The more I’ve been thinking about ethical living, self care and everything in between the more I’ve been thinking about comfort zones. Have you ever been told to ‘get out of your comfort zone’? I have. Like a billion times. But what does that even mean? I think the comfort zone idea is just as mysterious as the idea of mindfulness: do I have to quit my job and be constantly bungee jumping in order to really be outside of my comfort zone and therefore living my best life? Short answer, no. As I did more research into what the comfort zone actually is I realised it really related to both self care AND ethical living. Below are my findings…
What is your comfort zone?
So the obvious place to start is obviously what even is a comfort zone? I’ve heard it mentioned so many times it basically lost all tangible meaning for me, but it is an actual thing. To keep it simple, the comfort zone is a behavioural space where your choices and routine keeps you in a low state of stress, anxiety or risk; providing mental and physical ease and security. Basically, the things you do regularly that don’t make you feel uneasy, that’s your comfort zone. There are obvious good things about the comfort zone, we feel happy, secure and stress free in this place, which is really important for our mental and physical health. However, there are also many studies that talk about how introducing a small amount of anxiety and slightly heightened stress levels can help us increase performance. This is called ‘optimal anxiety’, and it’s outside of the comfort zone. Too much anxiety paralyses us, so it’s about challenging yourself and raising stress in a way that’s productive, and it’s also about knowing when to do this, as it’s not a place we should be in all the time.
Let me emphasise this now, your comfort zone is not a bad thing. We hear the cry to ‘get out of your comfort zone’ so often it can almost feel demonised, like we should just destroy our comfort zone and constantly be jumping off cliffs and swimming with sharks. Well, that’s kinda extreme, even Bear Grylls sleeps in an actual bed sometimes. We need to be in the comfort zone, just like we need to practise self care, because being anxious all the time is not healthy either, it’s about balance. Also, you need a level of comfort in order to have something to step out of. You can’t appreciate the day time if there’s never any night, can you? You need to return to your comfort zone to process, or you will quickly become bored by always doing something new. It’s about finding balance and challenging ourselves at times, but not always.
What are the benefits of leaving your comfort zone?
Well there’s quite a few, but here are the main ones:
It’s harder to be productive if we’re constantly comfortable. Having deadlines, goals and ambitions that heighten our anxiety a little help us to work harder, get more done and innovate. It helps us not just achieve enough to scrape by, but go above and beyond because we have something to motivate us.
If you’re used to challenging and pushing yourself, you’re much more prepared when an unexpected challenge comes along. Like a muscle, you’ve exercised your ability to deal with new and risky things, so you’re ready to tackle the obstacles life might throw at you. Also, the more things you do outside of your comfort zone, the more comfortable you become with more things. Your comfort zone grows as your anxiety in relation to certain activities decreases.
– Personal Growth
Leaving the comfort zone is, naturally, uncomfortable. But the sense of achievement after you’ve challenged yourself is incomparable, and can lead to increased confidence and happiness. Think about exercise, some days it just kills you to do it, but when it’s over you feel about 1000 times better than before.
– Broader Horizons
Obviously by leaving your comfort zone you’re expanding your worldview, taking on other perspectives and trying new things. But by doing these things you’re also broadening horizons within yourself; you’ll find yourself coming up with new ideas and innovative solutions.
How can you leave your comfort zone?
When people think of getting out of your comfort zone they can often think it simply means trying new and big things, when in reality it is simply doing anything that gets you into that place of optimal anxiety. So first thing’s first, you have to know yourself. You can’t go outside of your comfort zone if you don’t know what’s in it already, and what wouldn’t stress someone out at all could be waaay to much stress for someone else. For example talking to new people, I listened to a This American Life episode about a man who challenged himself to have five conversations a day. This was huge for him, for someone else this is a piece of cake. Both are fine, just don’t try and do something that would push someone else but won’t push you at all OR would push you too far. The best thing, that man found it really difficult but he persevered, and over time talking to new people became easier for him.
Secondly, know why you want to leave your comfort zone and what it’s going to do for you. Do you want to be more productive? Do you want to see life in different ways? Whatever it is for you, define that so you can figure out ways to challenge yourself with these aims in mind, and you can find ways to make this fun for you. I think this website is a good example of me leaving my comfort zone. I’m not jumping out of a plane every day, but I am constantly trying new things and looking out for solutions. I also give myself deadlines to meet with content uploads, which forces me to be both productive and innovative, as I constantly have to be thinking of things to share with you guys. I did this because I wanted to be productive and creative whilst being useful to other people and the world, and running this website gives me a way to achieve those aims. It’s not always easy, but I feel the benefits, and I can make it fun by being me in my writing and having a sense of humour I go!
How does this relate to ethical living?
Ok so here’s the thing. Everywhere I’ve researched leaving your comfort zone highlights the importance of doing everyday things differently and taking small steps. Take a different route to work, order something different from your usual restaurant choice, try a new form of exercise. Big things are good too (as much as I’ve joked about it I have actually skydived. I was terrified and literally said goodbye to my family. I realise now that was extreme, but it was an incredible experience that left me feeling ridiculously great) but you also want to make changes that affect your day to day. And if it doesn’t make you feel great, you learned something! You learned what doesn’t work, so you can try something new and see what does.
This is where ethical living comes in. The whole point of ethical living is to move away from the mainstream, most of us have been born in a world where we’ve been using certain products and living in a comfort zone of certain habits because it’s all we’ve known. By committing to being more ethical we are making day to day changes all the time, for example trying out new natural, non-toxic products, buying sustainable fashion, or seasonal eating. These are all ways we’re leaving our comfort zone and expanding it, and it’s good for us! So it doesn’t mean I find one ethical brand for something and I use that for my entire life. It means I found an ethical brand, but I can also try out another ethical alternative in the future if I want. I’ve increased my zero waste savvy, but I can also find ways to cut down on my food waste. The point is that the possibilities are endless, and instead of feeling burdened by rules we can find the fun and excitement in leaving our comfort zone and trying new things, but also helping the world.
How cool is that? If you have any cool leaving your comfort zone stories please share them with me, I’d love to hear your experiences! Until next time, stay magic y’all.