My big New Year’s resolution was to follow a premeditated, productive routine each day—doing so ensures I wake up in plenty time for work, get in some physical activity, and ultimately have a smooth day every day. So far, it’s going well… thanks to implementation of this routine, I’ve reached some of my health goals and gained some mental clarity. But it doesn’t come without its drawbacks. When a friend asks me to grab a drink or my dad wants to catch up over dinner, I have to say no in order to stay on track and in line with my plan. And that’s, of course, no fun.

I haven’t scrapped this resolution, as it’s been incredibly beneficial thus far. But I do now allow for some wiggle room, per say, so that I don’t have to turn down opportunities to spend time with loved ones or otherwise—as embarking on new ventures and branching out is also incredibly beneficial.

Make the Conscious Effort to Branch Out

It’s awesome to have a healthy routine you stick to each day, but you shouldn’t be afraid of tweaking it every once in a while. In fact, you should make the conscious effort to deviate from the norm and branch out a little, as explained by Dmitri Oster, a licensed clinical social worker and substance use disorder counselor: “I believe that an intentional and conscious effort to step out of one’s comfort zone is generally beneficial for mental health. So often people get caught up and routinized in their daily affairs that tasks and functions can become habitual. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with that, and indeed a good enough degree of stability is also essential to good mental health. The problem, sometimes, is that habitual routines foreclose on other opportunities that may be accessible to individuals. From my perspective, there is a negative impact on mental health when individuals become routinized in their affairs to the point that they may not even be able to imagine or perceive other forms of being and doing that are available to them. This represents lost opportunities, and foreclosed avenues of self-experience.

It is my belief that the more a person has a chance to experience themselves in multi-dimensional manners, the more psychologically integrated they can become. But, this does take work and effort on the self. A person wishing to push themselves past their comfort zones is in luck as there are always opportunities available and a plethora of exercises that one can do. For example, if a person tends to be shy, they can intentionally set the goal of initiating three conversations per day with strangers in various contexts. If a person has difficulties with speaking for themselves, they can set the goal of fully articulating their thoughts a certain number of times per day to various individuals in a proper context. The main point of such exercises is to get used to the feeling and sensations of carrying out such actions. In other words, the result is not as important as is the process—especially in the beginning stages.

A lot of this type of work also necessitates paying attention to context and the underlying motivations of engaging in such exercise. Once that is taken into consideration, there are various outlets and opportunities for creative self-expression and development depending on the individual’s needs.”

Set Specific Goals

“Stepping out of your comfort zone is good for your mental health; in fact, we grow the most when we step outside of our comfort zone!” Licensed Psychologist Dr. Laura Louis says. Therefore, switching up your routine should be a daily goal of yours—but the goal-setting doesn’t stop there. Be even more specific in how you want to branch out and challenge yourself each day. Louis explains the two keys to setting specific goals:

  1. Make the goal measurable.
  2. Make the goal time sensitive.

“We are more likely to reach goals that are specific! Instead of saying you want to lose weight, say the amount of weight that you would like to lose. First, make the goal measurable: for example, making a goal to go out on three dates is something that you can measure. And second, make the goal time sensitive. Giving yourself a deadline for when you want to achieve that goal (i.e. 2 weeks or 6 months). One easy way people can push past personal limitations is to set small micro goals. For example, if your goal is to start dating, a small micro goal can be inviting a friend to a bar or social club. If your goal is to lose weight, instead of setting a big goal of losing 30 pounds, set a small goal to stop eating fried foods for a week. When I’m teaching my private clients who are looking to get started with public speaking, we start with small goals. For example, if you set a goal to get into public speaking, a small goal would be to speak at your cousin’s wedding during the toast! Ask yourself, ‘what can I do this week to reach my big goal?’ As we start to make incremental steps toward our goals, our confidence starts to build.”

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