Comfort Zone illustration

The transition period into college is a huge life change for incoming students. Living in a different environment, meeting new people and adjusting to college courses can be extremely challenging. However, it is important for students to push the boundaries they have lived by in order to successfully grow.

Humans make decisions based on neural pathways created by the brain. The brain uses the pathway’s patterns when creating thoughts and behaviors. Constantly following the same pattern will result in forming comfort zones. Some individuals gravitate toward the zones due to the minimization of taking risks. They mimic their past experiences to avoid anxiety-inducing situations occurring from uncertainty. Although, when constantly living within definitive boundaries, people neglect to try new things and limit the development of their overall well-being.

This can be extremely important for college students to get out of their comfort zones in order to gain new perspectives, become in tune with their emotions and benefit their mental health.

It is crucial for college students to break away from clear-cut perimeters in order to gain new life perspectives. We are constantly making decisions every day that shape our pathways in life. Though it may be intimidating to step away from those pathways, the reward can be fulfilling.

In a study conducted in Germany, research showed that risk-taking individuals were more content than those who avoided risks. While taking risks in life is inevitable, individuals seeking out those opportunities displayed benefits. When facing new situations, our mind is forced to create new situations for challenges that arise. Thus, making you much more adaptable and prepared for challenges in the future. Experiencing new situations can help boost creativity levels, as well.

Choosing to live outside of ones comfort zone can make individuals vulnerable to making mistakes. But it is important for students to understand the benefits of these encounters. Mistakes help individuals gain experience, assist in the development of critical thinking skills and gain wisdom. Rather than trying to avoid making mistakes, students should focus on learning from them.

Persisting outside of the confinement of boundaries can encourage students to become more in tune with their emotions. It is essential to have a growth mindset when pushing personal boundaries. A “growth mindset” encourages individuals to leave their comfort zones in order to further develop and improve skills.

Those practicing this mindset are opening themselves up to encountering new experiences, which can inspire different emotions. Recognizing the emotions felt in situations outside of one's comfort zone can allow one to better understand their self and become familiar with emotions. Individuals who are understanding of their emotions are more likely to have trust in themselves, improved decision-making skills and experience life fully.

Students like Andrea Ortega, an exercise and sports science senior, believe it is important to challenge yourself to live beyond self-made boundaries.

“I’m a strong believer that if you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something that you’ve never done," Ortega said. "Everything good I have has come from going out of my comfort zone. The things I didn’t want to do or had risks have had the best outcomes. These experiences have taught me to take risks, and not be afraid of the unknown, but to embrace it."

One year ago, Ortega challenged herself to start attending the gym. She developed a love for weightlifting and ended up changing her major to exercise and sports science. Currently, she is completing an internship at a hospital in Austin and plans on pursuing a master's degree in exercise science. By taking a risk, she was able to find her passion in life. She urges other students to challenge themselves and pursue their goals.

Pursuing life outside of your "safe place" has benefits regarding mental health. There is a lower risk of developing depression and anxiety in individuals who often step outside their comfort zone. When opening themselves up to new situations, individuals develop critical skills to help deal with stress. Over time, they are developing their emotional resilience. New scenarios can also encourage personal growth by making individuals more prepared for the future. These individuals are constantly gaining experience and knowledge.

Moving into uncharted territory can be very overwhelming for students. They run the risk of becoming disappointed with their decision and may find that leaving their comfort zone was not beneficial. Regardless of the outcome, students will gain insight that assists in pursuing personal growth. This growth is important by allowing individuals to implement life adjustments to promote positive outcomes.

It is not always necessary to perform grand gestures in order to get outside of your comfort zone. It can be as simple as speaking up during class discussions, introducing yourself to new people or trying new food options on campus. You can even try by pushing yourself to learn a new skill or explore different areas of town.

There are opportunities on campus available for students to challenge themselves, too. Joining an organization, participating in social events or attending sports games are just a few opportunities Texas State has to offer.

- Kadence Cobb is a journalism freshman

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