Recently while doing research for an article I was writing I Googled “comfort zone”. As you can imagine, pages and pages of quotes, articles, even t-shirts come up.
Simply put, your comfort zone is a behavioral space where your activities and behaviors fit a routine and pattern that minimizes stress and risk. It provides a state of mental security. You benefit in obvious ways: regular happiness, low anxiety, and reduced stress.
While routines make you feel at ease and in control, what a constant routine really does is dull your sensitivities. Think about the times in your life when you’ve driven the same route repeatedly: after a certain number of trips, you start tuning out most of it. Have you ever had a trip to the office where you barely remember what happened after you got in the car?
If you don’t get out of your comfort zone, you might find yourself tuning out much of your life in the same way on a daily basis.
I think it’s a pretty easy connection to make between living life full-out and getting out of your comfort zone. But what really intrigued me was a study that showed the value of mixing our everyday routine with the novel and how it relates to creativity, enhanced memory, even happiness!
When you go out of your way to experience new things, or when you let new things happen to you, your brain creates brand new neural pathways that fuel your creative spark and enhance your memory.
In a recent study researchers tested the memory of participants by showing them images which were rated as novel, familiar, and very familiar. The best results came when people were shown a novel image, followed by a familiar one. So, while repetition helps with memory, mixing in new information is important too. That’s why being uncomfortable is something you should embrace.
The study also showed where putting yourself in new and unfamiliar situations triggers a unique part of the brain that releases dopamine, nature’s make-you-happy chemical. Here’s the mind-blower; that unique region of the brain is only activated when you see or experience completely new things.
It’s a new year. Promise yourself that in 2017 you’ll slip in new and different activities into your everyday routine. Mix it up! Because there is value in both – the routine and the novel.