Episode 10: More Than You See
8:49PM Mar 19, 2021
Hello, everyone, thank you so much for joining me for another episode of The More Than You See podcast hosted by me, actor, filmmaker mental health advocate Deborah Lee Smith. Every Monday just like this one, I come to you to share some resources, have a conversation and genuinely just dive into all sorts of topics around mental health. I am not a licensed practitioner or therapist, but just a woman exploring my own mental health journey and sharing it with you, my listeners. My hope is that this podcast will bring you some joy, some understanding, and some tools so that you can build your own mental health toolbox.
Hi, everyone. Welcome to Episode 10. So exciting, I have to say I know that 10 is not a huge accomplishment. But I am very, very proud of myself. So I'm definitely giving myself a virtual and physical little pat on my back today. If you are enjoying this, please I implore you please, rate review, Subscribe, share this with your friends, I've got a lot of really exciting things coming up. And the more people that can be touched and learn about their own mental health, from the information that I'm sharing and from the exciting things that I have planned, the better. And to everyone who already is writing to me letting me know how much this podcast means to you, thank you, it truly means a lot. And your messages just make my entire week.
Now today's topic, we're going to talk about physiology, we're going to talk about our habits, how they are tied to our mental health and how they are often learned behaviors because they're things that are tied back to our parents, or further back to other generations to our societies. There are so many different things that have created who we are. And that is what we are going to dive into today.
Now this is the third in our four part series, all about the different aspects of mental health. If you have missed the last two, two episodes ago, we talked about environment, we talked about our social and our physical environment, and how that can so strongly affect our mental health. And then last week, we talked about community and spirituality and how those two things are tied, and how much that affects our mental health. Today, we're going to talk about physiology. And then next week, we're going to talk about brain chemistry and hormones. And, you guessed it, how it affects our mental health.
Now, as I've said before, I think that it is just so important to have a true understanding of these four elements of mental health. Because I think that when we look at our mental health journeys, we often look at them in a very singular focus, we kind of think like, "Okay, I'm just gonna look at this one aspect of my mental health and not look at it as a holistic practice". And it's so so incredibly important to look at all aspects of mental health, when we are learning about ourselves and when we are trying to get help for ourselves or others.
Now in today's episode, we're going to talk about physiology. Now, what is physiology? At its most basic level, human physiology is the science of how the human body functions in both health and disease. Why does this impact mental health? The reason is that there's so many things that we do in our daily life that are related to our physiology that are related to how we act in health or disease, but they are related back to learned behaviors, things that we learned about ourselves about others when we were children, and habits that we developed because of that, and have therefore continued to control our life today.
There's a lot of different things that impact our habits that we develop when we're children. I mean, trauma, racism, learned bias from our greater community, all of those things impact our physiology, because they impact the way that we relate to the world. If we are taught racism or bias by our family or our greater community, that becomes a learned behavior. And that is something that we will carry into our adult life. And that is why it is so important to teach our children anti-racism and to be anti-racist and to be an ally, so that we aren't contributing to these learned behaviors.
Now, let's look at this on a more individual level. I'm sure there are things that you have learned about yourself that you have learned about the world, from your childhood. And again, how this relates to physiology is the way that you function in health or disease is ingrained in you. These are habits that you have created as a child and have now controlled your life as an adult. And that is really what we're going to look at and break down today.
Now in a previous episode, I dove into what habits actually are. If you haven't listened to that episode, I strongly suggest that you go check it out. If I do say so myself, it's a good one. But in that episode, I examine a study from 2006 from Duke University that says that 45% of our daily behaviors are automatic. What that means is that most of our physiology, most of the things that our body does throughout the day is automatic, it's a habit. Now, of course, the reason for this is because 25% of the oxygen that we inhale goes to our brain. So basically, 25% of our daily energy is absorbed by that greedy little brain. And so habits are created throughout your life, because your brain is trying to give itself some relief and trying to give your body a break.
The reason this can become so damaging, and so much of a problem is that because habits, and things that are ingrained in us, as children, can now control our life. And it doesn't necessarily need to be a negative experience, it could be a positive experience that can control your adult life. Let me give you an example.
So if you were learning to swim as a child, and you every time you got scared when you were in the pool, a lifeguard jumped in in order to save you. Now, of course, I'm not saying that you should have drowned. But what I am saying is the fact that when you panicked, someone saved you, that becomes a learned behavior. Similarly, if you look at yourself in the mirror today, what is your automatic thought? When you look at yourself in the mirror? Do you automatically look at your wrinkles? Look at just your physical appearance? Or do you look at yourself and go, Damn, I'm looking pretty great today, however you relate to yourself in the mirror, or however you relate to yourself when you are in periods of stress, that is tied directly to learn behavior from when you were a child, if you look at yourself in the mirror and automatically criticize yourself, do your parents do that? Is that something that you learn from them?
And again, I am not saying that all of our learned behaviors are bad. And I'm certainly not saying that our parents purposefully criticize themselves, which made you criticize yourself. All of that is probably tied back to further generations. I bet that if you look at your parents, parents, they probably did the same thing. The important thing to recognize is that is affecting you on a very, very deep level. And it's so important to identify those habits, and identify those patterns, so that we can look at the patterns that aren't serving us anymore, and figure out how to change them.
Now, if you're listening to this, and you're like, well, crap, I have so many patterns that I need to break. I understand it's okay, here's the thing. When we were babies, we learned by examining the world, examining ourselves and failing, did you know that when babies are first learning to walk, they fall 17 times and our babies are basically learning how to walk by failing and falling. And I think that it's super important for us to now look at the habits and the behaviors that are no longer serving us. And think about how we can change them.
Now, we may change them slowly and by failing 17 times an hour, but that's okay. It was okay when we were babies and it is okay now. It is okay to continue to grow and learn about ourselves.
What's important to note that sociology is also related to our biology. It's not related to our brain chemistry, like we're going to talk about next week, but it is related to our biology and to the habits that we have at a molecular and cellular level. And this can very much tie to addiction and to other learn behaviors that our parents may have exhibited. And this is why if you have a family member who struggles with addiction, you are more likely to also struggle with addiction. Because of that physiology at a cellular level. Again, it's just about how your body functions when it is in a stressful health or disease mindset. When you're in fight or flight, how you react to things is very much tied to how your parents, how your other family members also reacted to things on a very basic level. Our physiology is who we are based on our DNA, and based on the learned behaviors that we have, from our parents and other members of society.
I think it's really important to recognize that our physiology is often tied to our fear response. It is often tied to how we respond to things when we are in feelings of fight or flight, when we are in feelings of fear. When we look in the mirror, and we have an immediate reaction to things, it's because we are feeling fear. And it's because we want to control the situation. If there's an element in your life right now that you feel like is out of your control, I bet if you looked at it at its core, there would be some kind of fear, a fear of success, a fear of disappointing people, a fear of disappointing yourself. So many of those things are so deeply tied to physiology, and they're so deeply tied to, again, our parents, our learned behaviors from the people around us.
Now tying this to my own mental health, there's a lot of things in my own life that I know are tied to my own fear of intimacy and success, and also failure. Because of the work that I've done with my therapist, I can tie those things directly to instances in my life or in the lives of people who have influenced me. I mean, this is where I know that there's jokes about Freud and you know, Greek myths, and all of the things that are related to how we are influenced by our parents, etc. but this really is a thing.
I mean, for all the jokes aside, there really is true learning and value there. The more that we can understand our fears, and that we can understand why we react, the way that we write react in certain situations, the more that we can now acknowledge those fears and move past them. That's definitely something that I am working on, literally every single day, acknowledging my fears, and figuring out how I am currently reacting to them, because of those habits, because of my body just going oh, this is how you normally react in this situation. So this is how you're going to react. And now I'm learning to go, you know what, that reaction actually does not serve me, that reaction does not make me better, or does not help me succeed or does not bring me to the level that I want to get to. And so I think that it's so important to look at those learned behaviors again, and figure out those patterns, figure out where they go back to in our history and in the people that surround us and figure out how you can change them.
Now I know that this was a lot to consider and to take in, I'm basically telling you to change your response to fear, and how that relates to your body and your learned behaviors and your habits, and your biases and all that sort of stuff. It's a lot to take in. But to start, your homework for this week is take a look at those habits, take a look at your physiological response to something and write it down. Decide if that really is the best way to react in that situation. And if it's not, maybe make some tiny little changes for how you can work through that current situation.
I know I talked a couple episodes ago about toxicity and getting rid of toxicity in your life. And that's definitely something that I have been working on that is related to my own physiology. I have been conditioned to be a people pleaser. I have been conditioned to not want to rock the boat, and to always give myself more than I should. And there's a lot of reasons for that. There's a lot of physiological events that I can tie all of that back to and one of the learned behaviors that I have been working on is acknowledging when I am giving too much of myself and when I am allowing toxicity in my life and allowing myself to be disrespected or or pushed into something that makes me uncomfortable and acknowledging it and going, "you know what, I'm not going to do that anymore". And so that is for me about taking control of a situation that previously I would have been fearful and going, "that is not the fear response that I want anymore". This is now how I'm going to respond instead.
So I hope that that makes sense. Take a look at your patterns in your life. Take a look at the ways that you react to things, and figure out if there is a way around that if there's a way that serves you better. And again, be kind to yourself because as I said, I mean, this is something that I have been working on with my therapist and by myself for years. I would say at least five years, probably more, it's probably something I've been working on my entire life. So you know, give yourself grace and kindness and understanding that this is not a one stop shop. This is something that takes a long time. It takes a lifetime, and that's okay.
Okay, everyone, that is it for today's episode. Again, thank you so much for joining me. If this episode resonates with you, please be sure to share it. Maybe you could even share it with someone in your life who has impacted you and you want to discuss physiology together. I am all for it. I am all for starting conversations, starting dialogue about yourself and about mental health. I think it is so important. Please remember that you and everyone around you is more than you see. Give yourself some kindness this week as you start to look at those patterns. Thank you so much for listening. I will see you next week.