WHAT REDWOODS AND THRIVING TOGETHER THROUGH CRISIS HAVE IN COMMON

by 
Raphael Ungar

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