“Comfort zone” refers to habits or situations that a person commonly falls back on as an alternative to trying something new. People often remain in their comfort zone as a means of avoiding anxiety related to engaging with something unfamiliar or difficult. A well-established friend group could be an example of a comfort zone, especially if you find it intimidating to try and pursue friendly relationships outside of that group.
Another typical example of a comfort zone is your go-to fashion choices. For example, someone who is used to wearing understated clothing may feel uncomfortable or out of place trying on something a bit more adventurous.
A comfort zone is not inherently a bad thing. Everyone has a comfort zone in some way or another, and it can be used as a valuable tool for stress relief. However, if you are too reliant on your comfort zones, they can become detrimental to your day-to-day function or long-term goals. As such, it is important to be aware of achievable ways that you can challenge and leave your comfort zones.
Reasons for Leaving Your Comfort Zone
To repeat ourselves, having a comfort zone isn’t an inherently negative thing. That being said, there are many benefits related to getting the hell out of there every once in a while. Here are a few reasons for leaving your comfort zone:
- Avoiding boredom: If you constantly stay in your comfort zone, it can be easy to feel under-stimulated from the lack of diversity and novelty.
- Maintaining mental acuity: Ongoing under-stimulation can begin to negatively affect your cognitive performance in many ways. In short, boredom is bad.
- Increasing confidence: Over-attachment to your comfort zone can make you feel that you are unable to leave it, and feel out of your depth when you do.
- Overcoming fears: In many cases, attachment to your comfort zones can be the result of underlying fears. By challenging your comfort zones, you can also challenge your fears.
- Reducing anxiety: Gradual introduction to stressful situations (i.e. those outside your comfort zone) can help reduce anxiety related to the situation over time. Even small changes in your fashion choices could positively impact your mental health over time.
- Finding new communities: Leaving your comfort zone can offer unique opportunities to find and engage with new people, take up new hobbies, and build a stronger social circle.
- Testing new waters: Leaving your comfort zone doesn’t need to be about trying something that you are sure you will enjoy. It can also be about trying something that you are unsure about to see if you will enjoy it.
- Discovering new interests: By leaving your comfort zone, you can set out to try new activities.
- Developing new skills: By leaving your comfort zone, you may find new opportunities to discover and develop helpful new skills and gain knowledge of new subjects.
- Increasing empathy: By engaging with new communities or learning more about other hobbies and lifestyles, you may develop empathy toward others that you previously had little connection to.
How To Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
The best way to challenge or leave your comfort zone will depend on you, as your personality and the specifics of your comfort zone will heavily impact what methods work best for you. However, the following options are a great place to start for many people.
- Start small: If you are too ambitious right out the gate, you may find the change more stressful than it needs to be. For example, while your ultimate goal may be to lose 30lbs, it could be a good idea to start with some simple home workouts and build gradually.
- Disrupt your routine: Often, a good place to start is by gradually challenging your habits. For example, you could slightly switch around different parts of your schedule, or make small, positive additions to day-to-day activities such as personal grooming. This can help you adjust to the idea of changes.
- Set achievable goals: You’ll be more likely to succeed if you set achievable, concrete goals to work towards. For example, you may set a goal to attend at least one event that you are interested in once per year.
- Get the support of friends: Friends can not only be a great source of moral support, but may also help by trying out some changes with you. For example, if you are nervous about attending an event, ask your friends to join you.
- Find a community: A community that centres around or is supportive of the type of change you want to make can provide a lot of useful advice and support.
- Advocate for yourself: You can’t sustain yourself on external moral support alone. Positive self-talk and a willingness to stand up for yourself and be supportive of your own needs is important too.
- Think about why you want to make this change: If you understand why you want to make this change, you may get further insight as to how to make it.
- View it as a learning opportunity: If you expect to nail something the first time you try it, you might add undue stress to the process. You are far more likely to succeed if you view the change as an opportunity to learn and grow as you go. It’s more enjoyable too.
- Address underlying stressors: Often, an unhealthy reliance on your comfort zones has to do with underlying stress. By getting to the heart of the issue, you may be more likely to succeed in your efforts to break out of your comfort zone. It is also important to identify other underlying issues such as addictions, which may further contribute to a complacent or sedentary lifestyle.
- Consider finding additional support: In some cases, additional support such as a counsellor can help you work through why you are reliant on your comfort zone and how to challenge it in achievable ways.
It is also important to keep in mind that breaking out of your comfort zone usually isn’t a quick and easy process. It might take a few attempts, along with some mental fortitude to push through the discomfort.