Feeling Stuck in a Life Rut? Here are 4 Ways to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
Feel like you're stuck in a rut? If the answer is yes, you're right in the middle of a trend of the post-pandemic "blahs" that many people are feeling, which has a technical term called languishing. The New York Times called languishing the "middle child" of mental health since it's neither depression nor anxiety, but something in between where you feel stuck and unexcited by your daily routine.
The main reason you may be feeling stuck is that during the early months of last year we were in a heightened state of alert, and once that subsided our return to normal feels unusually bland, emotionally. One way to see it is that we subconsciously fear getting out of our daily routine because we associate it with discomfort. You may have convinced yourself that the risk is not worth the discomfort that accompanies it.
Contrary to that urge, the best way to get out of a rut is to force yourself to do something new or outside your comfort zone. The exact thing you are avoiding is what you need most: A new endeavor. Rather than obsess over the "why" you're stuck, start to think about "how" to get unstuck, according to experts who have studied this topic. Simply switching up your routines, such as trying a new cuisine, workout, or sport, can be enough to jolt you out of your comfort zone, and out of your rut.
Brené Brown, a well-known author, most recently of You Are Your Best Thing, and research professor from the University of Houston wrote an article in The New York Times telling us that we need to engage in what she calls "productive discomfort," in order to be our most productive. You're more likely to get a task done as fast as possible, the theory goes if you have a deadline that must be met. The only way you will ever get things done is if you feel a sense of pressure to do so.
In her piece, "Tiptoeing Out of One’s Comfort Zone (and of Course, Back In)," Brown explains that you can’t ignore fear and uncertainty. Instead, you have to take risks in a controlled fashion and challenge yourself to things you wouldn’t normally do to experience uncertainty in a controlled, manageable environment.
There are mental health advantages to getting out of your comfort zone
Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone has more advantages than giving you a great story to tell your friends. While you may think that kite surfing will make for a great post, that's the least of what you're going to get out of it. In fact, the more experiences you have, the happier you will be, according to research.
Psychologists conducted a study where people documented major life events in an ongoing diary over the course of three months, nine months, and four and a half years after the events happened. “People who engage in a variety of experiences are more likely to retain positive emotions and minimize negative ones than people who have fewer experiences,” even years, later, one of the study's leads researchers, Richard Walker explained in a story in TIME magazine, which told readers; "Stop putting off seeing the aurora lights, warming up in the hot springs of Greenland or learning a new instrument — just do it." While the story was ten years before the pandemic the same approach applies now. The key is to have more positive events than negative ones, and if languishing is a negative emotion then treat yourself to some fun.
You also will learn more. A study conducted by Yale researchers found that the only time we learn is when there is uncertainty in our emotions. It’s impossible to learn in an atmosphere that is too comfortable and familiar (something anyone who has skated through an easy course knows well.) You learn more when you're challenged or when you have to work harder to keep up. Along with boosting happiness, getting out of your comfort zone when you are learning, reading, or taking on a challenge such as a new language or instrument, can improve productivity and creativity in other areas as well.
Studies have found that getting outside of your comfort zone by challenging yourself in any area (such as learning to surf or play golf) can help boost creativity and productivity even when you're at your desk.
How to Get Out of Comfort Zone
We can all find ways in our everyday life to get out of our comfort zone, but most days, we choose not to, which is why we languish. In one of the most viewed Ted Talks of all time, with over 26.5 million total views, author and motivational speaker, Mel Robbins, shared an idea called The 5 Second Rule: "If you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill the idea."
Her example is simple: Set your alarm 30 minutes before you normally wake up. Don’t hit snooze just get up immediately. She points out the same amount of force that it takes you to get up half an hour earlier than usual is equal to the amount of mental force you have to apply to get out the door and go for a walk or do whatever new activity or discipline you want to do that's new. Once you train your brain to apply this mental force to your thinking, it gets easier and easier to practice trying new things.
Here are 4 simple ways you can get out of your comfort zone
1. Don't be afraid to eat out by yourself or travel alone.
The biggest culprit for getting in a rut can be that you are too reliant on having someone by your side to attempt new activities. The easiest way to get out of a slump and do fun things by yourself is to reserve a table for one at your favorite restaurant or book a trip solo to a new destination you want to visit. Doing things by yourself, especially when it’s something you’ve never done before, is the most satisfying and exhilarating feeling once you conquer it. You gain more knowledge about what you like when you're the sole person experiencing it.
2. Switch up your daily routine.
We get stuck in our ways working from home since most of us have not even had to commute for months on end. From the moment we wake up, we can be on autopilot to make the coffee, turn on the news and check email. Getting out of your comfort zone can be as simple (and tasty) as switching your coffee for an alternative sip, like an instant Chai Latte from Laird Superfood, which is a great alternative to coffee since it contains plant-based ingredients, including Black and Rooibos Tea, as well as cardamom, ginger, clove, and black pepper. Just add water and watch your Chai Latte froth up thanks to the fact that it contains Laird Superfood's original non-dairy creamer. Making frequent changes to your daily routine such as opting for a coffee alternative like Chai Instafuel helps you start your day off with a drink that is more interesting.
3. Experiment with new cuisines and food.
After a long work-day, it's sometimes too easy to order from your favorite local restaurant or make the same recipe over and over. Order in from a new local spot or try cooking a new recipe. Switch out the American restaurant for an Indian one, or swap a meat-centric dish for a plant-based alternative.
4. Mark your calendar to try something new at least once a month.
Take one thing on your bucket list whether it’s learning how to surf or play tennis and sign up for classes. Stop making excuses on why you're too busy or don't have the time. If it means a lot to you, you will find a way to do it. It doesn't have to cost a lot either since you can find free yoga classes or photography lessons on youtube or other sites.
Getting out of your comfort zone is often easier than you think. When trying to figure out the best way to get out of your comfort zone, tell yourself: If it's not something I would typically do, then it will get me out of my comfort zone. The alternative is languishing, and no one wants to do that.