The swedish researcher Anders Hansen has amazed Swedes with his books on how physical activity is linked to the development of our brains, our ability to perform and, last but not least: the state of our health.
In this article, Good Accelerator’s mental and physical coach Johanna Melin tells us about where her method overlaps with Hansen’s, and about her own view on health in the digital age.
With an immense wave of popularity surrounding him, it is clear that Anders Hansen has addressed an unspoken need among the people of today: to talk about health in the digital age. And we can understand why. Hansen’s message of how we need to maintain physical activity in order to create and maintain well-being — not only physically but mentally — is highly topical in a time where more and more people seek professional help for anxiety and depression, many of them being youths.
Train your brain to manage a new lifestyle
Johanna Melin, mental and physical coach at Good Accelerator, agrees with Hansen’s claim that the connection between today’s lifestyle and the increase in mental and physical health issues, is something to be taken seriously. However, she does not believe this to be a new phenomenon.
“The technology we have today only shows in bigger scale how easily controlled we are by our surroundings when we do not lead a healthy life. In the enormous information flow that we spend our everyday lives in today, it is very challenging to stay present and remain focused. But this is not a new problem for human beings, it is only beginning to become more visible in public spheres and create more serious consequences that make us acknowledge it.”
Therefore, according to Johanna, methods to maintain and develop well-being in our time is not dependent on using phones and computers to a lesser degree, but to use it in more intelligent and conscious ways. This is where Johanna agrees with Anders Hansen’s call to more regular physical activity as counterpart to an everyday life overcrowded with information.
“Anders Hansen testifies to something I’ve used my entire career to mediate and practice: the need to actively train our brains, just like any other muscle. At the core, physical movement patterns are information sent out to our body, nervous system and brain. This makes physical practice a perfect complement to our time, since it is now more important than ever to learn how to process information in a conscious way.”
Over twenty years’ experience of health
Johanna has a vast experience of personal development and training. While having an academic background in Psychology and having spent a number of years as a researcher at, among other places, Stockholm University’s institute of Stress Research, Johanna has also been taught in the Classic Medicine. Based on the Classic Medicine’s different tools – breathing exercises, meditation, and movement medicine (Martial Arts and yoga) – Johanna has trained clients to emotional, mental and physical health in over 20 years.
Because of her background within these areas, the idea of practicing physically to strengthen people mentally, is not something new.
“Within the Classic Medicine, we always work with individual health from a holistic perspective and in an integrated manner. Physical and mental training is always combined, through ancient techniques and tools. These are methods that have been used throughout time, because they have been proven to work.”
One of Johanna’s most important messages is that training is something that must happen every day for us to maintain true health.
“Both within the classic medicine, mental training for elite athletes and in development psychology, we see health as something that we can – and therefore must – practice to get and maintain. Our natural condition is healthy and conscious. But to reach and stay in this state, we must practice: continually and in the right way.”
Behind her, Johanna also has a background as a youth elite athlete. She has seen the weight of training first-hand, but also the need to train intelligently.
“If we use physical activity in the wrong way it becomes a distraction, just as much as a mobile phone or a TV show. There are many people who use physical training to run away from their emotions, literally speaking. I know, since I was one of them in my youth. More than that, If we are in a position where our trainer only thinks about results, you will be rewarded for it. Even though it is a destructive type of behaviour. Movement medicine, such as yoga and Martial Arts, creates inner motivation, rather than outer, that is sustained over time. It also develops the ability to quickly process new information, even under stress.”
Of course, parallels can be drawn to the mechanisms in our worklife:
“If we work for a leader who is not conscious of him or herself, there is a high risk that coworkers get worn out, lack motivation or, finally, quit. The leaders of our time must therefore act as conscious team captains that keep our teams enduring, effective and healthy.”
In Johannas opinion, we all need to be trained with the methods optimal for our individual needs. This is why all her programs – for individuals as well as groups – are tailormade to fit their specific needs.
“When I train people for development, the practice is well balanced to give individuals and groups exactly what they need. It will not be what is comfortable for us, on the contrary. Those who are inclined to run faster and believe that more is automatically better, will have to be challenged in movements where high results come from relaxation. Those who’d rather quit will have to stay in positions or movement patterns longer, to see that they can do more than they think. In this way we become strong and enduring in the right way, mentally, emotionally and physically.”
According to Johanna this type of training is also a way to understand how we can move more intelligently in our own lives, both privately and professionally.
“Within the classic medicine we call it intelligent action, and builds on a well-functioning nervous system. If we have a hard time moving freely physically, it also shows that we have mental blocks that hinder us from receiving new information. When we practice physically we are taught to move intelligently by making our way through our own mental blocks in a number of situations. This is when we learn to move in new ways all the time, in our normal lives too. As I tend to say: a flexible body is a flexible mind.”
This is the reason Johanna believes that the right training is perfect to learn to live intelligently in the digital age.
“If we train our brain to recieve new information in the right way, outer factors can no longer ‘steal’ our energy or attention, and therefore won’t steer us toward negative behaviour. Not toward ourselves, nor toward others. What is required to manage the digital lifestyle is actually what has always been required of us: when it comes to thoughts and behaviours, we should be able to control them, rather than them controlling us.”
The right coach leads us back to ourselves
During her many years of physical and mental training, Johanna has herself had many good coaches, leaders and mentors that have guided her along the way. This is something she believes to be of great importance, and something that has motivated her to continue working with health from a leadership perspective.
“Many people believe that Martial Arts is about beating your opponent. However, in the old tradition, the opponent is only a symbol of ourselves. In the same way, a coach or a leader’s task is to be a mirror and reflect our weaknesses for us to see, so that we can in turn learn to handle them. Nobody can see themselves from the outside. We need someone with a good eye, who do not back down from what needs to be done when we do so ourselves. However, our mentors also need to know how not to push us in the wrong way. This demands own experience and a high level of consciousness of yourself as a coach. The same thing can be applied to all leaders.”
Healthy people build successful businesses
It is the matter of people’s health that motivates Johanna Melin when she, together with Good Accelerator, trains healthy and conscious leaders that in turn can build companies with a healthy and conscious culture. She believes that the only way to make sure that individuals are able to maintain good health over time, is to work with workplace culture. Having said that, the same thing applies the other way around: to work with people’s health, individually and collectively, is crucial when we want to build successful, value creating business.
“In an organisation where people are not conscious of themselves, their behaviours and their weaknesses, we tend to play on each other’s fears without noticing it. We are driven by results in the wrong way and wear down our coworkers. This might create a certain profit short-term, but it will soon begin to deteriorate. If we instead build a corporate culture where every single individual is trained to live and perform optimally in their own way, we will use everyone’s unique talents and weave them together so that both individual and collective potential is maximized. This is when the sum becomes bigger that its parts. People will naturally develop and develop others, and we will together build sustainable and rapidly increasing business value.”
Would you like to join the acceleration of health and well-being, leadership and sustainable business? Talk to us about what we can offer you as a leader or company.