How New Experiences Can Get You Unstuck
9 benefits of leaving your comfort zone.
Britt Frank and Bridget Hilton
- Novel experiences provide many different benefits.
- Getting outside your comfort zone increases happiness.
- Other benefits include stress reduction, improved mindfulness, and social connection.
If you are a person who doesn’t like change, the science of new experiences may just change your mind. While change is seldom comfortable, jumping into novel experiences provides an abundance of positive effects on mental health, particularly for individuals grappling with depression. From reshaping neural connections to elevating mood regulation, the benefits are far-reaching and transformative. Doing new things, rather than being a frivolous luxury, is an essential tool for enhancing cognitive and emotional well-being. The National Institute of Health notes, “The ability to flexibly learn in new situations makes it possible to adapt to an ever-changing world.”
Bridget Hilton, pioneering experience advisor and author of Experiential Billionaire, outlines several science-backed benefits to new experiences. As she put it, “There’s so much value and growth that exists outside your comfort zone. To stay inside it is to limit your life—not just what you can do but also who you can be and the impact you can have on the world. I’m not suggesting that you actively seek out pain, but if you spend your life avoiding discomfort, you’ll miss out on a life of building real wealth.”
She outlines a plethora of benefits to new experiences in her work including:
1. Neuroplasticity: Novel experiences stimulate the brain’s ability to adapt and rewire itself. This can lead to increased cognitive flexibility and improved mood regulation. It can help break the cycle of negative thought patterns associated with depression.
2. Increased Dopamine: Novel experiences can trigger the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. This can create a sense of enjoyment and motivation, which is often lacking in individuals with depression.
3. Boosted Confidence: Successfully navigating new experiences can boost self-esteem and confidence. Achieving a new skill, trying something out of one's comfort zone, or simply having a positive experience can enhance self-worth and self-efficacy.
4. Increased Social Interaction: Many new experiences involve interacting with others, whether through group activities, classes, or simply sharing an experience with friends. Social interaction is beneficial for mental well-being, as it can reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness often associated with depression.
5. Mindfulness and Presence: Experiencing something new often requires being present in the moment. This mindfulness can help individuals let go of past regrets or future worries and focus on the here and now, which is a key element of many therapeutic approaches for depression.
6. Reduced Ruminative Thinking: People with depression tend to ruminate on negative thoughts and feelings. Engaging in new experiences can redirect their focus away from rumination, providing temporary relief from distressing thoughts.
7. Distraction from Negative Emotions: Engaging in new activities can serve as a healthy distraction from the overwhelming negative emotions that come with depression. It offers a break from the emotional turmoil and can provide moments of respite.
8. Stress Reduction: Novel experiences can be a form of stress relief. They can provide an opportunity to relax and recharge, reducing the physical and emotional strain often experienced by those with depression.
9. Sense of Purpose: New experiences can instill a sense of purpose and meaning in life. They can be a reminder of the richness and diversity of life, motivating individuals to overcome depression and discover new sources of joy.
Of the myriad benefits of experiencing new things, a greater sense of happiness is the overarching byproduct of discomfort. An article from New York University noted, “New and diverse experiences are linked to enhanced happiness, and this relationship is associated with greater correlation of brain activity, new research has found. The results, which appear in the journal Nature Neuroscience, reveal a previously unknown connection between our daily physical environments and our sense of well-being.” If you want to live longer, to live more fully alive, and to create more energy and expansion and energy in your life, what new experiences might you open yourself up to?