Does anyone else dislike the expression “get out of your comfort zone?”
I’d rather stay comfortable while I try new things.
Instead, I prefer the idea of expanding my comfort zone. I don’t want to break it, but I want to stretch my limit just a little to enable more experiences to feel comfortable.
I learned the hard way to take baby steps in the expansion process after forcing myself into a panic attack—it wasn’t a great time.
It took practice to recognize what I could accomplish and when I needed to stop.
During the process, I reflected on the past events that produced my short limits and considered how I could let them go. And I discovered why certain activities made me feel more comfortable than others.
I am sharing this list of activities that I used in the hopes that it can inspire others to expand their comfort zones as well. Some of these activities are small steps, and others are giant leaps.
Deciding on the activities that are right for you will take a lot of self-reflection. Some things to consider are:
- What are your goals?
- What will make you uncomfortable in that situation?
- What can you do to make the situation more comfortable for yourself?
Please read the list and consider an activity that serves your comfort zone.
Disclaimer: The activities on this list may result in interactions with strangers. Be careful and trust your instincts. Do not force yourself to remain in a situation that feels unsafe or uncomfortable. If your gut tells you to go home, go home and reflect on the interaction. You did not fail!
1. Go For A Walk
Can it be that simple? Well, yeah.
Exercise can help relieve some anxiety, and you won’t be stuck in one place for too long–unless you want to be.
Take a solo walk around your neighbourhood. Feel comfortable being alone outside of your home, in an area you are familiar with.
If you already walk regularly, try taking a different route. Follow the path to the left rather than the right and see where it leads you.
Along your walk, take some time to sit on a bench, relax and observe.
If someone greets you while walking by (which is very common where I’m from), decide if you’re comfortable with greeting them in return. If you’re unsure, wear earbuds without music playing to give yourself an excuse for not hearing (AKA ignoring) those people.
2. Dine Out Alone
This one can be somewhat scary, and I don’t recommend forcing yourself to start here.
But, if you love dining out and don’t want to wait for your support system to go with you, perhaps this could be your end goal.
At a restaurant, you can eat alone at a table. And the only people you need to talk to are the waitstaff.
If you are like me and get anxious about talking to waitstaff, practice and prepare before going to the restaurant. I practice a script in my mind about what they will likely ask me and how to answer.
I ook at the menu online to get an idea of what you would like to order. Pick three drinks, appetizers, entrées and desserts so you have a back-up plan in case they run out.
Also, prepare “I’ll just need another minute,” and don’t let them rush you.
Keep in mind that restaurants are typically full of people, which could mean a potential sensory overload if you are sensitive to sound and movement. Bring a book or plug into a podcast to establish a wall from the other restaurant patrons.
3. Join A Class
Are you interested in learning ceramics, dance, martial arts, yoga, or another language? You can do it!
A class offers three core benefits while you expand your comfort zone.
First and foremost, you can learn or improve an activity that interests you.
Second, classes offer a safe social aspect.
When the class first begins, everyone starts as a stranger to each other (i.e., no scary cliques).
The class has also brought together a group of people who have similar interests, so you already know one thing you have in common.
And when you see the same people every week, you may slowly begin to form a bond, which has the potential to develop into close friendships.
Third, and best of all, if you do not enjoy your classmates, you won’t need to see them after class ends—there’s no commitment necessary.
There is nothing wrong with having an escape plan.
4. Join An Online Group
Disclaimer: Do not provide personal or financial information to people you meet online. Should you decide to meet up one day, have a video call first and choose a public location. Also, tell a friend or family member who you’re meeting and where.
From the safety of your own home, unite with people from around the world who share your interests.
Social media, online games and forums provide a space to create meaningful friendships.
And even if you never meet these people in real life, online friends are significant and empowering.
The internet offers something for everyone, so finding potential groups you click with can be accomplished with a quick search.
Follow the topics that get you excited. Participate in discussions. Follow the people who post the content you like. Share, like and keep conversations going.
Remember to be respectful and that it’s okay to disagree with someone without being rude.
5. Visit A Café
Get a change of scenery while doing something you like: read a book, work on some knitting, listen to a podcast, or update your blog.
As long as you order something, you can sit in a café.
Full of comfortable chairs, a few plants and a well-spaced seating arrangement, most cafés are designed to be a calm place for people to meet or work outside of the home.
If you’re lucky, they’ll have a window seat where you can enjoy the sun’s warmth and take breaks to people-watch.
It is customary to order a few drinks should you choose to remain there for a few hours, so take a gander at the menu before arriving and think of what you might enjoy.
If you visit a small café often, there’s a good chance that the baristas will remember you, and you can create a comforting friendship. Of course, it doesn’t always happen, but when it does, it feels great!
6. Go To A Concert
You may be asking, why would I ever want to be squeezed together in a mob of strangers? It’s simple: you like the music.
I’ve seen my favourite band ten times, and while it can take a long, calming pep talk to get myself in the building, I’m always happier for it.
For me, the most awkward and anxiety-inducing moment of the night comes before the concert starts. This is the time when the lights are still up, and I’m standing alone, away from the crowd, scrolling social media and feigning confidence in my solo venture.
But once the lights go down and the music starts, the group comes together as one, and I’m no longer alone.
I’m not a fan of crowds, but in this setting, even though a horde of strangers will surround me, I barely notice them as I focus on my band and their music.
For those more interested in trying to ally with a new friend, this activity again allows you to be around people with similar interests. Try to strike up a conversation before the show starts, and maybe you can meet up after to talk about it.
7. Take A Tour
This is an excellent idea for the solo adventurer and history lover.
Tours can be of a single location or provide transportation to various places. It could be a famous landmark in your own city or a set of islands on the other side of the world.
In other words, a tour can give you a short or long time bunched together with a ragtag group of people.
Tours have allowed me time to become familiar with other people as well as time to venture out alone.
As they are full of solo travellers, it is understandable and expected to break off alone sometimes.
I also enjoy tours that provide transportation and accommodation as I will only have to talk to the tour guide to sort out any issues.
And with a tour guide, you can listen and follow along or participate and ask questions.
Never forget that when you pay for a tour, you have the right to ask many questions, so don’t be embarrassed—you’ll be giving the tour guide a chance to show off their knowledge.
Explore all the available options, and decide what will make you feel the most comfortable.
8. Visit A Street Fair Or Market
Perhaps this idea came to mind as the weather is getting warmer. Still, it allows you to flex a few of these suggested activities: walking, eating alone and playing tourist.
The market could be in your city or the next town over. It could be a farmer’s market or an artisan street fair.
During the spring and summer months, there are many markets displaying various wares that will likely meet your interest.
But don’t feel trapped inside during the colder months as winter markets can be overflowing with beautiful decorations and warm drinks.
When purchasing from a vendor, you can keep the conversation strictly to your purchase or ask them about their process and get into a deep discussion.
People who set up these booths are often very chatty because they are excited about what they do and want to share it with everyone.
Should the interaction become too much, you can say “thank you” and leave.
Don’t forget to bring cash along with your credit card for those few vendors without a machine.
9. Go On A Date
Disclaimer: Please be careful with online dating. Try to video chat with your match before the date, share their details with a family member or friend, and meet in a public space.
Yeah, I know, dating can bring the worst kind of judgemental behaviour against introverts for their limited social skills.
We must talk about ourselves and keep a conversation going to get to know a new person. It sounds awful!
But, if you really want to learn about someone, you won’t get stuck in small talk.
Deep conversations are often intoxicating for introverts.
A first, second or third date is a great place to get that fix.
And we live in a time when dating apps are the go-to place to meet a potential partner.
Checking a profile can tell you if they are physically and personably attractive to you.
With your conversation opener, the small talk can get out of the way very quickly or be ignored entirely if you ask a pointed question about their profile.
You don’t have to meet until you are ready, and by that time, they won’t be a perfect stranger anymore.
10. Take A Solo Trip
Disclaimer: I always share my itinerary with a family member or friend. Be safe and have fun!
It’s another scary one but beyond worth it if you’ve always wanted to travel.
When you are on a trip, you will interact with so many more people than you usually would in your daily life.
You’ll meet hotel staff, gas station attendants, bus drivers, flight attendants, restaurant staff, and tour guides. And they might also not speak English depending on where you want to go.
For your first adventure, I recommend taking a short trip to a nearby city or simply checking in to a hotel to explore your own city as a tourist.
I have found that many tourism experiences follow the same formula, so there is some comfort to be found in the routine.
Because travelling and experiencing the world is my dream, I have promised myself that I won’t waste my vacation time and money staying inside.
Instead, I plan a short itinerary for some activities to ensure I get out of the hotel.
Trust me, it’s easy to get comfortable in the solitude of a hotel, but remember that at the end of the day, you can retreat to that safe space to recharge.
On many of my solo trips, I would be out exploring from 8 to 5 (or whenever it started to get dark). I would then spend the remainder of the evening alone in my room.
The activities can be simple: go for a walk in a new city, read a book in an interesting café, try new foods, and take tours.
I admit that I have found a lot of comfort in being a stranger in a strange city.
That’s the list!
Once again, I don’t recommend forcing yourself to try something if it triggers any anxiety or negative thinking. Before most activities, I would need to give myself an encouraging pep talk. And sometimes I would last maybe 5 minutes before bailing.
After trying an activity, reflect on how it made you feel and why.
Find encouragement in every activity you have tried.
You are doing this for yourself, so be kind and set small goals to accomplish along the way.
If you have tried any of these activities or would like to recommend more, please share in the comments.