Just outside your comfort zone
When was the last time you tried something new?
Not just a new dish at your favorite restaurant or a new radio station on the drive to work, but something completely new.
Throughout life, most people end up in ruts – I know I have.
I take the same route to and from the office every day, I choose from the same handful of restaurant options for lunch (or pack the same three planned lunches), I listen to the same playlist or radio station; I follow the same routine while getting ready for work and again as soon as I'm home.
However, psychologists have noted that people who engage in a variety of experiences, new and old, are more likely to retain positive emotions and minimize negative ones, more so than people who have fewer and less varied experiences.
It has also been discovered that when people try new things, their brains become just a tad bit sharper and more in-tune to mental creativity and processing breakthroughs.
For children, most experiences are new experiences; the trip to a lake (which may be same-old for adults), is exciting and new for children, or the visit to a new park or a new museum are all new experiences that help children learn and develop new interests.
The same goes for adults.
Through undertaking new adventures (even if it's just a different coffee shop than your normal), you are giving yourself new experiences that could help stretch the spaces of your brain and body's “comfort zone.”
You may also get to know yourself better.
How often have you used the excuse of, “I'm just not athletic,” or “I don't like [insert type of food],” or “I'm not an art enthusiast” in order to not go and try out that new ethnic restaurant, get involved with a community sports team or visit that new art gallery show?
By trying something new and venturing outside the box of your normal routine and behavior, you might find that you can appreciate art, you do enjoy sports (even if it's just as the score-keeper), or you actually like Indian lamb jalfrezi cooked with fresh cilantro.
With summertime quickly approaching, there are plenty of opportunities for breaking your daily schedule or weekend mold and finding a new and inspiring way to spend your daylight hours.
Hit the lake for some water skiing or the beach for a snorkeling session. Try an airboat ride on a local river or even just set the sprinkler up in the backyard and play with the grandchildren.
Hike in a new set of trails, go birdwatching in the ecological park or stay up a few minutes later than usual and count the fireflies.
Not all experiences have to be for those who are adventurous and outdoorsy (I'm definitely not), but new adventures can be found in joining a new book club or crafting circle, visiting a new coffee shop or bar, or going and listening to a live band who you've never heard play before.
Take a new route to work (and maybe plan for some extra time to really enjoy the drive, rather than sliding into the office parking lot like a NASCAR driver...) or watch a new TV show this evening and discover new stories.
You can even turn your usual experiences into new ones.
Instead of hitting the gym, trying a yoga class; instead of going to the grocery store, visit a local farmer's market for your dinner's salad greens; instead of going alone to your usual studying location, organize a group study session and bring friends or classmates together.
All in all, the possibilities are endless and the benefits expounding.
In order to keep track of the new things to do this summer, some people create a “Summer Bucketlist,” which is a good way to keep track of things they'd like to do, accomplish or discover before the end of the summer months and I encourage those who are serious about trying new experiences to do the same!
Pull out a piece of paper, and start writing your summer experience goals. Want to create your own book club? Write it down (and advertise your club with your hometown newspaper)! Want to try out that blacksmithing class? Write it down! Want to attend that weekend festival? Write it down! Want to skydive? Kudos to you, write it down!
Trying new things requires a bit of courage, a bit of growth, a bit of thinking creatively and a bit of vulnerability, but it will give you a sense of accomplishment, an exciting feeling of confidence, and a whole bunch of new stories to tell.
The experiences that reside just outside your comfort zone are waiting for you – go get them!