It seems that most of us find lots of comfort in our routine. We do things at home or work a particular way, and we want it to be that way. If you've ever had or cared for young children, you know how important routines can be, for the children's wellbeing and your sanity.
But what kind of things are you missing when you stay in your narrow lane of comfort? What opportunities is your brain missing out on?
The Comfort of the Same-Old, Same-Old
You likely wake up at a particular time and get ready for a workday pretty much the same, whether it's Monday or Friday. Has your morning routine ever been thrown off?
Perhaps you had an early meeting, or your car wouldn't start, or you had a stubborn child who refused to get dressed. The rest of your day likely felt rushed and maybe even awkward. We get so comfortable that we have a difficult time adjusting to even small changes.
“I began to realise how simple life could be if one had a regular routine to follow with fixed hours, a fixed salary, and very little original thinking to do.”
Neuroplasticity Means Your Brain CAN Change
Neuroplasticity refers to the ability of the brain to adapt and change. When we complete our routine tasks, we create strong neural connections. These connections can be difficult to unravel. Stepping out of your comfort zone (deviating from your routine) means that your brain will have to adapt and create new connections.
Research is attempting to create large-scale brain models. Supercomputers can now model a billion neurons. However, these models do not capture the plasticity mechanisms that operate in our minds. Computers simply cannot predict what changes a human brain may undergo in response to various stimuli (Butz, 2016).
You Can Learn a New Trick or Two
You've probably heard the expression 'You can't teach an old dog a new trick'. This old idiom reinforces the thought that changing up our routines and habits is hard to do. Being adaptable is an important trait, however, in both your professional and personal lives. Adaptability means that you are versatile, you can handle uncertainty, and you realise when you need to self-correct.
Stepping outside of your comfort zone will help rewire your brain. Instead of following your exact morning routine, get up ten minutes earlier and spend a few moments with nature. Stand in your backyard or on a balcony and take a moment to breathe. If you usually drink coffee, try a cup of tea. If you skip breakfast, take the time to eat. Take a different route to work. Ride the bus or take a bicycle instead of driving, if you can.
Our set routines make us slip into a comfortable cycle. But your brain isn't exercising when you do the same thing every day. Introduce new ideas and new ways of completing your old tasks. Your brain is an amazingly complex organ, and stepping out of comfort zone will keep your brain nimble and improve your Agility.
Butz, M., Schenck, W., & van Ooyen, A. (2016). Editorial: Anatomy and Plasticity in Large-Scale Brain Models. Frontiers in Neuroanatomy, 10, 108. http://doi.org/10.3389/fnana.2016.00108