The Couch Or The Gym?

Our unconscious mind always takes us to the path of least resistance. Where things are comfortable. Where life is intuitively more desirable.

In a world that often emphasizes the pursuit of comfort and security, it may seem counterintuitive to actively seek out challenges and do the hard things. However, science suggests that stepping outside our comfort zones is not only beneficial for personal growth but has a profound impact on our brain’s structure and function, as well.

Science has proven that challenging ourselves and embracing difficulty can lead to the formation of new neural pathways, ultimately enhancing our cognitive abilities and building resilience. Cold plunge.

The comfort zone conundrum – your “comfort zone” is a psychological state where you feel safe, familiar and in control. While it provides a sense of security, it can also lead to stagnation and a lack of personal growth. When we consistently engage in routine activities that pose little challenge, our brains become accustomed to the familiar, and we miss out on opportunities to be better and do better.

A little sciency – neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to reorganize and form new neural connections throughout life, is a key concept in understanding why challenging ourselves is crucial. Research has shown that engaging in activities that push us beyond our comfort zones stimulates the production of neurotrophic factors, including brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF plays a crucial role in promoting the growth and survival of neurons, fostering the creation of new neural pathways and stimulating mental clarity.

Cold plunge. A new language. Attend an event that interests you where you don’t know anyone. Go on a weekend retreat and totally unplug from all digital connections. Travel to a foreign country. Go skydiving. Initially, these activities may be challenging and mentally taxing, but over time, the brain adapts. Neuroplasticity allows the formation of new neural pathways associated with improved proficiency.

The process of stepping outside our comfort zones involves facing uncertainty, experiencing discomfort and often encountering failure. While these challenges may initially induce stress, they also trigger the release of stress hormones like cortisol. In moderation, stress hormones can have positive effects on cognitive function, such as heightened alertness and improved focus.

Moreover, facing and overcoming challenges prompts the brain to release dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with reward and pleasure. This creates a positive feedback loop that reinforces the idea that tackling difficult tasks is not only beneficial but emotionally rewarding, as well.

Beyond cognitive benefits, embracing challenges fosters emotional resilience. When we confront difficult situations and navigate through them, we develop a sense of self-efficacy and confidence in our abilities to overcome adversity. This resilience extends to various aspects of life, enabling us to cope with stress, adapt to change and face new challenges with a positive mindset.

Embrace the discomfort, for it is in those challenging moments that we sculpt the resilient and adaptable minds to keep us alive and on the planet longer.





Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Stay up to date with our events and get exclusive article content right to your inbox!

Latest Stories

Other Featured Articles


All Article in Current Issue

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Stay up to date with our events and get exclusive article content right to your inbox!