When it comes to navigating life we tend to look to our past routines as a guide to future action. A good example of this is going for a meal at our favourite restaurant. It’s a safe bet, it’s predictable, and we know what to expect.
Familiarity provides us with a sense of security and that’s why so many of us prefer sticking to what we know best rather than venturing into the unknown. However, we should all consider stepping out of our comfort zone from time to time, because there is plenty of evidence to suggest that doing so will have a positive effect on our relationships.
I’m a creature of habit and I like to stay in my own little comfort zone, but you have to reach out of that sometimes. And when you do that, you grow.” – LaToya Jackson
Taking a break from our usual routines and rituals and trying something novel is what psychologists refer to as self-expansion. According to Harvard University lecturer Dr. Holly Parker, self-expansion broadens our understanding of who we are, what we’re capable of doing and how we see the world.
Research into the impact of self-expansion on relationships has consistently found that self expanders are happier within their relationships and more committed to making them work. With this in mind, here are a few simple ways to help you start developing a self-expansion mindset.
- Jot down a few things that you could try out for the first time this weekend. Remember to bear in mind that self-expansion isn’t about grand gestures and introducing huge changes into your life, it’s just about trying something different. For instance, if you always choose the same thing at your favourite restaurant, you could ask your waiter what they would recommend and go with their choice instead.
- Talk to your family and friends about their hobbies and pastimes and give one or two of them a go.
- If you’re in a relationship, work with your partner on devising a list of new things you could do together. Pick one of your list items at random and commit to doing it.
- Instead of a ‘date night’, have a ‘do something new night’.
- Check out what’s going on in your local community and how you might get involved.
- Visit websites like www.meetup.com – sites like this are great for pursuing new interests.
What are you waiting for?
The key is not to overthink it. The worst that can happen is that you try something new and decide it isn’t for you. No big deal, if that happens, simply move on to another new thing; who knows, you might just end-up absolutely loving it!
So, for the sake of your wellbeing and relationships, don’t delay, work on becoming a self-expander today.