Is it ACTUALLY healthy to “get out of your comfort zone?”

get out of your comfort zone
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  • “Get out of your comfort zone” is more than a mantra in our modern lives; it has become a dogma, an imperative, a commandment. “You MUST get of your comfort zone in order to live a happy, healthy, and successful life.” But is that actually true? And if so, how do things like self-love, and meditation (which are all about accepting yourself as you are) fit in?

    January 26, 2022

    A shiver runs down my spine as I gaze into the icy blue depths.

    In the distance, I hear Jovanna counting down.

    Five, four, three… her voice on the periphery of my consciousness, my nervous system prepares for the plunge. 

    As I run toward the water’s edge, baby Sky reaches desperately from her mothers arms, as if to cry out:

    “Daddy, noooooo…”

    A shock of cold. I open my eyes.

    Daylight sparkles above the rippling surface.

    My body is in shock, for just a moment, tingling all over with the invigorating energy of the cold. My mind is still and clear and fresh. I feel alive!

    As my head breaks the surface, I take a huge gulp of air and yelp loudly: “Brr, brr, oh my god that’s cold!”

    Of course, this all sounds a lot more badass if I leave out the fact that we’re in Miami, and that this is all happening in the pool in the backyard. But hey, it’s cloudy today. And a little windy.

    Welcome to the edge of my comfort zone.

    The Glorification of Discomfort

    Wim Hof is one of my heroes. Literally one of my favorite humans in the world.

    Known as “The Iceman,” Wim is best known for using his trademark breathwork techniques, The Wim Hof Method, to do crazy “superhero” things… like climbing Everest in his shorts, breaking Guinness World Records for swimming under frozen lakes and staying submerged in ice water for long periods of time, and even leading groups of people to modulate their nervous systems and resist endotoxins injected in laboratory studies.

    Wim Hof is an inspiration to millions, with legions of followers around the world taking cold showers, and even ice-baths, every day.

    While I use Wim Hof’s breathwork techniques all the time, I personally haven’t gotten to the point of taking daily ice-baths (yet?). While Wim Hof is inspiring, it is difficult to relate to, and embody, his level of intensity. The things that Wim Hof does are far outside the average person’s “comfort zone.”

    The first time I ever heard of Wim Hof was from the viral documentary “Becoming Superhuman With The Ice Man” on the popular YouTube channel, “Yes Theory.”

    Yes Theory’s motto, and the tagline of their channel, is “Seek Discomfort.” Those two powerful words are emblazoned on their t-shirts, sweatshirts, and other merch.

    Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone

    There is deep wisdom in the idea of seeking discomfort. There’s a great quote from Neale Donald Walsch:

    “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

    Some of the greatest moments in my life have come while taking leaps outside of my comfort zone. From feeling the euphoric endorphin releases while pushing past my limits in the gym, to jumping for joy after closing a deal with a massive retailer, to literally jumping out of an airplane and getting a big-picture view of Mother Earth as She rushed up to greet me… I can tell you from personal experience: there is power and intensity and a kind of manic beauty outside the comfort zone.

    If I stayed nestled softly in my comfort zone, Meditation Magazine would never have existed. Then again, I probably would never have done anything at all… I would have stayed in bed forever, like I did when I was “depressed” in college.

    We all have to get out of our comfort zones, sometimes. I see it every day in baby Sky. She tries new things every day. Sometimes she hurts herself. Sometimes she bites off more than she can chew and vomits all over the floor. But she is constantly pushing her limits, constantly crawling out of her comfort zone. All babies do. So do children, teens, and young adults too. This is how we grow!

    Over the course of our lives, we tend to become less and less willing to leave our comfort zones. Of course, there we go through phases, fluctuations, moments in time… but on a general level, the two extremes are babies and the elderly. Babies seek new experiences in every moment. The elderly tend to “Seek Comfort.” If you think about the human lifespan, there tend to be ups and downs – anxious first dates, comfortable relationships, and mid-life crises – but through it all there’s a tendency to go from “seek discomfort” to “seek comfort.”

    It’s natural. The longer we live, the more we settle into things that are comfortable to us. The more unpleasant experiences we have, the more we know, from first-hand experience, what we want to avoid. And perhaps more importantly: the baby has a lifetime ahead of her to experience new things, but the old man doesn’t have much motivation to experiment with novelties.

    Is this a sad story: the tragedy of the dwindling human? Or is seeking comfort actually a good thing?

    The Yin & Yang of Holistic Health

    When I first moved to Miami more than a decade ago, I was searching Craigslist for a place to stay. Most of the listings showed “normal” apartments, rooms in houses, things like that. But I stumbled upon a listing for a room in a house that looked like a tropical paradise. There were purple, red and green jungle plants all around the house. There was a koi pond with a little wooden bridge and Japanese-style gazebo above it.

    When I moved in, it was just as I pictured: a jungle paradise in the middle of urban Miami. The landlord, Julian, was a creative genius, and I was deeply appreciative of what he had done with his house.

    But within a few weeks, the house was in shambles. Julian tore down a wall here to build a terrarium, a door there to move in some cool new furniture… and so it went for most of the time that I lived in that house.

    It was a beautiful house, and very comfortable for the short periods of time between construction projects… but when I couldn’t access the kitchen for weeks at a time, it became very difficult to live in.

    It was in one of those moments, staring through the sawdust in Julian’s kitchen, that I realized: this is what happens when you’re constantly pushing to “get out of your comfort zone.” You’re always “under construction” and never really able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

    If Julian never put the house into “construction mode,” it would have been the same old boring Craigslist listing. It wouldn’t have been the beautiful, unique, special house that it ultimately was. But if it was always in construction mode, there was never actually a time to enjoy living in that beautiful house.

    Some say that The Buddha’s greatest teaching was that of The Middle Way. Finding balance between extremes.

    The same can be said of the ancient Chinese Taijitu symbol (commonly known as the yin-yang). The balance between Yin (peace, rest, calm) and Yang (action, movement, energy) is fundamental in understanding how to live a balanced life.

    To live a life full of fun, growth, and the manic beauty that lives outside of your comfort zone, while also filled with peace, love, calm, and the settled happiness that lives inside of your comfort zone… we must keep Yin and Yang in balance.

    The idea that we should always push our limits, always “get out of your comfort zone!,” always “Seek Discomfort,” is unbalanced; it is just the Yang side of life.

    The idea that we should always “go with the flow” and do what we “feel comfortable” with, is just as unbalanced; it’s just the Yin side of the equation.

    When we keep Yin and Yang in balance, we grow, and build, feel thrilled, and make positive changes in our lives – during Yang moments – and we give ourselves the space to rest, appreciate, and enjoy them – during the Yin moments.

    That doesn’t mean you need to split your time exactly evenly between Yin and Yang, between comfort and discomfort. We all find the balance that is right for ourselves. But by keeping the ancient principles of Yin and Yang in mind, we can get out of our comfort zones, and live comfortable lives, all at the same time.

    To read more on this topic IN PRINT, in our new HEALTH ISSUE — hitting shelves around the world on the Vernal Equinox (March 21, 2022) — subscribe to Meditation Magazine today 😃

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