If you never go out and explore, you will never know what you are missing.
I lived in the city of Chicago for several years when I was working on my two Bachelor’s degrees. I loved going out and taking long walks, going to the beach to soak up the sun, walking around Lincoln Park Zoo to see the animals, and jumping on the train to explore a different neighborhood. I was always the type of person who loved exploring and pushing boundaries.
When I was a little girl, my mother told me that I was always running around, busy doing whatever it was little kids like to do. I was always going, playing with my little kitchen, swimming, playing sports, baking, gardening, and running around the yard with our family dog. I was fascinated by any new toy or place. It was important for my growth to feel safe expanding and learning while exploring.
I was told that by the time I was able to walk, I was good at unlocking the front door to play in the yard because I love being outdoors.
After moving south for graduate school, I realized that I have a new place to explore. I brought my bike and hiking shoes. I now go out on the trails and learn where everything is on my bike. I have been exploring for a few days now, and I am enjoying every second of it. I write, read, watch new movies, hike, meet new people in town and neighbors, and decorate my new home.
Humans are creatures of habit and comfort. Our comfort zone is where we find peace and a low state of anxiety. There is no stress, vulnerability, or danger. We like to be comfortable and do what we know. Some people might enjoy sitting at home or having a certain routine. Perhaps, some are happy with their routine or staying at home. Although, there is definitely nothing wrong with that, making adventure or getting out of our comfort zone occasionally can make us feel great and help us self-expand.
While in my undergraduate years, I learned a fascinating theory that I have enjoyed applying to my life. Self-expansion theory has been studied in the context of relationships in both social psychology and interpersonal communication. Anyone can learn about this theory in layman’s terms on the Science of Relationships site (http://www.scienceofrelationships.com).
In close relationships, our world opens up to include things we have never had or done. Someone new equals new activities, new excitements, and new hobbies you can do together with your partner or date. This not only happens in romantic relationships, but also with friends and family. Your identity, resources, and perspectives change in your new relationships. This theory posits that it is important to expand your sense of self and to grow to feel satisfied with your life. You can also experience self-expansion through spirituality, creativity, adventures, exploring, and getting out of your comfort zone.
Self-expansion does not only occur when you are in a relationship. I have never dated nor have I been in a serious romantic relationship, but I love being in the company of my friends. I also like exploring new places by myself. Self-expansion can happen in many ways. It even can help you grow your mind, body, and self.
Tips for getting out of your comfort zone:
Be creative. Creativity does not mean being artistic. There are many ways of being creative without being a painter or photographer (although it is certainly wonderful if you are one of those). I absolutely enjoy photography and taking pictures of everything, especially while traveling. Take up knitting, painting, sculpting, or whatever makes you feel creative. If it means writing, then write a short story. If you like being outdoors, take up biking. If you like and are good with plants, try building a garden in your yard. It is important to be creative and find something that makes you happy.
Explore your surroundings. Go for a walk around your neighborhood or drive to the nearest forest preserve and go for a hike. Take your bike from the garage, dust it off, and go down a few blocks and back. Not only will you feel great and maintain your health, but you will begin to feel happier and more excited. New places can be exciting.
Challenge yourself to one new activity a week. Try playing tennis at your local park or take a pottery class. New activities can be novel and boost your mood. If you are weary of getting out of your comfort zone, then try adding one new activity a week. This week, you can walk around a park or preserve, next week you can learn to sew. Don’t have the budget? No worries. You can find plenty of new things to do without breaking the bank. Walking, hiking, writing, and meditation are all activities you don’t necessarily have to pay to do.
Seek support from others. You are not alone. If you are not exactly comfortable getting out of your comfort zone and doing something new, seek friends who can help you. Family members like siblings, parents, cousins, and others can help you feel safe and comfortable when trying something new. Friends are fabulous supporters for self-expansion. Your friends can help you to try new places or activities.
Don’t be afraid to fail. Yes, this one is much easier said than done. This is the hardest one for me because for a long time, who I was depended on what others thought of me. I was always comparing myself and thinking that others were constantly judging me. As a communication and psychology major, I have conducted lots of research, which also means that I have been to many conferences. Giving presentations and public speaking is difficult for me because I become very nervous and anxious beforehand. I am much more comfortable speaking in public now, but I was not during the first two years of my undergraduate degree. Many other activities can be nerve wracking.
We have to remember that even though we might be shy or nervous when doing something new, we have to try, and we have to fail. If we do not try, we will never know. It is scary to do, but it can also be extremely rewarding at the end.
Never stop expanding yourself, ever.