Four Easy Ways To Try Out A New You
Ah, March — the finicky fickle month that can’t decide whether to mark the death of winter or herald the birth of spring. It’s a time of blustery, bone-chilling winds, mud-ridden grounds, and a sneaky sun that teases us with its cheerful brightness while reneging on its promise of warmth. At this point, we New Englanders are fed up with the cold, dark, and dreary. We are ready — already! — to don our warm-weather clothes and renew our weary yet restless spirits with sunshine, warm air, green grass, and color.
Luckily, May is on the way, and it will be soon be time to get out — not just out of the house or the office, but out of our comfort zones as well. Here are a few ideas for shedding the wet wool blanket of winter — and your same ol’ self — and encouraging the warm spring breezes of imagination, fun, and new-you possibilities.
Invite Novelty Into Your Life
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” — Henry Ford
Spring is a wonderful time to explore something that is totally unrelated to what you do for work and preferably outside your normal comfort zone. Your comfort zone is basically that cozy place where nothing can provoke or heighten your anxiety levels. While most of us continually seek ways to decrease our anxiety — and let’s face it, we all have more than our fair share — there are a few good reasons why stretching toward something new and allowing ourselves to feel a bit of unease can actually be beneficial:
It helps you grow as a person. When you can conquer your anxiety long enough to try something new and succeed at it, you get a great feeling of accomplishment, which increases your self-confidence and your desire to keep trying new things.
It increases the size of your comfort zone. If you live in a small comfort zone, you may often feel anxious or miss out on much of life’s excitement. By getting out of your comfort zone regularly and increasing the number of things you’re comfortable with, you’ll also expand your life’s possibilities.
Doing new things motivates you and helps you learn more easily. By seeking out originality and fresh ideas, you can increase your brain’s level of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that motivates you to act by encouraging you to go looking for rewards. Novelty has also been shown to improve memory and increase learning by making our brains more flexible and better able to quickly acquire new skills and think outside the box.
So if your nose is typically buried in the latest issue of Science magazine, learn to paint with watercolors or dance the Bachata. If you’re often lost in the alternate worlds between book covers, sign up for a cross-country skiing class or hit the go-kart track. If you’re always on the hunt for the next great adrenaline rush, attend a classical music concert or take a quiet walk in nature instead. All kinds of amazing things can happen outside our comfy, everyday worlds.
Travel To Parts Unknown
“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” — John A. Shedd
While some people make a habit of jet setting around the world, you don’t have to get on a plane or even drive very far to see something new. If hitting the Galapagos Islands and making friends with a sea turtle isn’t your cup of tea, pick a place or perhaps even a tourist attraction in your own home state that you’ve never seen before and just go.
Traveling out of your hometown, state, or country, allows you to disconnect from your everyday world of work, issues, and familiar people and helps you gain a broader perspective on your life and how you fit in to the bigger picture. It can also help you discover solutions to problems that are normally too close for you to see clearly. And the memories you make while you’re out of your normal environment will have a greater effect on you and last far longer than the ones you make through your normal daily activities.
Catch Some Rays
“When the sun is shining I can do anything; no mountain is too high, no trouble too difficult to overcome.”— Wilma Rudolph
Many of us sit inside in front of a computer for so many hours a week that we often forget there’s a world beyond our four walls. The trick to staying happily sane is to get outside for at least twenty minutes every day to absorb all that free energy our sun is dishing out – and be sure to leave your shades behind. When ultraviolet rays hit your bare skin and enter your uncovered eyes, they trigger at least two happy-health occurrences: the synthesis of vitamin D and an increase in our body’s level of serotonin (a neurotransmitter that regulates appetite, sleep, memory, and mood).
In addition to promoting healthy bones, vitamin D has also been shown to lower your blood pressure, reduce your risk of diabetes, and lower your chances of heart attacks, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and even several forms of cancer. Researchers have also found that serotonin levels in many people are lower during the winter and suggest that these low levels directly correlate to seasonal affective disorder, or winter depression. In short, more sunlight equals better overall health and happier moods, so let the sunshine in!
Move Your Body
“Exercise to stimulate, not to annihilate. The world wasn't formed in a day, and neither were we.” — Lee Haney
There are people out there who cringe at the word “exercise,” who shun the very thought of having to actually move in such a way as to bring on pools of sweat and shortness of breath. And oh, the boredom of it all . . . the sheer waste of time that could be so much better spent doing, well, absolutely anything else! If this sounds like you, maybe you just don’t know what you’re missing. You’ve probably heard that regular physical activity can:
Help you lose weight
Increase your energy and endurance
Reduce your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure
Keep your joints, tendons, and ligaments flexible
But it can also:
Create new brain cells and improve overall brain performance
Boost your memory and the ability to learn new things
Increase your creativity
Reduce anxiety and stress
Release endorphins that can alleviate the symptoms of sadness and depression
And the best thing about it is that you don’t have to sweat, grunt, burn, gasp, and generally suffer your way through a WORK OUT to reap the many benefits. The only thing you really need to do is move. And you don’t have go all out for 30 to 60 minutes a day either. Studies have shown that breaking up your daily exercise into smaller sessions throughout the day can be just as beneficial as packing those moves into a single period of time, and shorter, less rigid exercise sessions are much easier to maintain in the long term. Give these activities a try:
Hop on a bike and go for a leisurely 15-minute ride.
Play a musical instrument.
Wash the kitchen floor.
Work in your yard or garden.
Stand up while you’re on the phone and pace a bit while you’re talking.
Take the stairs for a flight or two instead of the elevator all the way.
Walk during your lunch break or hold your next one-on-one meeting outside and walk while you discuss the topic with your colleague.
While you may not make it to the Olympics, you will be a healthier, smarter, and more creative person overall.
So many of us want to lead more interesting lives, to have a purpose for being that goes beyond our jobs and family responsibilities. But change is hard for us humans. It’s so much easier to give in and stay with the familiar, maintain the status quo, and just keep on keepin’ on, isn’t it? But you don’t have to make huge scary leaps to transformation; you can take small, easily manageable steps that will lead you steadily and surely to the life you’ve imagined. Start now. Take a step.
Jill Rogers is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in helping spiritual, self-help, and health and well-being authors to creatively express their concepts in clear and interesting ways and ensure that their writing is of the highest editorial quality. Visit her at assuredword.com.