Every Sunday we feature articles from our school’s yearly printed newsletter. This weekend we flashback to an article written by Helen Eriksen who is a business psychologist, international speaker, author and expert in change and well-being. She runs her own seminar and retreat place, The Eriksen Institute, offering a well-being coaching programme, seminars in fasting, detox, mindfulness, leadership & nutrition and a consultancy company with over 30 years of experience. She lives in Denmark, works worldwide. Helen is a teacher at KaosPilots and an ambassador for the school. She lectures all the KaosPilots students on leadership and nutrition. Read on for the full spread.
Sometimes it is easier to get an overview about an area or a question if you have been into it for a long time. On the other hand if you haven’t been open and curious and following the latest scientific results, reflecting deeply and openly about its pros and cons you might get tunnel vision.
I have studied and taught in the area of leadership and nutrition for over 30 years now, and the area has become neither less interesting nor less important on a completely down to earth lifestyle level.
So in the following I would like to share with you in essence some of what is moving and happening in the areas of leadership, consciousness, nutrition and science, which also is what my institute, retreat and seminar place – The Eriksen Institute – is also about. And I want to emphasize that nutrition in this article is used in a broader sense, integrating also music, books, nature, family and friends, travelling, movies, meditation, partnerships, silence etc.
Ask your intelligent body
We have for many years been bombarded with a lot of recommendations for diets. In my lecturing, teaching and book writing about leadership and nutrition I have often been asked what diets or eating styles I recommend. And when asked I have always emphasized the importance of asking your intelligent body, because it knows the answers long before your brain starts giving you signals about specific current needs, it’s do’s and don’ts. It is also a way of interacting with yourself, which starts building up a lot of self confidence and self worth because it will support you in changing your cognitive patterns and old basic beliefs and assumptions. After all it is your body. And it will turn out to come up with really helpful answers. The building up of a different kind of closeness with our body and the self-responsibility aspect it represents will transfer to many other aspects of our lives.
It may sound strange the first time you start reflecting about asking your body or consider doing it. Which is very natural, as this way of approaching a healthy lifestyle hasn’t till a few years ago become a accepted part of our western culture. These days you can hardly read an article about stress prevention or stress handling without also reading the words: listen to the signals from your body. And as part of reducing our own inner noise and preparing ourselves for our leadership of ourselves and others being as energy neutral as humanly possible, asking our own body about what is important for it to be nourished by, creates a very good foundation to be nourished in a way, where your nutrition supports you in reducing your inner noise by balancing and vitalizing your biochemistry.
Because biochemistry becomes thoughts and feelings and vice versa. So from our nutrition we need as little noise as possible and as much balancing and building qualities as possible to make us robust and able to meet noise/dissonance/conflict/demands in the outside world, which is a natural part of being a leader. As it is pretty hard to understand a body’s full chemistry with our brains, we might as well ask the body, which knows it all. It knows which needs come first, what is most important to focus on. We’ve got it right at hand.
Train and use your intuitive intelligence and the whole brain
We need to stay in close contact with our body intelligence which is yet another way of saying even more YES to train- ing oneself to be whole-brained. And why would we want to develop our whole brain to a higher degree? Because the whole brain and its neural pathways in both hemispheres, both brain halves make up the infrastructure of our intuitive intelligence. And that intelligence is the one we need to persistently train, because our intuitive intelligence is the only intelligence enabling us to overview change and com- plexity and to innovatively envision what wants to emerge into new solutions, creations, co-operations etc. Our intuitive intelligence is determined by how whole-brained we are, by how many neural pathways we have developed in how many brain centers. And to what a degree we have developed BOTH hemispheres or brain halves – our left, more analyzing part of the brain and our right brain – makes us more able to see challenges and life in a wholeness perspective, making us able to envision new creations, and spotting new trends, products, and solutions that are need- ed in the world. By asking our highly intelligent body “what is important for it to be nourished by” we activate several brain centers at the same time and we support the brain’s neuroplasticity in building new neural pathways, adding to a more whole and thereby also more socially responsible brain. Why? Because brain means infrastructure for think- ing, acting, seeing, envisioning, understanding.
The whole brain is the infrastructure for our intuition and for our ability to see aspects in a larger perspective. When we develop a more whole brain neural infrastructure, we become more whole human beings, able to create still more whole organizations, societies and solutions.
Leadership & nutrition – lifestyle
As leaders of tomorrow we need to stay curious, open to see new opportunities and able to intuitively sense what wants to emerge. Here some groundbreaking neuro-scientific news come in handy. Neuroplasticity has come to stay, changing our paradigm from: “you have the neurons in the brain that you were born with, and they will degenerate with age” – to: “hey no, it is not at all like that. Your brain is neuroplastic meaning it can develop new neurons and new neural pathways throughout your life depending on your lifestyle.” According to modern neuroscience you can increase your neuroplasticity by
1) focused attention: as e.g. a combination of presence, curiosity, attitude: every time is a new beginning. A routine mind won’t help you build new neural pathways.
2) meditation: a Harvard study has shown convincingly that 20 minutes a day of meditation, 8 weeks in a row, builds grey matter in the brain.
3) fasting: will help your body start regenerating your brain with only 72 hours of fasting.
4) lowering your daily calorie intake from the recommended daily intake over a period of months has shown to improve your cognitive abilities.
Interesting scientific news, I think.
I took the freedom to test the above 4 practices a bit before science came up with these news as a fact, meditated some 30 years, fasted several times 5 days every year also over 30 years for the fun of it, tried periods of lowering my calorie intake, and trained various physical disciplines requiring focused attention as martial arts, yoga, gymnastics. And I can highly recommend all 4!
They are all four of them parts of ancient traditions from all over the globe and very valuable because they are simple, very effective, very preventive, and accessible for most people.
They may also sound like not so much fun. Which they definitely can be, depending on what attitude you approach them with. So let us remember that life is short. We better make sure to have a lot of fun and enjoy life while we are here, giving while growing – doing a lot of good for our- selves and others, while growing from it – always with a glimpse in the eye and a good bunch of humor. Never taking ourselves too seriously. That and humor is important nutrition for leadership too.