Episode 5: More Than You See
8:43PM Mar 23, 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 generally just dive into all 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 brings you some joy, some understanding, and some tools so that you can build your own mental health toolbox.
Thanks again, everyone for joining me for episode five of the podcast. I'm so excited to have you guys here today. Just a little preview, today we're going to talk about habits. And I'm really excited to dive into this because we're going to talk about the brain and how the brain develops habits and why habits are so difficult to break. And yet, the things that we can do in order to make some new habits and how that all relates to mental health. So stay tuned.
In the meantime, I'm starting a new segment of the podcast and I am really excited to debut it with you today. What this segment of podcast is going to be is little stories, tips, resources from you, the listener, whether you are listening to this on all podcasting platforms, or whether you're watching this on YouTube or on igtv, I would love to hear what you do in order to get through some difficult times how you're feeling right now. If you have a question for me, if you have a specific topic that you want me to discuss, I would just love to hear from you.
And so this is how we're going to do this in the show notes, you will see a link that says anchor.fm/morethanyousee, if you go there that's anchor it's the platform that I use to host the podcast. And if you go there, you can actually click on the page, and there's a little button that says record a voice message. So if you record that voice message, it goes directly to me. And then I can actually take that voice message and play it on the air. If you do not want your voice on the air totally, totally fine. You're welcome to just send it to me in a message and I can read it for you. This can be completely anonymous, I would just love to open this platform up to you because again, as I said in the first episode, this podcast is built for you guys Of course, I'm exploring my own mental health journey, but my hope, and my desire is that you continue to explore your own mental health journey as well.
I also want to say the next four episodes I'm really excited about because we are going to be diving into four different aspects of mental health. These are the aspects that I talked about in the first episode. And those are: your environment and like, who you surround yourself with, what you surround yourself with - your sociology, how you speak to yourself - your brain chemistry, and your spirituality. And so we're, I'm really gonna dive into each of those elements on episodes coming up and talk about: number one, why they affect us so much, and number two, what the heck we can do about it. So I'm really excited to be bringing those episodes to you. And again, if you have something you want to contribute, please leave me a message. Okay. Now let's actually dive into the episode, shall we?
So a couple episodes ago, we talked about building a morning menu, instead of building a morning routine, which can seem overwhelming and seem like a mammoth effort for some. Instead, in this episode, I talk about how you can write down - you know, 20 things that make you happy in the day or that are things that help you feel inspired and creative. And just choose some of those things in order to build a morning routine that works for you. That may not be as structured as you hear on other podcasts or, you know, in entrepreneurial blogs. Something I didn't actually go into in that episode, which I find ironic is the fact that since I created that morning menu for myself, I have actually created a very strong morning routine as a result of that morning menu. So I actually have a very strict morning routine that I love. And, and though that has now become a habit. And so that's why I wanted to talk some more about habits today because I think the more that we understand our brains, the more that we understand why we feel the way that we feel and how that relates to our mental health and what we can do in order to constantly improve our mental health in you know, so many different ways.
So a study from Duke University in 2006 discovered that 45% of our daily behaviors are automatic. Think about that. Half of our day is doing something automatic. Now, of course, part of that is sleeping, because that is automatic, we don't have to consciously think about sleeping. But even you know, driving, even cooking dinner, walking your dog, just walking, there's so many different things that we do throughout our day that we don't even realize are actually habits, these are things that our body is doing without our conscious thought. And that's basically a habit. Now, one of the reasons why these habits exist is that they save brain energy, even though our brain only takes up 2% of our body mass, it actually consumes 25% of oxygen in our body. So our brain is obviously like a very, very hungry little muscle up there, or organ, I should say. So our brain, you know, takes a lot of energy throughout our day. And it takes a lot for our brain to function. But the other thing is that our brains are built to learn new habits quickly, because they really do want to, again, conserve energy.
There was another study that was done with rats in which they had, you know, rats that were put inside a maze, and there was chocolate at the end of the maze, and the rats would have to go through the maze in order to find the chocolate. And the first week, it took a lot of brain energy in order to press this spring that would open this door, go down a corner go under a thing, like there was a whole maze. The second week, the brain activity of the rats was cut in half. And that's because the rats, by week two already knew exactly how to get to the chocolate because they had already done it so many times and it then become habitual. And that's what our brains are doing as well, because they just want us to conserve energy.
And to like get to the point, I also think it's super fascinating, the fact that where our brain actually creates habits is actually buried very, very deep inside of our brain and deeper into our brain - or part of the brain - is the more that it was part of our brain in like caveman times. So as our brains got bigger and bigger, it's sort of like built on itself, just like an onion or a, you know, tree trunk. And so anything that's close, closer to the center of the brain actually, is more from a very, very long time ago. And again, why this is also important is just a reminder of the fact that we as humans have always had habits. We've had habits in order to function as humans throughout our daily lives. And I think that sometimes we think about habits as like, the new thing that we have to do in order to I don't know, survive or thrive in the world. But again, let's just remember that our habits, just like so many other aspects of our mental health are something that was built in us from the beginning, like this is just how we were built as people. And I think that's a very, you know, important thing to remember.
Okay, so how does this actually relate to mental health, let's get into that. You know, as I said, obviously, our habits are aspects of our of our lives that has become ingrained in us that we do every day. In order to conserve energy, our brain just like kicks us into gear and goes, you're gonna do this every single day. Because I don't want to have to, you know, process anything more. And this is where having some positive habits and having some negative habits can really impact our mental health.
So for example, back in the days when we could actually go outside and you know, go to work, and then you came home, and then you immediately grabbed a bag of chips, and you sat on the couch and watch TV for the rest of the night. That is maybe not the best habit. Now let's break down why the reason that's not the best habit is because you are a putting not great food into your body and your body does need genuine fuel. Also, you are doing something that's maybe like not that social, or doing something that is you know, switching your brain off, but maybe doesn't make you feel very good. And I think that's where we often like get into these habits. Like I love eating chips and sitting on the couch and watching TV, just like the next person, but if I did that every single day, concurrently, for weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks, it probably would not make me feel very good. And again, the reason for that is that your brain every day goes okay, I'm gonna go home and this is what I'm gonna do again and again and again. So instead if we built you know, positive habits such as: we come home, we drink a glass of water, we go for a walk around the block, we built a habit like that, that would obviously have a more, you know, positive impact on our mental health because we are you know, getting outside. We were making sure to hydrate ourselves, like all of the things that relate to feeling good in our bodies.
I think like, we know on some level that there are things that we should do that like make us feel good. And then there are things that we do that maybe don't make us feel good at all, like, we know that. But when we are in periods of depression or periods where we aren't necessarily feeling our best, the important thing to remember is that if we are continuing to do those habits, even in those times of depression and darkness, that it will continue to perpetuate that feeling. And I'm speaking from experience. And the first episode, I really dive into, like, why I created more than you see, and my own experience with depression. And when I was at my lowest, the thing that helped me get out of that space was going for a walk with my dog every day, it was not something I wanted to do. It was just something that I built for myself as a habit. And I said, this is just something I'm going to do. I don't necessarily want to get out of bed. This isn't necessarily how I want to spend my day. But I'm just going to do it because I knew that as I started to build that habit, it was going to become part of my day and wouldn't take you know, as much energy and then eventually started to feel better.
There's a lot of other aspects of that this is a very, you know, tricky subject matter in that I don't want anyone to ever think that I am saying that we should not wallow, we should not like feel our feelings, we should not stay in bed for feeling depressed. Like if that's if that's the space that you're in right now, I fully support you, that is just where we are sometimes. But I think the important thing, again, to remember is to be cognizant of what we're doing and maybe how that's making us feel. And then maybe building some more positive habits based around that. I hope that that makes sense. Because this is coming from a place of immense care and love for you all.
I also want to say that habits are difficult to create. And there's a lot of books out there about how to create habits, I'm not necessarily going to recommend one. I know that there's Atomic Habits by James Clear I believe, there's like the Power of Habit. Like there's a lot of different books out there about habits, I definitely can put some resources on More Than You See around around that, but I think the important thing is to remember again, that habit start small. And another thing that's really important is to replace one habit with another habit. And by doing the replacing of one habit with the other, that is very helpful because it really just allows your brain to go...Okay, so we're switching from energy on this to switching energy on this. And it really, really likes that.
I also want to wrap up on this note, the other day, I was trying to build some habits in my day. And it was making me more exhausted by building these habits than just like continuing on with my old habits. Even if my old habits were not necessarily the best thing long term, a very good friend reminded me that our brains are built so that anything 10% different from what we're currently doing, our brain sort of like sounds an alarm and goes like ding ding ding "this is super different, are you sure you want to do this"? And that's why making small little habits and like, small little changes to your life is so important and will last a lot longer. And it's a lot easier to build habits that are very, very tiny, tiny, tiny built on top of each other. And again, that's because your brain is not sounding the alarm going "holy shit, she's trying to like, change your whole life". It's just like, "okay, we're just making small little micro changes" which will not add you know, like extra energy and extra, you know, pressure on our brain. That's really what I want to leave with you, is the importance of being kind to yourself.
If you are building a new routine right now, if you are building new habits, if you are trying to do something in order to pull yourself out of a darkness or work on improving yourself or examining yourself in some way, just be kind to yourself and and treat yourself with grace because it's so important.
I'm going to leave you with a homework assignment today. This was recommended by another brilliant friend. I have so many brilliant friends around me I'm so, I feel so very lucky. This friend wrote this on her Instagram the other day, and I absolutely loved it. And what she said was to write down every night three things throughout her day that made her happy, and three things throughout her day that were maybe not so great that made her unhappy that made her anxious that made her angry, three things that were had a positive impact on her life and three things that had a not so positive impact on her day and just track that for a week. And you will start to see the things that show up on your positive list and the things that show up on your negative list and you'll start to then build habits out of the things that make you happy and maybe let go of some of the habits that are not serving you. And that's something that I think is just so important. Like, there's so - our brains again are like so complex and so incredible and so amazing. And I think that there's some real benefit in studying ourselves, you know, tracking your feelings, write down these three, these positives and these three negatives and then see what you determine from that. I think that there's a real real value in getting to know ourselves better in that way.
So again, thank you so much for joining me for another episode of More Than You See. Please send me a voice message if you want to contribute to a upcoming episode. Please rate and review and share this podcast. The more that you share, the more that other people can find this podcast. I just so love being able to share the importance of mental health as much as possible with you all. Be kind to yourself, whether you are building new habits, maintaining habits, be kind to yourself, let's practice self love. And this is your reminder that we are all more than you see. Thank you so much. I will see you next week.