Comfort zones are, well, comfortable. They're the cozy nooks of life — predictable and easy and snug. Like a cushy hotel room, hiding out in one can prove pretty tempting. But staying stuck will keep your life stagnant and your growth stunted.
Straying outside your comfort zone isn't easy, but risks and adventures and new experiences are what make this life worth living. Conquering new areas and endeavors can add hugely to your happiness.
Here are five ways to expand your outlook, open yourself up to life and kick that pesky comfort zone to the curb:
1. Go to social gatherings, even when you don't feel like it.
It's normal to want to retreat into a protective shell, particularly when you're feeling less than fantastic. But hibernating limits your outlook and experience, often trapping you in a mental loop of self-obsession and negativity. Staying home alone often leads you to drastically underestimate how much you'll enjoy going out and interacting with others.
I'm not suggesting you force yourself to attend every cocktail party and baby shower (they won't all be winners), but pushing yourself to socialize is often a bridge to a better mood.
2. Talk to strangers.
I'm an introvert, so chatting with randoms isn't something that's ever come naturally for me. Frankly, talking to people I didn't know used to seem intimidating — even weird. But now I'm all about making connections with new humans.
It may not come naturally, but I do it anyway. I push myself, and am almost always richly rewarded. Because strangers are just friends you haven't met yet, and you never know who you might encounter.
3. Do things that scare you.
Are you terrified of public speaking? Join Toastmasters. Does a networking event leave you quaking in your Toms? Sign up for a mixer. Always wanted to start a small business but super scared it'll fail? Take the leap. Face those fears.
If you don't address the stuff that makes you nervous, those pesky phobias will follow you around forever. And nothing kick-starts growth like showing those anxieties who's boss.
4. If you're single, date someone different.
Do you have a specific "type?" Do you refuse to give unlikely candidates a chance? Do you automatically reject everyone who doesn't meet your lengthy list of standards?
Step outside your self-imposed boundaries and expand your options. Have coffee with someone totally interesting and utterly unique. Marriage might not be in the cards, but so what?
5. Try an activity you're totally unfamiliar with.
When we limit ourselves to doing things we're awesome at, we end up missing out on new experiences. We get comfy, and tend to avoid doing any new activities we could potentially suck at. And we very well might suck — but that's totally OK. Sticking with the same old lineup will never lead to excitement or adventure. New endeavors stretch your brain and expand your horizons.