Why Expand Your Comfort Zone & How to Begin
While we can’t help aging with each passing year, it’s up to each one of us whether we continue to grow and change. Stretching yourself to expand your comfort zone is the key to personal development and fulfillment. It’s how we stay on a path toward self-improvement.
Your comfort zone can be thought of as an artificial mental boundary you create for what feels secure and familiar. It reflects your ideas about who you are and how you think and expect things should be. Whenever you’re in uncomfortable situations that don’t match these expectations, your natural inclination is to do whatever seems necessary to return to the comfort zone.
Many people end up stuck in unsatisfying, unfulfilling situations because they feel familiar and seem somehow safer than the alternative. They stay in unhealthy relationships or miserable jobs out of fear of change, fear of the unknown. In this way, remaining within the comfort zone may not only stifle personal growth but may also lead to depression.
If, on the other hand, you are willing to move beyond the situations, people, and activities that are familiar but keeping you “stuck,” you’ll begin a path toward personal growth.
Benefits of Expanding Your Comfort Zone:
- Builds your sense of resiliency, your confidence to take on challenges
- Improves your self-esteem
- Stimulates brain activity to improve mental sharpness & prevent atrophy
- Enhances your enjoyment and fulfillment in life
- Increases self-knowledge by challenging your own potential
Beginning to expand your comfort zone does not necessarily mean making a dramatic change. You don’t have to quit your job or travel the world to push your own boundaries. This simply means taking little opportunities to stretch yourself by stepping into situations that feel uncomfortable. You can build on these experiences by pushing yourself a little bit at a time as you build your confidence. First you need to know yourself and the directions you’d like to grow.
Strategies to Start Expanding Your Comfort Zone:
- Ask a friend to join you in trying new things or at least keep you accountable with your own goals.
- Look at your existing passions and try expanding them. For example, if you love to read science fiction, try a new non-fiction book genre. If you love country music, try a different musical genre.
- Try out new activities or hobbies that you’ve never explored before. Be open minded and look for activities that are different from your everyday preferences.
- If you tend to be shy, challenge yourself with initiating conversations or reaching out to arrange a get together. If you tend to be very social with a big audience, challenge yourself to have deeper one on one conversations.
- Expand your culinary world by trying a new recipe each week or visiting restaurants outside your typical favorites.
- Change your daily routine or daily habits in small ways, like taking a walk after dinner instead of watching tv or make a hot breakfast instead of cold cereal.
- If you tend to take on more than you can juggle, try setting limits and saying no without apologies. If you tend to avoid new activities, try saying yes to something you’d typically turn down.
- Volunteer for a new organization that matches your values but pushes you into a new environment.
Most people who begin a process of expanding their comfort zone find that it becomes easier and easier to take on new challenges over time. Each step beyond the comfort zone seems to gradually stretch our ideas about who we are and what we can handle. This is how we grow and evolve.
Written by Suzanne Smith, Ph.D. for the Linden Blog. If you are interested in receiving Linden Blog updates with original articles about parenting, families, mental health, and wellness, subscribe using the field below. If you are interested in scheduling an appointment at Linden BP call 440/250-9880