Feel Good People is a series where we interview wellness lovers who care for both their mental and physical health. Because sitre believes they’re both equally important (and sex impacts both) and the more we can learn about from others, the better we can help you to feel good.
This time we speak to surfer / advertising-guy / all-around-wellness-lover Christen from Copenhagen.
Hi Christen. Can you start with telling us a bit about yourself and how you got to the place you’re at today?
I hit the ground running after finishing college and was drafted by the army where I studied to become a "language specialist". It's a long story, but to keep it short, I spent more than 4 years in the army and finished as a first lieutenant. After that I decided it was time for a drastic change of scenery. I stumbled into, and managed to finish, a bachelor's degree at CBS and after a couple of years working at Maersk trying to figure out what I really wanted to do, I finally ended up in advertising somewhere in the mid 2010's.
I spent the next 4 years in what my old boss called "The Machine Room" of a young and fast paced advertising agency, working my way up from junior consultant. After having spent almost 5 years at the company, I founded my own agency with a couple of friends. I ran the company for 3 crazy years with very little sleep and a lot of liquor, until I decided in 2017 it was time for a break. I was burned out. I exited the company and travelled to a small fishing village on the west coast of Jutland to pursue my passion for surfing, sooth my overheated nerves and try my hand at writing. I ended up launching a production company while I was there and I created and produced a documentary about the Danish National Surf Team. I ended up starring in my own production as I also somehow became the National Team Manager for the same Surf Team. That's also a long and weird story for another time. Half a year ago, I started missing advertising (which was probably the last thing I thought would happen), so I took a job at Splay One as a Strategic Director. That's where I am today - living out of Østerbro in Copenhagen (soon to be Amager).
What a journey. So, what is wellness to you?
For a very long time wellness for me was a physical thing. Something I did with and for my body. Today I practise a more holistic approach - as I see mind and body as equally important. For many years I thought wellness was about drinking juice and going to spas. I now see wellness as an incredibly important thing. If you are not feeling good, mentally or physically, you can't be of much use to anyone - and I tend to think that being of use to others is more or less the meaning of life. And wellness is something you need to prioritize and something that takes work. People tend to think it's a matter of kicking back and paying people to "do wellness" for you - I don't think that's accurate. It is much more of a hassle than that, but also much more rewarding.
How do you make yourself feel good, both mentally and physically?
Physical wellness comes very natural to me - I've been training regularly 4-5 times a week since I was little. I love almost all kinds of physical activities, especially surfing and different types of combat sport. But more recently I've also come to understand how my diet affects my feeling of wellbeing. I've lived off fast food for most of my adult life, so when my girlfriend started to feed me actual food with vegetables and organic meat it was a tough start for me, but today I understand how and why I craved shitty food and why it's fucking horrible for you. And once you also understand that it does nothing for you, not even fulfill your desire (it will return soon, with a vengeance), you can begin to make better decisions.
When it comes to the mental part of wellness I have been completely lost for most of my adult life. I have a very busy and kind of dark mind that keeps me up at night and runs at full-speed every second of every day. I've struggled immensely for most of my adult life (when I was younger I didn't really mind having a crazy and active mind) to feel comfortable with my brain constantly asking me questions like "I wonder how the world will end?" or "If this is a simulation, does anything I do even matter". I've been thinking about the meaning of life and death a lot all my life and I've read more books on the subject than any other person I know. My mom has told me that I started asking really hard questions about the meaning of life even before I became an angsty teenager.
The solution for me has been as complex as the problem itself, but one thing that stands out as the most important thing, is becoming a student of meditation and to some degree adopting my own version of buddhism and stoicism. The combination of practising (and "failing" at) meditation for years on end and reading countless books about topics related to it, has probably been the most important thing I have learned (surfing coming in at a close second place) in my life.
I've given up preaching about it, because everyone's heard it all by now anyways and I don't want to come off as the kind of person who wants to push an agenda on somebody - but I can attest to the amazing things it can do for you. I'm really happy when people ask me for advice about it, not because I'm in any way equipped to give it, but because I like talking about it and sharing experiences.
Meditation unfortunately takes time, patience and a lot of hard work. And at the end of all that hard work, you will realise that you are an absolute beginner, a completely unskilled and untrained monkey - and you will love that you've had this realisation.
Have you had times where you didn’t prioritise making yourself feel good?
Well, my 20's are a really good example of that. In retrospect it would seem like I was actually trying to kill myself the way I treated myself spiritually and physically in my 20's. But I wanted to live my life like there was no life after 30 anyway, so I got what I deserved. When you treat your health and your mind like trash, you will feel like trash. It's so weird how you just. don't. get. it. when you're 20. When you're young you often go something like: "Well this guy/girl is going even harder than I am and he/she seems absolutely fine". I don't think I have to explain how that arrow is missing it's mark, but I will say this: it's important to understand and accept that no one is equal. It's the biggest fallacy of the modern world: we're NOT equal. We will never be and that fucking sucks, but knowing it and accepting it, will help you steer clear of a lot of hurt. Just because some people thrive on working 12 hours a day, only go and get shit-faced all weekend and eat croissants and uppers for breakfast doesn't mean you'll enjoy it too.
Do you have a Feel Good routine?
If I get in 10 minutes of meditation in the morning everything is going to be alright. Seriously. Breathwork, yoga, going for long walks in nature and all that stuff is my thing too, but it all starts in the morning with those 10 little minutes.
How would your ultimate Feel Good day look?
I would get up at 8 and meditate for 20 minutes in a dark and cold room with a view of the ocean. After that I would go for a quick swim in the ocean and stretch 10-20 minutes before breakfast. I would have some eggs and avocado for breakfast with my girlfriend and chill for an hour with a dog that I received as a Christmas present that day before. I would then go surf for 2-3 hours on a sunny day with a couple of my best friends in big, punchy waves breaking over a multicolored coral reef. I would then come back for a big lunch with everyone next to the beach. After lunch I would probably sleep a little with my dog in a hammock by the sea. In the afternoon I would go spearfish and catch a big snapper, which we would cook by the bonfire with a cold beer. At night I would start a small fire for my dog and my girlfriend and listen to some weird ayahuasca-music (it's a thing) or a radiolab podcast and watch stars. I don't see why I couldn't do that at least a couple of times this year.
Thank you Christen for letting us in on your journey to wellness. You can find Christen’s surf doc at the Danish streaming platform TV2 Play. Please share with anyone who would love this article - because the more we talk, the closer we get to a more honest, real and inclusive take on wellness.If you know anyone you think we should talk to? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org