Do you often venture into the unknown? Are you willing to try something new or does the thought of something outside of your comfort zone terrify you?

If you’ve ever seen a circus show, you might have watched a clown juggling or an acrobat dangling from silk ropes. You may think that these are amazing skills and you wish that you could do them, but you may find a justifiable excuse as to why you can’t.

This isn’t just with circus skills, though. It comes in the form of things like ‘I wish I could get in shape,’ or ‘I wish I could play the piano,’ or ‘I wish I could travel to see Mardi Gras in New Orleans.’ So why do we do this to ourselves, when we often recognize that our reasons for not doing something are just excuses?

We’re taught from a young age that failure- or not immediately succeeding at something- is bad. The five-year-old loves singing as they play with their toys, but someone makes an offhand comment about singing the wrong note and it manifests into an adult who refuses to sing in public.

We become wary of anything that makes us step out of our comfort zone because we know it might lead to pain. Yet, the most successful people tell us that to become great, we have to embrace that which makes us uncomfortable.

The moment we start asking ourselves questions about failure is the moment we can see where we can grow and become the people we want to be.

Boost your brain.

Apart from working to overcome failure, taking the chance to learn something new is good for your brain. Basically speaking, it allows new pathways to form between thoughts, which improves your memory, makes you more adaptable to change, and helps you form connections between skills, among other things.

Your brain expands when you can speak more than one language. The myelin sheath around axons thickens with new skills learned, improving tasks and decision-making.

By keeping the mind active, you can help to stave off dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and it can help stroke patients recover more efficiently. While there is still much to discover about the human brain and how it works, it has been clearly shown that trying new things is great for overall brain health.

According to psychologist Rich Walker, “People who engage in a variety of experiences are more likely to retain positive emotions and minimize negative ones than people who have fewer experiences.”

Truly, the more you experience, the happier you are.

Ways to try something new: challenge ideas

There are two main ways to give your brain something new to process: a quick experience or a long-term challenge.

A quick way to stimulate your brain is to try something new that doesn’t require any planning. Try brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand or ordering something completely different at a restaurant. You will find that you are focusing more intently on the experience at hand since your brain is trying to process exactly what is going on.

The longer-term approach is deciding to try something that takes a bit more consistent effort and focus, like learning a language or an instrument.

Quick experiences:

Walk somewhere new.

A 30-minute walk is a perfect chance to improve your physical and mental health. Also, the change of environment keeps your walk fresh and engaging, plus you might discover a hidden gem in the process!

Read a manga comic.

There are several different genres so there is bound to be something you like. The neat thing about manga is that it reads right-to-left, preserving the art. It’s a fun challenge to make your mind work a little differently.

Put your non-dominant side to work.

Whether it’s brushing your teeth or stirring dinner on the stove, you’re allowing your brain to form new connections by doing familiar tasks with the opposite hand. Want something that will confuse your brain a bit? Put your other shoe on first.

Watch a YouTube tutorial.

You truly can find anything on the internet these days. Think of a topic that interests you and get searching. You can find a tutorial about how to speak with an accent or how to knit sweaters for cats or how to invest in the stock market. The world is your oyster!

Play with Lego.

Regardless of how old you are, playing with Lego is good for both your mind and your soul. It allows you to be creative and your mind to focus on the task at hand. Whether you love following instructions meticulously or going with the flow, both are good for giving your mind a treat.

Stretch differently.

If you always do the base routine, you are getting a variety of stretching exercises, but your mind knows the basic pattern it follows, so shake it up! If you’ve been sitting all day, try one of the ‘Desk Jockey’ routines to shake up your work-day funk.

Want to push yourself a little harder? Try one of the strength training routines. While they’re not difficult, they keep you constantly moving, getting your heart rate up and exercising with just your body weight!

Longer opportunities:

30-day challenge.

It doesn’t matter what it is, but challenging yourself to consistently do something for 30 days is a great way to challenge your mind. Need some ideas of things to do for thirty days? What about being grateful, writing daily, or reaching out to someone every day for 30 days?

Learn an instrument.

The ukulele is an easy instrument to pick up and there are many free lessons online and apps to learn from. Find a second-hand piano and see if you can replicate your favourite melodies.

Pick up a new language.

Studies show that people who speak more than one language often have increased mental function, plus it is a useful skill to have, either in the workplace or traveling. You can use an app like Duolingo, which is designed to help walk you through the process or you can challenge yourself to learn it on your own- whichever works best for you!

Host an event.

Even if you can’t host something in person, create a virtual event. You could hold a Zoom tea party or create a movie club on Facebook. If you’re musically inclined, challenge yourself to host a virtual concert. There are so many possibilities out there!

Get knitting!

Or crocheting or quilting or whatever appeals to you! Apart from creating something cute, your mind is working through the mental puzzle of putting it all together. There is a reason why this was such a common thing for many people to do before the era of technology!

Become a sommelier.

While wine sommeliers are typically what you think of, there are such things as tea and chocolate sommeliers too! Challenge your mind to see if you can identify individual tastes and smells when consuming something new.

Change your career.

If you are feeling burnt out or completely bored by your job, it might be time to make a change. You could switch to a different company doing the same job or you can find a new career path completely. You’re never too old to try something new!

If you don’t believe that you have enough time to try something new, it is possible that you are living your life on autopilot.

With habits, our brain comes to realize when an action is familiar and it effectively stops thinking about the task at hand, leaving it free to conserve energy for other things. This is why your morning can seem to disappear in a flash or your drive to work seems short.

When our whole life is created out of habit, our brain sees no reason to slow down and live in the moment. By taking the chance to experience something new, time slows down and we can embrace every moment of it.

It seems like the very essence of life is to experience the world around us. Our minds stay sharper when we do and we live longer lives on average. The only thing holding us back is our fear of the different, but once we venture into the unknown, we have the possibility of discovering who we truly are and living life to the fullest. Take this post as a sign that you should go and try something new today!

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Written by Kayla Willsey

Updated June 14, 2021