In this episode special guest Natalie Johnson joins Brian Comerford and Nick Lozano to discuss how being an effective leader, in part, requires both work-life balance and understanding when to disconnect. Corporate wellness programs in recent years have evolved into leadership-driven health strategies that focus as much with disconnecting from technology as leveraging it for competitive advantage. Put simply, when we feel better, we perform better. Natalie brings her expertise in human physiology and behavior to help describe how leaders can shape themselves and their workforce to be fully engaged, strategically restored, and ultimately mindful of the ingredients to be at their best.
Natalie Johnson MS
Co -Founder & Chief Visionary
ViDL Solutions, Inc.
0:45 Work Life Balance
1:57 Natalie Johnson Intro
5:30 Moving throughout the day
11:21 Disconnecting from technology
19:39 Screen time
22:57 Time management
34:01 You body reacts to what you do most often
35:39 How to get started
38:40 Human resources
48:15 Book recommendations
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Brian Comerford 0:08
Thanks for joining us for another edition of lead.exe. I'm Brian Comerford in Denver, Colorado.
Nick Lozano 0:13
And I'm Nick Lozano, Washington DC. Today we're
Brian Comerford 0:16
joined by a special guest, Natalie Johnson, who is the co founder and chief visionary of ViDL Solutions. She's going to be joining us to speak a little bit about some of the things that we can do to improve our work life balance, including strategies to disconnect from all of our technology. Natalie, welcome to the program.
Natalie Johnson 0:41
Thank you, Brian. Thank you, Nick.
Nick Lozano 0:43
Natalie Johnson 0:44
Brian Comerford 0:45
I really appreciate you taking the time to join us on on this important topic. I know that it may seem sort of out of the context of what is usually factored into leadership strategies. But when you consider that we live in an always on technology centric, sort of global ecosystem any longer. It's one of those things that I think it's incumbent on all of us as leaders, to ensure that we're making part of our work life balance for our workforce.
Natalie Johnson 1:21
Yeah, absolutely. And it's, it's interesting that you say it, it might sound like a topic that you wouldn't normally, you know, talk about when you're when you're speaking of leadership. But, you know, leaders, leaders are expected to perform at really high levels. And I think most of us intuitively get that when we feel better, we perform better.
Brian Comerford 1:41
Amen to that. So tell us a little bit about what brought you along on this path of both leadership coaching, as well as really sort of all of these health aspects that you focus on in your practice?
Natalie Johnson 1:57
Yeah, absolutely. So this is this is the end industry that I've been in really, my whole life, my, my mom owned a health club, my dad was a pharmacist and owned a pharmacy. So I've worked really all over the world, I've had the opportunity to work in all different aspects of health and wellbeing, everything from teaching collegiality to working at resorts all over the world. And it kind of landed here with leadership and working with organizations because about, I would say, about 13 years ago, employers started to recognize, wow, we're, we're investing not only a lot of money in our employees, but health care costs are going through the roof. And so initially, the goal with around employers was we need to reduce health care costs. And so the solution that seemed obvious at the time was, let's do some healthy programs for our employees, let's incorporate what I call her, the what I call now or the old school wellness programs, let's offer some exercise and some nutrition and those type of things. And that was kind at the beginning of the journey and working with different organizations. what's happened since then is many of us, especially professionals, by field recognize that those old school strategies don't really work that well, they don't work that well, because they're communicated as kind of these extra incentivize kind of perky things that you can get as part of benefits. And so the only people that participate are the ones that are already healthy, and the ones that are not really costing a lot of money, and which isn't bad, you know, we want to keep healthy people healthy. But we began to recognize that in order to have health as an effective strategy that's going to help with the organization, it really needed to come through leadership really driven through leadership. And then pretty soon after that, we recognize that a lot of leadership were struggling with this, they're on all the time. They're at work, they're plugged in all the time. And we're recognizing things like burnout showing up and disengagement. So slowly, but surely, you know, my my career, and everything that I do has shifted from wellness programs to more integrated, holistic well being as part of an organization. And of course, because it starts with leadership, the first thing we have to do is show leaders how, you know, health and well being really is going to connect to the bottom line of business and their biggest business priorities. And like I said, it's it's pretty intuitive. Most of us recognize when we feel better, we perform better. But sometimes we have to point that out. And certainly sharing the science and the strategies around how to have better balance, work life balance, or you know how to show up as a better version of yourself, even when you're at home. You know, that's a valuable training for the leaders as well as the organization as a whole.
Brian Comerford 4:48
Well, I consider it to be really vital work, considering that a large portion of the practice of the industry that I'm in currently has to do with benefits health benefits, employer. And I also have to be cautious because living in Colorado, wellness is a term that tends to mean medical marijuana here.
Nick Lozano 5:14
I don't know what you buy in, but anytime I go to Denver, Colorado, I always feel like I'm not in shape. And I run all the time. Those people will make you feel like you're not in shape as well.
Natalie Johnson 5:26
It's a great place to get in shape, that's for sure. Yeah.
Brian Comerford 5:30
That's right. Yes, it's, you know, having is as many days of sunshine as a place like San Diego, and then having all the outdoor activities that go along with it. It does make it pretty easy to continue to stay active in this type of environment. But if you're someone like me, and you spend a good portion of your day sitting in front of a computer, it can be more challenging. You know, typically, when I take meetings, especially something where I'm on a conference call, I try to make sure that I'm getting up and running walking around, in part because in more recent years, as we've gotten accustomed to things like standing desks, you know, you hear this phrase that sitting is the new smoking. So talk to us a little bit about that. Why is it important just to have some regular movements throughout a day that would normally have you positioned in front of a computer at a desk?
Natalie Johnson 6:25
Yeah, for sure. And you know, just to back up a little bit, Brian, I don't want to make it sound like I'm saying anything negative about health benefits, or wellness programs, I think, I think what I was trying to say is, those type programs have now shifted more into leadership development and professional development. So it gives us a better foundation to start with. And when you talk about things like sitting, it's the new smoking, or that movement could be really beneficial. I think one of the bigger struggles around something like that is it's so simple, right? Like everyone, you know, get up and move that not we're not saying don't you know, we're not saying go exercise or go to the gym, it's a very simple strategy, we all kind of know that we would feel better, we know it would help us. But yet many of us just get stuck in our habits. And we go, you know, Brian, like you mentioned, sitting at a desk and going from conference call to conference call, perhaps moving to a meeting, we get stuck in our habits. So there's some real intentionality needed around it. And it wasn't, you know, movement isn't this, this concept that's new. But it is a concept that is new around performance. So we didn't always have to tell people to move because they were moving. But then we brought in technology. And we brought in all this amazing technology where we can do everything we need to from one place. And because we don't have to move we don't. And our body, it responds to what we do most consistently. And so what we see across the board, especially in the US within leaders, is they think in their head, yeah, I sit a lot, I probably sit Seven, eight, maybe nine hours a day. But if we really take a closer look at how much they are actually sitting and incorporate the commute, and how much they're sitting at home, we're sitting, you know, most especially in corporate leadership sitting 12, 13, even 14 hours a day. And that's a lot that's consistent. And so that's what your body responds to it, it impacts performance negatively, because it directly impacts our energy, our body won't make energy, unless we tell it to unless we send a message that says we need energy. And so when we sit and we don't move, the message that we're actually sending is, don't make energy, I don't need any hand, because energy is really foundational for being focused, it's foundational for being engaged, when that's gone, that's when we start to see distractions and you know, lower quality work. And we start to see people showing up in a way that they don't want to and, you know, going back to what you said, Brian sitting is the new smoking, it's not necessarily that sitting, you know, has the same risks as smoking, it's just similar to smoking. So, you know, if you smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, but then you go exercise for a little bit, that exercise didn't help or take away any of those cigarettes you smoked. And so if you're sitting for 12, 13, 14, 15 hours a day, but you work out for 30 minutes, you know that 30 minute workout didn't didn't, you know, make any change in the risks associated with all that sitting. So, you know, such a simple strategy, but yet, you really need to be very intentional about it. You know, one of the things that I tried to portray and talking about things that are simple, like movement is we really need to begin to connect these strategies to something more powerful, something more meaningful to us. And so instead of thinking about it is I'd feel better if I moved, or I'll be healthier, if I moved, think about well, if you did move, and you did have more energy, how are you going to show up for that difficult conversation that you have at work? Or how you're going to show up for your team? Or better yet? How are you going to show up at the end of the day, if you have more energy left for those people that matter. So connecting these simple strategies to something more purposeful and powerful can can really make a difference.
Brian Comerford 10:15
So what I'm hearing you say is, even though you grew up in a household where pharmacology was a strong knowledge base, for you that there's not just a pill that can take care of this for us, is that right?
Natalie Johnson 10:30
That's exactly right. And I think, you know, this reminds me that even more interesting is many of my clients are pharmaceutical companies that are, you know, big companies. And they also believe in some of the strategies to help people because they recognize that, you know, pharmacology isn't the all solution for everyone. But, you know, we do a lot of work around content, and performance strategies and leaders development for pharmaceutical companies, for their employer, for their own employees and their own leadership. But yeah, I had to side with my mom who owns the health club in the gym and is very fit. And my dad who is a pharmacist and stands up all day and high stress and doesn't isn't really into physical activity. So I had a good balance of both.
Nick Lozano 11:21
like that in, you know, as we're talking about technology, especially another topic, Brian are talking about technology leadership, you know, a lot of a lot of leaders now are spent a lot of times behind the desk. And we're expected to be on 24 seven, especially in a technology role with server uptime. And everything. Is there any drawbacks to you know, always being connected. I mean, you're constantly reading studies about, you know, the blue lights bad for you staring at your screen constantly. And you know, Google and Apple have kind of gone on this path of putting these digital well, being assistants on the phones telling you how long, you know, how much time you spent on your phone. You know, are you seeing anything, as you're out there every day talking to people? You know, this is having a big impact in them, what can they kind of do to kind of disconnect?
Natalie Johnson 12:09
Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, most of us have experienced some of the detrimental effects. And so you know, again, technology is great, and it allows us to do things we previously couldn't do as quickly or efficiently. But when you're on technology, there's you're just exposed to so much. So it's everything from you know, perhaps you're working on a spreadsheet, something simple, something you need to focus on, but then you have your email notification that pops up, then you have your instant message that's popping up, then you have your phone light turning on, then you have a conference call that maybe you have to call into technology can really be very distracting, because there's so much coming at us at once. And what we're seeing in terms of performance and leadership is, the more you are plugged in, at, the more it's impacting your ability to focus and bring mental clarity to you know, what's going on right now. But it also interferes with, you know, forecasting and planning for the future, the future for yourself with the future for your company. So the biggest negative impact is how it impacts your brain. And so I mentioned that you you know, your body and your brain, they respond to what you're exposed to most what's most consistent. If you think about what you're doing on technology, almost always, you're not necessarily focusing on one thing, you've got one thing popping up and then there's an ad that pops up and then again, the instant message and then late so you're almost training your brain incense to it to be unfocused. So look here. Now look here. Now look here. And then wait a minute, what was I doing, there was an ad that popped up, I click there. So we're training our brain in a way to be unfocused. And for most of us, that's not what we want, we want to be able to be focused, we want to be able to perform at higher levels and be productive. And technology is is detrimental in that way is it's creating unfocused in our lives, it's very consistent. In addition to that, most technology, everything from phones, to TV, to tablets to computers has this blue light, the blue light is very stimulating. So if you think about being on the computer in the middle of the day, and being on that spreadsheet, and you have the blue light shining in your eyes, that stimulating that's telling your body to be awake and alert, that's a good thing, when it when it becomes bad is when it's time to not be focused and not be stimulated anymore. And it's time to rest for you know, it's time to go to sleep. And we've got the blue light shining in our eyes, because we're on our phone or a tablet or watching TV, that's actually sending the wrong message to the body and the brain. And that saying be awake, when in actuality we should be, you know, getting ready to go to sleep. So I think we're starting to see a lot more multitasking, which we all know and recognize is not beneficial. But also it's creating less focus and less productivity. So good question.
Nick Lozano 14:58
No, I like your your thing about my multitasking, I heard somebody say one time is that humans are actually very terrible at multitasking. And the example was to patch your head and rub your belly at the same time. Most people can't do it. So
they're like you really got
it. You can't multitask. You can't really focus on anything more than one thing at a time.
Brian Comerford 15:19
Think that probably right now. We've got listeners who are in a calm meditative state as they're listening to this broadcast. And there's there's there's no other distractions going on. They wouldn't possibly be looking at their phone or
Natalie Johnson 15:32
Nick Lozano 15:34
See, Brian, you have that late night DJ voice too. So that's that's helpful.
So I just had another question. Because we were talking about distractions and blue light before bed. How much does your amount of sleep you get affect your performance? I mean, at least I know, for me in years past, you know, I've always kind of been the person who went bed at 11 o'clock at night and then woke up at five in the morning and got a workout in. In recently, I've just been trying to scale that back. And I found I've been feeling a lot better as I've gotten more sleep, I kind of let myself sleep and like more naturally wake up. Do you have any thoughts on that? Or have you have any experience with that?
Natalie Johnson 16:20
Yeah, for sure. So there, there's a lot of newer research on sleep, mostly because we now have the technology to actually see what's happening in the body in the brain when we're asleep. So in the past, we thought, well sleep is a time of recovery, it's when the body is recovering the muscles, the heart, the arteries, and we know that that has to happen. And a lot of people including myself, got it, you know, get into these habits of you know, but I still feel all right, when I only get five or six hours of sleep, I still feel all right. And so I'm just going to go with that, you know, but let's be awake get more done, I don't I don't need this sleep. What we know now is we that everyone needs somewhere between seven, nine hours of sleep, and that there's more going on than just the physical recovery. This is the time when you are laying down short and long term memories. This is when your brain is actually absorbing everything you learned during the day, there's a lot of hormonal processes happening in the body and the brain. And if we don't get full sleep in our hormones get off balance. And what we know today, and I get this research from the sleep specialist of sleep wellness company that I work with is that majority of people are sleep deprived, but they think they're okay. Because they they're so used to being sleep deprived, they think it's normal. And so their lack of focus them feeling tired, you know them showing up in a in a way that they don't want to they just think that's normal, because they've been living with it so long. And you know, I was one of those people I went for with, you know, four hours of sleep for many, many years and just said, You know, I get more done, I don't need more sleep. I feel great when I wake up. But it wasn't until I really started to look at okay, but I feel great when I wake up. But how long does that last? And reality at lasted about 30 minutes. And really just noticing my inability to be present my inability to focus my inability to be in the moment to be calm, and kind of just getting into this, this mode of dress next, next, next, next next all the time, and it wasn't serving me. And so we know you know things are happening in terms of of our body that people who are getting and Nick, you might want to listen to this one, if you're still sleeping 11 to five people who get six,
Nick Lozano 18:30
I don't do that anymore. Yeah,
Natalie Johnson 18:34
it's that. So people who are getting on average, only about six hours of sleep tend to eat about 564 more calories a day, because they're not really tuned in to their hunger signal, their hormones are off. And they're often grazing and reaching for food. So they feel exhausted, they feel tired, maybe they're not feeling the way they want to. And so they tend to reach for food. And so their studies that show you eat about 564 more calories when you get six hours of sleep specifically. And then if you go anything lower than that it's equivalent to and I don't remember the numbers off the top of my head, but it's equivalent to a very specific blood alcohol level. That's something like it's the equivalent of four beers and then trying to go drive that you're just not functioning well, you're functioning. And you might think it's normal, because you're used to it, but you're not functioning well. And everything from health to safety, to productivity to performance, it's all impacted.
Nick Lozano 19:30
I can believe it. Nobody ever makes, you know, bad decisions, or they're on the under the influence do they.
Natalie Johnson 19:36
Brian Comerford 19:39
Well, you know, and this, this brings up another point that I'd like to talk with you about just in terms of prying ourselves away from screen time and being you know, deliberate about it. You know, it's funny that you mentioned, you know, the equivalency of drinking for beers and trying to go drive because I've recently read that trying to text and drive is actually statistically recognized as being more dangerous now. And then most DWI, associated incidents. So
Natalie Johnson 20:11
I believe it. I believe it
Brian Comerford 20:14
when we've got, you know, screens of multiple types, trying to grab our attention all the time, how do we be more deliberate about trying away from screen time,
Natalie Johnson 20:26
you know, and again, it's, it's, it's, I wouldn't recommend necessarily that people say, Okay, I'm going to have less screen time. So I'm just going to step away, I think you have to do it in little increments. And one of the easiest ways to do it is turn off all your notifications, all your notifications, except for what's absolutely needed on your phone. First, when you're on your computer and you're working on something there are no notifications that I am isn't open, if possible, your email isn't open, and really beginning to chunk your time and Chungking is a way of I'm going to focus on this one thing for very small chunk of time, maybe 20 minutes or so. And then I'm going to move to something else that's very productive. And then for most people, you know, turning off notifications can produce some anxiety. And so thinking about one minute turn notifications off for 20 minutes, you know, what could possibly happen, it's a little bit easier to do. And so things that I've seen work is first and foremost turning off the notifications getting the technology that you don't need to be engaged in, out of sight so not just your phone is turned down so you can't see it but it's not even in front of you. You're not even thinking about it. Getting it out of sight when you're in the car getting it out of sight when the people and and the things in front of you are more important. And then you can just make them less attractive. You can there is a on the iPhone, something I discovered as you can turn your iPhone to black and white. So there's no color. It's super unattractive. When is the only black and white you're way less tempted to look and see what's on there. And and I recommend to people to start small start with just turning off notifications while you're on your computer. Then move to turn off notifications on every app that you don't need to be informed about, you know, every time something happens, and then start Chungking your time that I'm going to focus on specific projects with no technology for short chunks of time. And building on that. It does take some intentionality though you have to make it happened because it won't happen by accident. So you know, telling people what it is you're trying to accomplish and why it can help a lot because the last few about it. I know, when I first started incorporating some strategies with my technology, specifically my phone, I didn't want my phone around when i when i when my kids first got home from school, so I would tell them, Listen, I'm trying to put my phone away. So I'm not paying attention to my phone, because you guys are important to me tell you what they speak up immediately when that phone comes back out fact you're going to be on your phone, we're How can we so telling people really can help as well.
Nick Lozano 22:53
So that's nice, giving the other people around you.
Natalie Johnson 22:56
Nick Lozano 22:57
to force you to be accountable for what you say you're going to do. Right?
Natalie Johnson 23:00
Yeah, and I think you know, and this is, you know, this is part of time management, too. I think a lot of different organizations and leaders experience, you know, you the whole, the whole strategy of only check your email three times a day, during these three times, you really do train people what to expect. And if you're the person that's constantly respond or saw the shot, respond, you know, you've trained them to expect that you can train them differently, that, you know, they only check early morning, midday and afternoon. And that's it. So creating some rules around it as well can help.
Nick Lozano 23:35
And I really like that I've done that before in the past to you know, only check my email a couple times a day, you know, it's that whole reward the behavior expect, right? Right. Yeah, and I've done the whole thing to about, you know, trying to be more present recently. And when I get home, I dropped my phone on the table, and I literally do not touch it. It's just one of those things. I after I sat and thought about it for a while I was like, Well, what is so important? I absolutely needed to know right away. Because you know, in my part, it's still a phone as well, too. Right? Right. If the server room in my office is burning to the ground, somebody's probably going to actually just phone call me, they're not going to just send me an email or text messenger Hey, right. So I set it down, you know, and try to be more present throughout the day, and interactions. And also the same thing with the meetings, you know, I've tried to actually only go in with pen and paper, you know, before I used to be total Evernote guy, put everything in Evernote, type it all on my computer, now I just don't even take my computer with me. You know, because in, at least for me, when I'm sitting there in meetings, I've noticed people, a lot of people aren't present throughout the day. They're buried in the technology. And that's one of the things I tried to get away with. So it's it's kind of, you know, good to hear, do you say those things and see that I'm kind of taking some of those steps as well, even though I didn't know I was doing that. But you know, it's kind of nice to see that I'm doing that as well.
Natalie Johnson 25:00
I think even in your example, Nick had you know, if you come into a meeting and you're leading the meeting, how does it feel to have everybody with their laptop open? And you can tell they're distracted? You know, how does that make the other people feel around you when you're, you know, checking your emails, while they're trying to have, you know, somewhat important conversation. It impacts you, you definitely, but it's also impacting the people around you.
Brian Comerford 25:24
Okay, you're both making me feel like a very bad boy. Even though I've heard that there are studies that your memory retention is better, if you physically grab a pencil and write something down on paper, I just tend to take notes much better when I'm actually able to type and I, I tend to be one who organizes things on the page after I go through a meeting which, which also helps my retention, so so I'm probably not going to be the poster child anytime soon of help break away from additional screen time, especially in meetings. I don't check my email though, during meetings. So
Natalie Johnson 26:07
you know, Brian, that that makes me think of, you know, I think there's a lot of people like you that they're going to say I need to take the notes on my tablet, or I need to take notes in my, in my laptop. And I don't necessarily think there's anything wrong with it. What happens when you're typing and texting is it's very automated. And so you're not necessarily thinking that deeply about what it is you're writing. But the fact Brian, that you come back and you reorganize the notes and you read them is going to help you retain it. When we're you know, when we're taking pen to paper, we're putting more thought in it, it truly is a deeper connection to the brain. And if we're trying to change something or change something about ourselves change something about the organization, the people, it's going to be better to put pen to paper because we're trying to make some behavior changes. And the brain, you know, is more connected to that. But if you're simply taking minutes of the meeting, it probably is going to be more efficient to be typing it and then you're going to go back and reorganize and reread it anyway, which is going to help connect to the brain again. So I think it depends on the circumstance. And what it is that that you're writing about. You know, writing is is one of the strategies that I utilize with leadership and with others, that if you want to change, you know, I want to decrease the amount of time on my technology, I want to get more sleep, I want to manage my stress better writing about it is going to be more beneficial than actually thinking about it. Because thoughts are just going to go round and round in your head when we write. It's clarifying the thoughts, it's organizing the thoughts, and it's creating some action. So it just comes back to what it is that you're writing or typing about. Because I certainly enjoy my laptop.
Nick Lozano 27:44
I really like you, you brought about that stuff about writing. And recently, you know, we had a guest on our podcast, John Abbott, and he was a big journal or, and he kind of got me back into doing that. And I've been journaling right before I go to bed. And I'm finding that that's actually helping me fall asleep faster. It's kind of like just a brain dump. It's like put your pen to the paper and write whatever is on your mind. I don't know, I just want to bring that up. Because that literally made me think of that. And that's been very helpful for me, I don't know, if you did that, Brian, or that's something you do, Natalie.
Natalie Johnson 28:20
You know, it's it's a great example, I do not struggle with falling asleep or seeing people that do struggle, and I shouldn't say hundred percent of time, but 98% of time, I don't struggle with it. Now that I've corrected my sleeping habits, but I can relate to not being able to fall asleep periodically. And I know other people, it's more of a struggle for them, where you just have a lot going on in your head, you're thinking about the next day you're thinking about today you're thinking about what's coming up, you're thinking about work, you're thinking about family, when the brain is actively thinking about all those things, it's very difficult for the brain to release the melatonin and go into a state of rest and relaxation. And then if you ad in there that you've had blue light in your eyes, it makes it even more difficult. So one of the sleep strategies to help people with sleep is to get whatever is in your head onto paper, because it almost gives permission for the brain to say, okay, it's okay to go to sleep now because it's on paper, and you could deal with it in the morning. And I know a lot of people that utilize that in the middle of the night, they wake up, they can't fall back asleep, because their brain is just going very active and stimulated, okay. So, you know, pull out that tablet or that notebook, get it all out of your head onto paper. And it just gives permission for the brain now to relax and go to sleep. So I love that you do that, Nick, it's very true. It works.
Brian Comerford 29:39
Well, I keep a dream diary. So my, my journaling tends to happen on the other side of night. Oh, wow.
Natalie Johnson 29:47
What have you learned Brian,
Brian Comerford 29:48
I've learned that I've got a lot of freaky things that my brain very creative way of communicating with myself apparently. I'm also a meditator. And I do try to meditate most days and I you know, I, at various times during my life, I've been much better about sitting for, you know, much longer periods. Now, I try to make sure that I'm really consistent and doing it between five and 15 minutes a day. And sometimes I'll do that and you know, multiple times throughout the day, I do tend to have a quick meditation session before I go and speak in front of a group of people or if I have to facilitate a meeting. But in the morning, I also find that meditating as soon as I've gotten up, and by that I don't mean laying in bed. My alarms going off,
Nick Lozano 30:49
you mean you're just giving yourself an extra 15 minutes news, right?
Brian Comerford 30:53
It's called snooze, ya know, I actually get up and, and get into a sitting posture last year for the meditation. But I find that that is just very mentally clarifying for me, before I get the day started and and also helps, I think reduce some of the anxiety that you can sometimes have about, you know, very busy schedules that we often keep.
Natalie Johnson 31:19
Brian, have you noticed because it sounds like your your meditation has helped you with, you know, being more clear about your day, but maybe, you know, helping a little bit you mentioned before you have to give a presentation about help with anxiety. Have you noticed that it's overflowed into other areas of your life? So other than how you feel when you do it? Have you noticed anything else has changed?
Brian Comerford 31:42
That's a good question. I think my you know, ability to be attentive, my focus has certainly improved with that. My reactiveness emotional reactiveness, I think is really tempered by and I think those are coming kind of the the two, you know, clearest responses that I've been able to identify from making it a regular practice.
Natalie Johnson 32:08
Yeah. And I asked that, because that was a surprising benefit that I've seen. And someone recently, and I can't remember, but when one of my audiences said, you know, here's how I define how meditation has helped me, it gives me four extra seconds. And so what what she meant by that was it kind of comes back to that emotional reactivity talked about Brian is, you know, if it's helping you not be as emotionally reactive, it means at some point, you've kind of thought about what's the next big next big step? Should I just, you know, emotionally explode on this person? Or if you have that extra four seconds to think about, Okay, wait, maybe I shouldn't, maybe that's not the best way. It's just like that extra couple seconds to pause and think about what would be a better response. And that's what I have noticed is I have and I don't know why she said four seconds. But that seems pretty. Like that extra four or five seconds that you get to think okay, way, what's the best response here? And how should I How should I? How should I not respond in this situation? And previously that five seconds didn't exist, and it was just a full out emotional reaction?
Brian Comerford 33:14
I think maybe the word response is also a key word there respond versus react.
Natalie Johnson 33:19
Brian Comerford 33:22
And, you know, I recently saw a documentary on Netflix called Heal, that talked about a number of the different, you know, kind of like what you're saying physiologically, in terms of getting appropriate sleep, that meditation is also one of those areas of, you know, a quick physiological response that if you do it routinely enough, your body starts to really utilize for its full benefits, which can include opportunities for feeling
Natalie Johnson 34:01
on if, you know, if you come back to, you know, our body responds to what we do and what we're doing most often, we really are training our brain to react, react, react, react, react to the technology, right to add react to that. And so if we can just take time periodically to train the brain differently. Okay, so now we're not reacting now we're focusing on one thing, and now your mind wanders, come back focus, mind wanders, Okay, come back focus. So we're training our brain to focus and be more in the moment. And so it makes sense that it would play out in different places in our life, where we get that extra, you know, that extra five seconds or four seconds, to be a little bit more focused on where we are. And that, to me makes a lot of sense.
Brian Comerford 34:42
And it is darn difficult to in fact, I think that's why I've heard meditation is referred to as practice, because it's not something that you ever missed.
Natalie Johnson 34:52
A lot of people told me that they say, I've tried and bad at it, I can't do it, you know, part of the growth process of training the brain to focus, you need it to unfocused to get there to get better at it. And it's good when your mind wanders, it's part it's part of that training prior, if your mind didn't wander, you probably wouldn't need the training, right? And so the mind wandering is kind of like that, that muscle that we need for the brain, increasing that muscle of focus.
Brian Comerford 35:23
I think the self awareness is another component of it. Nick and I are big proponents of emotional intelligence. And you'll often hear that self awareness is that first component of emotional intelligence.
Natalie Johnson 35:36
Brian Comerford 35:39
Talk to us if you can a little bit Natalie, about, you know, how do you start to take some of this into more of a program approach so that you can apply it for a group of leaders that may be really seeking to bring something transformative like this into the workplace?
Natalie Johnson 35:59
So it? That's a really great question. You know, we've definitely seen a shift in my industry, as I talked about earlier, and that, you know, the people bringing us in are not necessarily always the wellness people, we're now being brought in as part of professional development, specifically, leadership development. And the reason being is the leaders aren't quite putting health and well being at the top of the list of priorities. And so some of what we do is we first need to really dive into where the organization is, you know, what they've tried to do, and then, you know, really looking at the vision and the purpose of the company. And some of the first initial training that we do with leadership are very individual. So we're not necessarily talking about the company and the organization to start off with, we're talking about them as human beings, and them in terms of what they struggle with. And what we try to do is create some of these aha moments, from an individual perspective of, wow, if I could just incorporate some of these really simple things like journaling, like meditation, like move more, look at the impact that it has on me. And now we move them to it, you know, a kind of secondary training, which looks at Okay, what if a lot of people what if most of the people within the organization, put these kind of easy strategies into practice, think of what it would do for the company as a whole. And so we typically start with, and it depends on where the company is and what they're struggling with. Lately, the big trend is there's a lot of companies that are being acquired, and a lot of companies that are emerging, and so they're struggling with change, they're struggling with stress. And so the initial approaches, let's train the leaders on how to manage change, manage stress better through these different physical, emotional, mental type strategies. But then secondarily, now let's look at the the health of the organization, especially in a merger situation, looking at the book organizations and making sure that the organization, the culture, the environment, the climate is supporting people being able to do these things. So to summarize the answer to your question, we start with the individual. And then we start with looking at the company, the purpose, the values. And then finally, we look at the supporting organization. So it's, we like to call it a two prong approach, we have the individual well being strategies, which are very valuable, but won't go anywhere, if the culture doesn't support it, we have to understand where the leaders are, where the company wants to go. And then the second part of that is we need to address the culture, the organization itself.
Brian Comerford 38:40
That's great. And I, I would say that, during this era, where we see a lot more of these corporate culture, differentiators kind of trotted out, you know, as as you know, we've got recruiters out there, you know, work life balance is one of those things that you hear lot, and it can mean different things for different things for different companies. But I think the way that you've positioned it really looks at human resources as one of those greatest corporate assets and, and really brings a much more holistic perspective to, to wear to human resources fit into that overall corporate ecosystem.
Natalie Johnson 39:24
Well, and you know, a lot of people are talking now about work life balance. And what's interesting is when you when you think about balance, you know, perhaps you think about a scale that needs to balance or you think about balances and equal parts. You know, for most of us, we're not going to work the same amount of time that we don't work, we were likely for many, many years be working, you know, in terms of time, a whole lot more than we're not working, or home, you know, perhaps in the evenings, on the weekends, on vacations, but we work a lot of hours. So there's always going to be more time dedicated to work. And so it's not nothing essentially an equal balance, but it's how can we begin to integrate work and life in a way that it works for both? How can we begin to recognize you know, what, how we actually want to show up, you know, a lot of people don't think about, you know, how they actually want to show up, describe that, what does that look like when they show up is the best version of themselves? What does that look like? And then you know, what steps are needed to make that happen. And a lot of times, the steps are simple things like, you know, I want to show up with a lot of energy, I want to be really focused for this meeting. But I just, I'm just coming off for conference calls, what can I do in between the conference calls in this meeting, to get my energy where I want to be to create some positive emotions to show up focus, it's little things like, I'm going to go take a minute and half walk, I'm going to take the stairs instead of the elevator, I'm going to close my eyes and do a couple deep, deep breaths before I walk in. It's like all these these little simple things, but it helps us to integrate work and life in a way that we're showing up more often the way we want to, instead of feeling by, you know, overwhelmed by trying to balance them both.
Nick Lozano 41:01
That's that's very well said. So if if somebody you know, trying to get started, I want to go back a second because we talked about meditation. In at least I know, when I used to think about it a long time ago, it's always this, you know, monk in a corner, like saying, um, how does someone get started with this? You know, I know you don't need to try to do it for the 15 minutes, 20 minutes. But But how could someone get started? If they don't know anything about meditation? Is there like simple apps they can use? Or like YouTube guided videos or something? Is there a way to get started with that?
Natalie Johnson 41:37
Yeah, for sure. And I oftentimes will have big audiences, where, you know, whoever is coordinating the program or the facilitation that I'm doing, oftentimes, they'll say, Hey, don't talk about meditation and all that stuff. It's too fluffy. They're not going to like it. They don't believe in it. And you know, and I hate to say it, but it's typically an audience of a bunch of men. Or they'll say, you know, don't get too deep into that stuff. Maybe mention it, but don't do it. And so what I've learned with time with different groups like that Now, now, first, I'll say I don't necessarily listen to them, I kind of meet them halfway. And some of those ways to meet halfway, or let's just talk about breathing. What does breathing do for us? How does our breathing change when we're stressed? How does our breathing impact our physiology? When we're stressed? How do you feel when you're stressed? How are you breathing? So just talking about breathing, and understanding that the way we breathe actually impacts the stress response pretty significantly. And that we can create calm just through breathing. And so really, and I won't get into, you know, the details of the of the science today, necessarily, but, you know, in general, when you breathe a very specific way, you can calm your body, calm your physiology, and take away that fight or flight response. And so teaching people just that really opens their eyes to the impact breathing can have. And then once they established that, taking it a step further, well, what if we were to train our brain and our body to be more focused and relaxed more often throughout the day? How would that help you and then there's a lot of science to support meditation and what it is doing to the brain, and how it is helping to train the brain to create focus and clarity. And so with regards to apps and resources, you know, I have some of my favorite ones that worked for me because I was not always a person that meditated. And I My favorite is an app called Calm c-a-l-m. I like it because it's, it's someone's talking you through the meditation, and they're very short and realistic. So you know, maybe five, seven minutes, there are different sessions specific for anxiety, there are specific sessions looking at focus, and someone's talking you through the meditation, which makes it much easier. And I also and we work with a company called e mindful, and they have a wonderful platform, where they have meditations that you can do, you know, I just did one the other day, and it was like meditation before meeting or meditation to start your meeting, there are literally 30 seconds, one minute, so very realistic, but taught in a way by professionals that it's not too much, the monk in the corner says that it's coming from the science and the research. I also like headspace, that's a great one. Also guided meditation. So those are my three favorite calm, a mindful and headspace. They all have, you know, free resources that you can try. And if you like it, then you can join in. They're all very reasonable. But I still you know, I talked about deep breathing meditation all the time, and I still use the apps I prefer them. I like to hear someone telling me what to do instead of me sitting there thinking, Okay, Natalie, just focus on your breath. Oh, my mind wander now. You know, someone's at the door. And now Did someone just I me, you know, if someone's talking me through it, I'm much better at it.
Brian Comerford 44:51
Those are great resources. I'm familiar with a couple of those. I think Nick was more worried about, you know, looking like a monk because here's someone like me, you're talking about meditation, he knows that I've got a shaved heads. there to look and like,
Nick Lozano 45:06
I know, you know what I didn't realize for years, you know, I used to love swimming, you know, in a pool and doing laps. Yeah, basically over thinking I was like, you know, I'm basically meditating, you know, it's like, I don't have any music. I don't have any distractions. You know, I'm just, you know, doing a repetitive motion and controlling my breathing. So, so, you know, meditations there. And in the form of exercise, I feel like to
Natalie Johnson 45:29
for sure. And I'm so glad you mentioned that, Nick, because a lot of people struggle with the, you know where to do it. And where am I going to find a quiet space, you can meditate while you're walking, you can meditate while you're swimming. It's just being in the moment and focusing on the breath. And, Brian, you mentioned, you don't lay in bed to meditate, because that's called snooze. But I have found that's actually the so for me, I have the best meditation practice when I'm traveling, and I'm in a hotel room and I'm by myself, the alarm has gone off, I'm awake, I need to get up pretty soon. But I start that call map while I'm laying in bed. Because that's the place where I don't have you know, I don't have my dog at home, my kids, I don't my alarm clock at home, I don't have interruptions and it's fully quiet. So I found that's actually one of my favorite places to meditate is first thing in the morning while still in bed.
Brian Comerford 46:16
That's great. Yeah, I use there's a free download from a website called sacred acoustics. And, and they actually have sort of a brain entrainment set of frequencies that, that they put into a 20 minute guided meditation. And so if I, if I'm sort of mid day, and I have more time available to me, and I'm in a place where I can lay down for a while, I do like to use something like that sacred acoustics, meditation as well.
Natalie Johnson 46:52
Yeah, I don't know that one, I'll have to check it out. It sounds great. Something else I just thought of, you know, different organizations and leaders are recognizing certainly the benefit of being more focused, but they're recognizing the benefit of managing stress better. And so there is some different biofeedback mechanisms that employers are using at work to help people breathe and very specific ways to manage their stress better. And you know, the one I'm most familiar with is heart math. And they really approach it from a very science and research perspective. They're not talking about yoga, they're not the, you know, they're not, you know, in the corner, doing, it's not Brian in the corner with his bald head doing medicine. It's very science based. And so they're teaching their employees and they actually wear a monitor and watch their heart rate fluctuations throughout the day, and can actually avoid stress and avoid the stress response. So that's another great resource that I've promoted and referred my clients to when they have groups of people that could really benefit but they're really not going to be into meditation and, you know, using an app, but let's take it from more of a biofeedback science perspective, and they're a lot more open to it.
Brian Comerford 48:11
That's interesting. That's great advice.
Natalie Johnson 48:13
Nick Lozano 48:15
So I guess we got one question here that we always ask all of our guests, do you have a book that's had a big influence on you doesn't have to be a book or maybe a piece of media or something?
Natalie Johnson 48:26
I love Dr. Jim Layer from the Human Performance Institute and the work that he's done, especially around storytelling, and he has a book on storytelling, but my my newest obsession is Brene Brown. Are you guys familiar with Dr. Brene Brown? No. So Dr. Brene Brown, she's very popular right now. She's like, the in thing she's, um, she's a researcher at the University of Houston.
Nick Lozano 48:54
And oh, now I know you're talking about
Natalie Johnson 48:56
Yeah, research is based on the power of vulnerable ability, specifically in leadership, and how shame and blame can get in the way. She's done a lot of work on empathy. And she's got five different books out now. But her latest is called Daring Leadership. And it's by far, you know, at the top of my list, she'll she also has a book called braving the wilderness. It's an old one that helps people personally and professionally. But, you know, one of the reasons that I really liked per day is I often struggle with, you know, when I'm reading books that are very scientific, or it's about research, or it's even work related, if it's about physical mental image, I like the data, I like hearing it, but what I'm trying to read it, it can put me to sleep sometimes. And so I found I do better if I listen to Audible. But with Renee, I don't go to sleep, she's, it's like you're sitting down talking to your best friend, you laugh, you cry, you're really connected to what she's saying. And she just has a really powerful presence. She has a Netflix show that just came out. And it's only an hour, but it's like stand up comedy, but you also find yourself crying and it because you just you really connect and relate to what she's saying. And it's a lot around empathy, vulnerability, and how you know, people just need to be real, and take down some of the armor and the walls that they put up at work. Because when we can connect with people at work, we create innovation, we create motivation, we're more creative, as opposed to putting walls up and not really connecting with people. So that that's my fav.
Brian Comerford 50:34
Natalie Johnson 50:35
Brian Comerford 50:37
Check all of it out. Just a fascinating person to talk to, I can't tell you how excited I am that you were able to make the time to be with us on the program.
Natalie Johnson 50:47
Yeah. Thanks, Brian.
Brian Comerford 50:49
Well, thank you and tell us a little bit more about where folks who want to learn more about you learn more about your practice, what's the easiest way for people to find you?
Natalie Johnson 50:58
Oh, sure. So at my company vital solutions, it's ViDL. It's not the typical way of selling vital. We believe that the the main components that are necessary for creating healthy leaders and organizations is that we need to focus on vision, this, this is my vital acronym. We need to focus on individual well being. And we need to develop culture, and we need to address leadership. So that's our vital. So we're vital vidlsolutions.com . And we're unique in that we address both individual, holistic well being strategies, but we also address the organization. Typically in my industry, you find that people do one or the other and not both. You know, I'd like to say we're located in Florida, but most of the time I'm not in Florida. I'm at client sites that are not in Florida. I have a business partner who has a very complimentary background. To me. My background is an exercise physiology, performance psychology and bad performance nutrition. She has a lot of background in organizational development and health and behavioral health. So we are very complimentary backgrounds, and we're able to address not just the people within the organization, but the structure of the organization as well.
Brian Comerford 52:20
That's great. Thank you so much for sharing that. And thank you for sharing all your insight on the program today. It's just hugely valuable. I I know I get a lot out of hearing you talk and just appreciate all the insights that you share.
Nick Lozano 52:34
Now, yes, thank thank you very much for your time. We really appreciate it.
Natalie Johnson 52:37
Yeah, thank you guys for having me. This was really fun. Thanks.