsletter and get it straight to your inbox.

[1] Vaillant, George E., et al. “Grant Study of Adult Development, 1938-2000.” Harvard Dataverse, Harvard Dataverse, 7 May 2019, dataverse.harvard.edu/dataset.xhtml?persistentId=doi:10.7910/DVN/48WRX9.

[2] S. Cacioppo, JT. Cacioppo. “Older Adults Reporting Social Isolation or Loneliness Show Poorer Cognitive Function 4 Years Later.” Evidence-Based Nursing, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 8 June 2013, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23749730/.

[3] S. Cacioppo et al. “Loneliness: Clinical Import and Interventions.” Perspectives on Psychological Science : a Journal of the Association for Psychological Science, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Mar. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25866548.

[4] Carr, Priyanka B., and Gregory M. Walton. “Cues of Working Together Fuel Intrinsic Motivation.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Academic Press, 5 Apr. 2014, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0022103114000420?via=ihub.

Cover photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash
Photo 1 by Matteo Grando on Unsplash
Photo 2 by Shane Rounce on Unsplash
Photo 3 by Elisabeth Gatterburg

Fantastic! You’re out of basic orientation, set your GPS and are ready to save the world! Easy tiger… before you get yourself killed by rushing into a burning building wearing your superhero cape only to get hit by falling beams, how about we start with taking the first step...

Hoarding toilet paper and hiding ‘til superheroes save you

When squirrels know that winter is coming, they start hoarding nuts. When humans know that a crisis is coming, they start hoarding toilet paper. 

You may be laughing but Stephanie Preston from the University of Michigan[1] actually found that, across species, including humans, anxiety and threats appear to increase the motivation to acquire and collect food and goods, and further, that the orbital frontal cortex and nucleus accumbens (regions commonly associated with behavioral control and reward seeking), may be involved in hoarding tendencies. 

Neuroscientists at the University of Pittsburgh[2] also found that fear and anxiety short circuit your decision making process as they disengage neurons in your prefrontal cortex linked to decision-making which leads to reactive behavior, passivity and ultimately a tendency to just sit at home with tons of toilet paper,  waiting for a superhero (politics, virologists,..) to come and save your ass. But what if you can be your own superhero?

How to build a big badass armor

Just like a superhero needs to prepare when saving the world by fueling his car, packing his abilities and throwing his superhero cape on, you need to prepare for your journey. Fuel your tank, pack your flow tools and build resilience.

Your body is your vehicle and if it is always at the repair shop because it’s broken it won’t do much good for neither you nor anyone else. Therefore, you need to take great care of it. In our first article we already talked about the importance of your breath to match state-to-task. The fuel you use is equally important. Just like bad oil will ruin the engine of a car, bad food will make your body function poorly and vice versa, optimal food will make your body function optimally. Yet, the best fuel doesn’t help if you don’t let your engine cool down from time to time and get good quantity and quality sleep. Only then you can upgrade your car by moving your body, getting stronger, faster and fitter.

Assembling your resilience armor

1. Breath: 3 rounds of Wim Hof breathing daily in the morning

The Wim Hof breathing technique is one of the best ways to train your autonomic nervous and immune system to build resilience on all levels. Practicing daily helps to boost your immune system and develop a stronger immune response to pathogens (like the coronavirus), improve mental health and relieve stress, increase motivation, concentration and overall performance. It also helps in coping with depression and relieving numerous auto-immune diseases like fibromyalgia and MS. A guide can be found here.

2. Nutrition: Rate your food like school grades (best=1 to 5=worst) and drink min. 2.5 liters water daily

Poor nutrition has adverse effects on your health, performance and HRV. Your HRV is THE number one biomarker for performance potential and stress resilience. One of the biggest dietary studies [3] found that 50% of all cardiovascular disease (CDV) deaths may be linked to poor health. According to the World Health Organization [4] eating the right foods can increase brainpower, motivation, and overall productivity by up to 20%. The easiest and best way to judge is simply rating your food by school grades (1-5). It’s not about stressing yourself to always eat straight 1’s but on overall rating. Try and keep an average daily/weekly. If you stay below 2, fantastic! If you are above 2, you might want to adjust a bit.


Drink, drink, drink (water😉). Staying hydrated is just as important and eating right. The better hydrated you are, the easier it is for your blood to circulate and deliver oxygen and nutrients to your body. A mere lack of 5% may decrease your performance by 30% [5].

3. Sleep: Get 6-9 hours sleep, min. 1 hour deep and 1.5 hours REM sleep

Especially during times of high strain does your body consume more energy and therefore needs more quality and quantity sleep which in turn positively affects your HRV. Especially important is deep sleep,which is crucial for physical renewal, hormonal regulation, and growth. Without deep sleep, you’re more likely to get sick, feel depressed, and gain an unhealthy amount of weight. Equally important is getting enough REM sleep. Your brain processes and synthesizes memories and emotions, activity that is crucial for learning and higher-level thought during REM sleep. A lack, results in slower cognitive and social processing, problems with memory, and difficulty concentrating.

4. Movement: Do min. 20 minutes of aerobic training daily in the morning

Just move, move move! If it is going for a run, dancing with your kids, hopping on the mat for a yoga class or just doing basic squats, sit-ups and push-ups…move! All sorts of movement, especially regular aerobic and anaerobic exercise can improve your HRV[6] and help you reduce stress and perform better. You think that basic push-ups are lame and useless? A Harvard study[7] found that men who could do more than 40 consecutive push-ups were 96 percent less likely to have developed a cardiovascular problem compared to those who could do no more than 10 push-ups. So think again.   

If you want to take things even further and find out how you can make feeling your best and performing your best your new normal, make sure to scroll down, subscribe to our newsletter and get it straight into your inbox.

References:

[1] Preston, S. D., Kringelbach, M. L., & Knutson, B. (2014). The interdisciplinary science of consumption. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

[2] Park, J., Wood, J., Bondi, C., Del Arco, A., & Moghaddam, B. (2016, March 16). Anxiety Evokes Hypofrontality and Disrupts Rule-Relevant Encoding by Dorsomedial Prefrontal Cortex Neurons. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4792942/

[3] GBD 2017 Diet Collaborators. (2019, May 11). Health effects of dietary risks in 195 countries, 1990-2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30954305

[4] Proper, K., & van Mechelen, W. (2007). Effectiveness and economic impact of worksite interventions to promote physical activity and healthy diet. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/Proper_K.pdf

[5] The Effects of Hydration on Athletic Performance. (2016, April 1). Retrieved from http://www.sportscardiologybc.org/the-effects-of-hydration-on-athletic-performance/

[6] Routledge, F. S., Campbell, T. S., McFetridge-Durdle, J. A., & Bacon, S. L. (2010). Improvements in heart rate variability with exercise therapy. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2903986/

[7] Yang, J., Christophi, C. A., Farioli, A., Baur, D. M., Moffatt, S., Zollinger, T. W., & Kales, S. N. (2019, February 1). Association Between Push-up Exercise Capacity and Future Cardiovascular Events Among Active Adult Men. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30768197