In my Deliberate Joyful Activities post, I wrote about the necessity of deliberately putting joyful activities on our to-do lists. These are things we know ahead of time are enjoyable and fun for us. But if we just keep doing what we always do, eventually we will feel like our lives have leveled off or gotten in a rut. So it is important to also do things outside of our comfort zones.
Getting out of our comfort zones can increase joy. Maybe not during the activity because we are in unfamiliar territory and have fear of the unknown. But, afterwards we find that getting out of our routines and limited experiences can be stimulating. It expands our horizons which creates personal growth. And when we grow, we are joyful. It is known that cells in our bodies continually change. If they do not change, the body would die. The same is true for us mentally and emotionally. If we stagnate too long, we die mentally and emotionally, as well. We must change and grow to thrive.
Also, facing and conquering what is unfamiliar to us or what we are fearful of, makes us feel empowered. We learn, first-handedly, that we no longer have to shrivel when confronted with a fear or unfamiliar circumstance. In not becoming immobile from the fear, we then feel limitless. Fear cannot hold us back from anything.
Challenges, out of comfort zone experiences, and facing fears – after we do these types of things then the next one seems easier. It’s like exercising – when we work out and do, say, arm curls with 10 pound weights, then the 5 pound weights seem easier. Or when we run fast one day, the next time we do a slow jog or walk it seems so easy. The same would be true for yoga – the more we practice yoga, the easier it is and better we are at the same pose the next time. Conditioning ourselves works for mental/emotional aspects just as it does for our physical bodies.
Recently when I was doing a bunch of out-of-my-comfort-zone things consecutively, I was overcome with anxiety. But then I remembered, when I am out of my comfort zone, I am going to feel, at the very least, uncomfortable…it’s the very meaning of the phrase! Just because I feel uncomfortable or anxious, does not mean I should stop reaching for my true self and growing. Michael A. Singer writes in, The Untethered Soul, “Going beyond always means letting go of the effort to keep things within your defined limits…..You used to pull back when it got uncomfortable. Now you relax and go past that point.” I agree with this and I also keep in mind that before I can relax and go past my comfort zone, I must have my foundation of self-worth. (Click here for a refresher on increasing self-worth.)
We also can use this idea for situations that we don’t necessarily choose that get us out of our comfort zones. Like when something new and we don’t like comes at us, like our job description unexpectedly changes, or we have an unplanned move due to a spouse’s job, or an unforeseen relationship breakup. The term “growing pains” isn’t just about physical growth. It applies to mental, emotional, spiritual growth too. It sometimes hurts to grow and there’s no way around it. But, knowing we will grow and will get something out of it, while the change is happening, may not make it feel any less uncomfortable or scary, but it surely will help us deal with it better. It will give us hope and make us aware there is a light at the end of the tunnel. This may be all we need to make it through the unfamiliar patch.
What are you going to deliberately do out of your comfort zone today?