It’s great to get into a comfortable, reliable routine—but it’s also important that you step outside of your comfort zone and challenge yourself every now and then! I understand that it’s scary… but it’s also rewarding and more than worth the risk. Don’t worry, you don’t have to go skydiving if that’s not your cup of tea (but more power to you if it is)—you just have to push your limits and try something new. I promise you’ll be so thankful that you did.

How Is It Beneficial?

I understand your concerns; the mere thought of stepping outside my comfort zone can bring about anxiety—but actually doing so proves time and time again therapeutic and beneficial to my mental health. Laura Chackes, licensed psychologist, owner and Clinical Director of The Center for Mindfulness & CBT, explains how facing your fears and doing something that makes you somewhat uncomfortable can benefit you: “Stepping outside of your comfort zone is very good for your mental health. In fact, I’d argue that it’s the most important thing you can do to improve your mental health. Stepping outside of your comfort zone unlocks you from crippling anxiety and/or depression by teaching you that you can handle more than you think you can. The key is doing it gradually. Often anxiety is caused by believing that you cannot do something, such as giving a presentation. Gradually facing this fear by talking in front of increasingly larger groups of people will show you that you can in fact give a presentation. This realization will build your confidence and reduce your anxiety.”

“A similar phenomenon is true with depression. When you are depressed you sometimes feel like you cannot get out of bed to do anything. If you push yourself too hard by trying to make it to work or to do a lot of chores, you may not succeed, which will make you feel worse. However, if you take baby steps by pushing yourself to just get out of bed for five minutes to walk into the kitchen and eat a small snack, then you are much more likely to succeed in reaching your goal. This will build your confidence and start to live your mood a little bit. By continuing to do these baby steps, you will eventually be able to do anything you want to do, and then feel considerably better.”

Challenge Yourself: 3 Professional Tips

There are countless ways to challenge yourself each day, but if you need a little help getting started, take a note from Amy Lasseter’s book. Lasseter, a licensed professional counselor, says life is all about, “evolving, growing, and living.” All of which cannot be achieved without stepping outside of your comfort zone every once in a while. Here are her three tips for doing so:

1) Make a bucket list. “You’ll want to include smaller ones on your list that will take less time to reach such as making sure to hit up a local brew house, kayaking on a nearby river, or going to the new comedy club downtown. You should also include larger goals such as traveling to New Zealand, traveling across the country to a favorite sporting event, etc. This will take more planning and give you something to reach for while you work on your smaller bucket list.”

2) Meet new people and form new ideas. “Really expand your circle of friends by purposely trying to connect with others by putting yourself in new situations you normally wouldn’t be in. Try a Pilates or dance class, go down to a new age store and start a conversation with one of the employees (or better yet, the owner!), or go to an ultra-conservative hot spot and listen with an open heart. Expose yourself to populations you traditionally wouldn’t by working as a volunteer for a favorite charity or benefit! Not only will you meet people you may not traditionally come into contact with, you’ll help other people at the same time… score!

3) Learn a new skill and get a beloved new hobby out of it. “There must be something you always wanted to do. Something your mom or dad never let you do or try that you wish you could have done. Or maybe you’re tired of being the responsible one. Go drive a race car, go skydiving, go take a belly dancing class, or learn Mandarin! Me? I took my first ballet class when I was 37 years old and went en point when I was 39 years old. I was terrible en pointe AND I loved that I did it. I learned so much about myself and my confidence grew tremendously over that time—it was amazing.”