Jamzone aims to make world more vital, creative and smart
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Jamzone aims to make world more vital, creative and smart

His own career illustrates that psychological expertise is a valuable food source for successful entrepreneurship. Bernard Maarsingh runs an extensive psychology practice with his wife Irma van Steijn and recently founded JamZone, the innovation lab for e-mental health. In the inspiring environment of Flo & Gro - the House that Plays with Your Brain - he lets the world playfully discover how we can become more vital, creative and smart.

The vast majority of mentally healthy people are only introduced to psychological expertise when their lives get stuck at home or at work. That, according to Maarsingh, is a missed opportunity. 'Especially when you consider that due to the increasing complexity and (work) pressure in our society, a growing number of people perform less well or even drop out because of burnout and other stress-related complaints. Organizations increasingly ask us how we can ensure that employees who are on the edge do not drop out. Of course we are happy to help, although it would be smarter if organizations took a more positive approach: not intervening only when problems arise, but teaching teams how to handle stress well and thus achieve better performance.

Playing with possibilities

'We can get so much more out of ourselves and each other,' says Maarsingh, who, in addition to being a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, is also a man of ideas and initiatives. His practice - with branches in Leeuwarden and Groningen - now employs nearly thirty professionals, who work with their clients' potential from different areas of expertise. 'The wealth of psychological knowledge we have in house offers a world of possibilities,' says the inspired entrepreneur. 'Especially in combination with brain science and technology. We can play much more with our possibilities as human beings. Changing behavior seems difficult, but goes more effortlessly if we change the stimuli in our environment.'

'A good example are the so-called magic tables used within elder care. Demented people who stare ahead spontaneously come into action through the stimuli of interactive projections on the table. The brain reacts naturally, and this is true in a lot of situations in our daily lives. That's why it's so difficult to break bad habits,' Maarsingh explains. 'We know why and how to do things differently, but we don't do it because another, more primitive part of our brain continues to respond the same way in everyday situations. The good news is that we can also steer the brain in a positive way, like with those magic tables. Through appropriate stimuli, we can influence and train our behavior to become more vital, creative and even smarter.'

Jamzone aims to make world more vital, creative and smart

Interactive innovation lab

About 12 percent of people already have this vitality naturally. We all know them, the people who are always full of ideas, working hard and yet remain relaxed and healthy. 'But the majority of people could use a push,' the psychologist knows. So he first brainstormed wallpaper that could influence behavior in the spaces we live and work in, but gradually ended up with virtual reality (VR), serious gaming and interactive lamps and tables. 'The available technology accelerated our ideas. That was reason to set up a separate lab for R&D in the field of e-mental health. With JamZone, we focus - together with partners and investors - entirely on innovation.'

To let interested parties experience the possibilities for themselves, JamZone opened Flo & Gro in Leeuwarden: the House that Plays with your Brain. 'From companies and health insurers to schools and individuals, everyone here can experience firsthand how to stimulate and train the brain. For example through the VR game Stressjam that we developed ourselves, but also through tools from partners, such as a virtual height experience from the GGZ. With LoveJam we stimulate the connection between people and for teams there will soon also be an escaperoom. Meanwhile, the interactive lamps and (consultation) tables that we came up with are being further refined, partly thanks to feedback from visitors in the House that Plays with your Brain.

More impact and effect

The playful element makes it more attractive to work with behavior, although Maarsingh notes that the impact is sometimes underestimated as a result. 'People are surprised that it's not just a game. The value of these techniques is that they act on deeper parts of our brain, so the effect is greater. That works for learning to deal with stress and for unlearning or learning habits, but also for strengthening your talents. That is why speed skating coach Jillert Anema also has his top athletes work with these techniques. By the way, they know better than anyone else that good stress management is essential to achieve performance.'

'Learning to consciously play with that stress is like learning to ski. If you go down the black slope without practice, there's a good chance you'll make a mess. So as pressure increases in business, it's important to train people in that so that complaints and dropouts are limited. That's why we think it's so important to introduce the world to the possibilities. The funny thing is that our brains and behavior are already being purposefully stimulated on a daily basis, just look at the famous pee fly in public men's toilets, as well as social media and the layout of supermarkets. Unfortunately, these kinds of commercial brain temptations rarely help us further, while we apply these techniques to contribute to vitality in our society.