To wrap up National Wellness Month, Leah reflects on the benefits of each week's challenge with Amy Tran, a Ph.D candidate in clinical psychology. They also discuss why these small, everyday behaviors make a big impact on our mental health, and from a neurological perspective, how we can start to effectively incorporate more positive habits into our lives.
More about Amy:
Amy Tran is a Ph.D candidate in clinical psychology, artist, and author. Her first book, “This Book is a Safe Space,” releases soon. Join the waitlist to get notified when it’s available for pre-order — https://marvelous-composer-6841.ck.page/9eca508909 — and follow her on Instagram @doodledwellness
Well Balanced is co-hosted by the expert meditation coaches of Balance. Balance is a highly personalized meditation and sleep app that's been named Google's App of the Year and Apple's App of the Day. Completely free for the entire first year, Balance is helping 3 million+ people around the world improve their stress, sleep, focus, and mood. Unlock your free year of Balance today by downloading it from the App Store or Play Store: https://balanceapp.sng.link/Arat1/h3qp/icji
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Leah: Hey, I'm Leah Santa Cruz. I'm one of the meditation coaches on the Balance app, along with Ofosu Jones-Quartey. And this is our weekly show, Well Balanced. Today, we're seeing how all your rhyming turned out last week, and that was inspired by last week's guest, Josiah Frazier. And we're concluding our month of wellness challenges by discussing how to sustain any behavioral changes that may have worked for you for these past few weeks with us.
So Ofosu isn't here today. He's on a meditation retreat in Vermont, lucky him, but we have a really awesome guest. Amy Tran, you might know her from her account Doodled Wellness on social media, where she makes anxiety and mindfulness and self love really accessible through doodles and graphics. She's also a PhD candidate in clinical psychology.
She's a smart cookie. And she's been doing these challenges along with us all month. Hi Amy, how are you?
Amy: Great! Thank you. Thank you for having me on the show and hello everyone.
Leah: So before we zoom out to talk about the challenges last week we had on Josiah Frazier, he's also known as ‘Guy with the hair’ on social media. He gave us our last wellness challenge for national wellness month. He challenged us to rhyme about mental health and wellbeing to the tune of the song that he uses in his videos. And we got a ton of awesome recordings from our listeners. So I'm just gonna play a montage of a bunch of those, and then we can chat about it.
Amy: Sounds good.
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I am smart and cool and a really awesome guy. Always fun to be around. Cuz I am super fly.
Some people like to meditate. It's how I do self care, but me, I like to run a lot the Zen, it takes me there. I see lots of perspectives makes it hard to decide, but when I breathe and trust myself, I know that I can.
Feel a lot of pressure to be perfect every day, but you're more than enough, remember, it's okay to fail.
How bad do I look is a phrase I'm known to say when what I should be saying is I look great today.
I took some string and thought some bees was mindful of my needs. Making mala with no drama is my new hobby.
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Amy: I love these. They're so good.
Leah: Right? People are so creative. I was like, yep. I like that one. I like that one. So I wanna know. Well, what do you think as a, you know, is happening on a psychological level? When we, we take words like this. Maybe about things that are hard to talk about or a little taboo, and then we put 'em into a rhyme or a song.
Amy: I mean, I have so many thoughts about it. I would say that when we are just left with our thoughts, they kind of swirl around. They can get messy. Overwhelming. I think when we are tasked with something like making a rhyme, making a song, being creative. We have to actually carefully select the words we're using.
So then there's a lot more intention that goes to the process. I think that when we speak aloud and channel our creativity, we actually pull on the part of a brain called the prefrontal cortex. And that part of the brain is less quote unquote emotional. So in some ways it can actually be a very helpful and therapeutic way for people to process their emotions.
So instead of thinking you know, oh my God, why do I look so bad and swirling in that kind of distress, we are able to channel a different part of our brain and that part of the brain is less emotional. And it's an opportunity for us to process what we're feeling and what we're going through without having so much emotional, you know, intensity fueling it, which I think is really cool.
Leah: Yeah. I mean, that's kind of like what we practice in mindfulness. So we're in meditation, you know, we, we just learn how to engage with what it is that's going on without being so in it that we can get that outside perspective enough to go, oh, maybe like maybe there, there is something outside of this.
Amy: Right. Yeah. Yeah, for sure.
Leah: So I know that you did those challenges along with us and our listeners. So yeah, for those who might not be aware, um, thinking back on our four challenges from August, we had listening to music. Your favorite piece of music and doing nothing else, just listening to it. And then the second challenge was what would you do if you had $300,000, what would you do with that money?
And then the third challenge was not having your phone near you for the first hour of the day. And then the last challenge was making a rhyme to help with your self love or your wellnessl. And I was curious to ask you, Amy, let's say one of these tasks made me feel really good. Where do I go from here? Like how, how can I keep this going?
Amy: You know what, this is gonna be so funny. I'm gonna sound like a grade five teacher be like, put it, write it down and put it in your agenda or schedule it in . And I, I actually mean that because I find that when we just say, oh, I'm gonna do it, what ends up happening for many of the people I work with. And even for me, is that when the time comes, I actually put more weight into my mood.
I will let my mood drive what I decide to do. And usually my mood is like, eh, I don't wanna do that. So I love this quote. It's like, follow your plan, not your mood. And what I have found is when I do commit to the thing, I write down, put it in my agenda, put it on a sticky note or whatever, and I do it once I've done it I'll actually feel pretty good.
So it's almost like a way for me to change my mood as well. So follow the plan, not the mood. So I would say to people listening is just to put it into your schedule and not just do this today. Like actually pick a time, you know, like really commit to it.
Leah: I like that. I like planning it, you know? So as a meditation coach teacher, I, I find myself in this interesting intersection between, you know, the, the more mental health field and more psychology approach.
And then also I have a foot in like the so-called, you know, conscious or spiritual communities. I live in Bali. I see a lot of people for example, coming to Bali, they were like, I've got one week, man. I'm gonna do all the things and I'm gonna go back home, but I'm gonna be a different person. I'll be transformed.
I think there's so many people seeking these peak experiences to like be the flip, the switch and be the game changer. And of course we've heard stories about it happening, but I feel like what's not being talked about so much is like the everyday, maybe a little bit more boring personal development work that actually moves the needle more in the long term.
And I was curious to ask you about that. If we want to switch our mental health in the long run, in a more positive direction versus, you know, finding like little quick fixes - i'm like, oh, this little thing's gonna change everything. Like how can we look at it from a bigger perspective of like, what are the core areas that we should really be focusing on?
Amy: Yeah. Yeah. You know, if we think about it from a neurological perspective, we think about the brain as all of these pathways, some different connections in the brain. So there's a saying, it's what fires together, wires together. Right? So if you have repeated experiences together, that's how your brain is going to wire.
So these are your thoughts, different emotions, um, habits. Like if I'm stressed, what do I tend to do first? Right. Uh, do I stress eat? Do I try to grab like a glass of wine or whatever it is? So over time, those connections, they fire together, they wire together and get really, really strong. So if we follow that logic, then we would also assume that in order to unlearn those things, to tease those connections apart or weaken those connections also take time.
So I think, you know, these retreats and all of these things, they're amazing because you have a guide, you have someone that has a lot of experience. And I think one of the key things is that they're gonna help you see things in a different way or give you new perspectives or see like a corner in your mind that you can identify. And that's really, really important, but in order to have lasting change and to grow from that change, from that moment, it's repeated habits and repeated exercises that we have to do on our own so that the brain has more and more opportunities to unlearn what doesn't serve us anymore. And then we can consciously create a newer version of ourselves.
Leah: Hmm. I like that. It's not just learning something new. It's sort of, um, continuing it like over and over again, going towards that. Yeah. Yeah. New pathway, that new behavior so that the old one, uh, becomes less autopilot. [Amy: Exactly.] Yeah. So how can we identify, like what behaviors might have to change?
Amy: I was actually thinking about this the other day and I was thinking these are the core things that I would tell myself and the people I work with. One - does it cause more harm in the long term? So there's a lot of things people do to cope that bring temporary relief, but perhaps it's harmful for their health or their relationships. Um, procrastination is a good example, you know, oh, I'm anxious about this so like to cope, I'm just gonna procrastinate. Well, the task is, it needs to be done later on. Um, so thinking about long-term consequences, and then I also think that it's important for us to figure out whether or not what we're doing aligns with our values and our authentic self, and also our boundaries.
Leah: It makes me think about like somebody going on a retreat or, um, doing something like a cool challenge, but then not changing anything else about their life and like still eating the same diet, still hanging out with friends that are, you know, toxic or not having supportive people around them. And not making these kind of core foundational changes in their life. And, you know, and wondering like why isn't this thing working.
Amy: Yeah. And I actually love that you brought that up because I think that we don't talk about how diet can influence our mental health and our overall health and how the people we’re around can influence that and our movement and our lifestyle really so I think it's important not to pick one thing and focus on it, like you said, and then be frustrated about why it's not really like playing out the way you thought it was. Cause we're more complex than that. We gotta look at it more holistically.
Leah: So I love that you brought that up. So I'm curious, um, do you have something that you are working on or wanna change? Like what's worked for you as far as, um, adopting new behaviors in your own life?
Amy: Yeah. I mean, I am a recovering perfectionist. So one of the things that I've noticed, uh, is that I am obsessed with work and I work because I do, I do it to cope, essentially. I feel like I'm not good enough. I feel like I'm, I'm not valid or worthy. So then I work. But then when I'm working my nervous system, like, I'm just so anxious the whole time. And before I'd be like, no, I have to keep going. Like, this is how I'm gonna make myself feel better.
And I think within the last three years, the thing that I have done is really to notice that to listen to my body. It'd be so bad that I would not go to the bathroom, even though I wanted to go to the bathroom and be thirsty. I wouldn't have a drink of water. I just kept going. So for me, it was just being more aware of what my body was telling me.
And mindfulness actually really helped with this. And I love that I'm actually even speaking to you because I used the app. It was one of the first meditation apps I used. And that's how I started to learn in the morning and when I was feeling stressed. So I think practicing mindfulness and meditation helped me learn to be the observer.
So when I was in a state of like, oh my God, I gotta do more. I gotta do more. I'd be like, okay, wait. What is my body actually trying to tell me? Okay, five minutes of stretching is not going to kill me. Let's just get outta my chair, go on the mat and come back. And every single time I do that, it gets better.
And it just reminds myself how important it is. So that's what I'm working on is just really being aware of my body and knowing when I need to kind of give myself a time out and not drive myself into chaos and distress.
Leah: I like your example. I relate to it so much. I have had periods of my life when I've been totally in that perfectionist mode workaholic, or maybe you'd even go so far as saying like this obsessive compulsive drive.
But I also think it's like, to me it feels like the opposite of, uh, the procrastinator, right? You're like doing so much all the time that you can't take care of yourself. And so both of those have long-term consequences, like back to what you said about like, what is going to have long-term consequences for you and looking at that question to change the behavior.
This has been really great food for thought. I loved hearing your story. I love, um, hearing your thoughts as somebody who has studied psychology. This can help us get a deeper dive into who we are and why, why we do what we do, why we're motivated to do what we do. [Amy:That's my pleasure. Thank you.] Yeah. And I wanna say thank you to everyone who participated in the challenges this past month.
If you participated, it was really, really fun to hear from you all. In doing these with us, and I hope the challenges helped you. Like they helped Ofosu and I, and Amy.
Alright, if you wanna learn more about Amy Trans work, you can follow her on social media at Doodled Wellness, and we've got a link to learn more about her upcoming book titled, ‘This Book is a Safe Space' in the show notes. And if you wanna stay up to date with our show, you can listen and follow wherever you get your podcast. We're literally everywhere. We're on Apple, Spotify, Amazon music, and so many more. And I'll be back next week with Ofosu and until then have a beautiful week.
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