3 Ways to Expand Your Comfort Zone in the New Year
New Year’s resolutions often focus around the things we need to give up. Cutting out food groups, ditching alcohol, and spending less are consistently at the top of promises we make to ourselves on January 1.
Honestly, it feels restricting, which is one of the reasons so many ditch their resolutions within a couple of weeks.
Growth and curiosity have always been more valuable in pursuit of reaching my goals. So this year, I am focusing on addition instead of subtraction.
It’s not an all or nothing approach.
Respecting time in our comfort zone and the sense of stability that gives us allows us time and space to grow with intention. Keeping a balance between our comfort zones, challenge, and play helps us tap into our potential without burning out.
Here are three ways to tap into your growth mindset and expand the limits of your comfort zone in 2022.
When did we start taking ourselves so seriously all the time? Letting our guard down to explore our silly side seems, well, silly when we’re so busy. It's sad that play doesn't get the respect it deserves — it's the root of creativity!
Allowing for more unscheduled time to be creative, to daydream, reflect, and decompress isn’t about bucking responsibilities. It’s about creating space to embrace what makes life joyful and not forgetting about the things that make us genuinely laugh. For example, a card game with our family or shooting baskets without keeping score.
Playing with your significant other, friends, co-workers, pets, and children fuels imagination, creativity, problem-solving abilities, and emotional well-being. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
Play can boost your energy and vitality and even improve your resistance to disease, helping you function at your best, according to the experts at HelpGuide.org.
2. Try Something New - Just For You
When’s the last time you gave something a try just because you wanted to attempt something new? Overscheduling, fear or failure, or unwillingness to break with routine often keep us stuck.
Trying new things boosts confidence, brain health, and creativity. The very act of learning a new skill — be it woodworking, piano, or beekeeping — is a positive way to stretch beyond our comfort zones.
The inspiration to try something new can come from almost anywhere.
Abrasive political rhetoric recently inspired me to sign up for an American Sign Language class.
I was hearing slogans, name-calling, shouting, and berating. There was also a growing sense of not having the freedom to disagree with ideas and policies with respectful dialogue.
That’s when in popped the curious thought about sign language. I simply looked it up on YouTube. I learned, “How are you?” and “Nice to meet you.” It felt strangely comforting and serene, which empowered me to take a real interest in learning this new language by signing up for classes.
We never know at the beginning how listening to those inner calls to try something new will affect our lives. Learning something unfamiliar allows us to connect with our world in novel ways we may have never considered before. For example, I am now also learning more about the deaf and hard of hearing community and the challenges they face.
It’s like rediscovering child-like wonder at the world around you. The more time you take to discover new interests, the more you’ll find passion in the everyday.
An added bonus is the feeling that time has slowed down while you’re trying something new — who couldn’t benefit from that in our go,go,go world?
When you experience something novel, it seems to have lasted longer, according to neuroscientist David Eagleman, Ph.D., who has extensively studied the effects of our brain's perception of time, as reported by NY Mag.
3. Get Moving
If you are starting to feel like you could do more but feel a bit stagnant, switching up your fitness routine could help. Moving your body for as little as 10 minutes each day can help you expand your comfort zones in all aspects of your life.
According to Harvard, exercise not only helps you live longer — it helps you live better. But I am sure you didn’t need a formal research study to tell you that!
In addition to making your heart and muscles stronger and fending off a host of diseases, exercise can also improve mental and emotional functioning and even bolster your productivity and close relationships. All things that set us up for success.
Getting in the habit of exploring play, new activities, and movement can be difficult to form at first. But, understanding that an all or nothing approach tends to be the biggest hurdle to growth is a good reminder to keep going. In fact, learning a little about neuroscience has helped me to appreciate that these more challenging moments are where I can experience the most growth.
It is here that I know I must breathe slowly and calmly and move through the process of discomfort without any sign of reward on the immediate horizon. Instead of growing frustrated at a lack of coordination in comparison to my comfort zone, I have begun to feel excitement that I am creating new and awesome pathways in my brain while I learn new things.
What new things do you hope to try this year to expand your comfort zone?