Literally a comfort zone is an area where you are able to feel emotionally comfortable and unchallenged. If you compare it to muscles it is the area in which you can move your muscles without feeling any strain or stress at all.
Things that challenge your muscles are clearly defined and common to everyone.
Things that challenge your emotions are much more complex, varied and individual to each person.
What is a challenge to your comfot zone?
Walking into a roomful of strangers may challenge some people.
Standing up and giving a presentation others.
Asking for direction from a stranger may be a stretch for some.
Making a decision without running it by someone might be a real stretch too.
We all have limits to our personal comfort and things that would be a challenge for us or make us think twice.
Why do we need to stretch our comfort zone?
Just like muscles if your comfort zone is not stretched regularly then it begins to shrink and seize up. But just like muscles when you excercise them by stretching they get stronger and the things that were once difficult now seem much more manageable.
However, left unchallenged, emotional stagnation means that you start to withdraw and go within yourself, shutting yourself off from other people and life experiences.
How do I stretch my comfort Zone?
To stretch your muscles and keep them toned you would go to the gym or exercise regularly. It's not so easy to stretch your comfort zone, but equally you don't have to devote a lot of time to it by taking time out to go the the gym or exercise physically in some other way.
To stretch your comfort zone you just need to be more aware of your limitations, comfortwise, set yourself very simple and easy targets and start to expand them. You really need to be looking at a daily challenge workout.
This is also quite difficult to monitor because people tend to be drawn to where they are comfortable and indulge in a complimentary activity which might be good for some things but not stretching them
For instance if someone was shy and they wanted to work on it. Stretching your comfort zone would be ensuring that they a) struck up a conversation with someone every day b) smiled at a stranger every day c) joined a class alone, or any number of similar things. Doing any of these actions or a mix would eventually lead to you feeling comfortable with that activity as it becomes your comfortable norm. Then you would need to find another area that would stretch that zone thus over a period of time more things are available to you within your comfort zone and you also know that yet more things are accessible with a little effort.
Yet that person might well be drawn to meditation or affirmations each morning in front of the mirror. While these are methods of improving yourself and working on problems they are not stretching your comfort zone. That's like rubbing cream into your muscles and maybe even having a massage it's indirect action and not getting you anywhere. Maybe even taking you further away from your goal.
Quick guide to stretching your comfort zone:
a) Chunk it down Think about something small that would not be too much of a challenge for you and do it daily until you have 'stretched' into being comfortable with it.
Once you have become comfortable with your first activity think about another that would be a slight stretch but within your capabilities and work on that.
c) Don't stop
Keep stretching and moving on with new focus
Before you know it you will have a much bigger zone in which you can feel comfotable.
Andrea Lowe Senior Hypnotherapist at the Mind & Body centre
Imagine this: Absolute quiet interspersed with the sounds of birds singing , clocks chiming, the wind rustling through the trees and occasionally carrying the sound of the waves rythmically washing the bPicture this: A country house in it's own grounds with views of the sea and the mountains, lots of quaint features and an atmosphere reflecting of yeateryear mainly because thankfully many of the original features have been preserved and maintained.
Friday evening: Gradually our yoga enthusiasts arrive and each expresses their wonder at the tranquil location. After a refreshing drink suitcases are unloaded that without exception appear to be packed for a full week rather than the weekend.
Imagine being greeted as you arrive by truly free range hens who are tame and almost come when you call.
It's time for a very welcome post journey yoga session to loosen up a little before dinner.
Dinner is a three course vegetarian delight first with butterbean soup followed by lentil and nut roast with accompanying veg. and lemon sponge and custard or apple puree and ice cream (soya) for Gluten Free. All home made by the sisters who make us feel very welcome.
Before retiring for the night we have a yoga session to prepare for sleep and it works, everyone is eager to get comfortably to bed.
The mattresses are bouncy and yet firm, very comfortable. There is a wash basin in each bedroom and plenty of toilets, showers and baths dotted along the corridors. There are also brew points with ample supplies of drinks and kettles, biscuits etc for a last drink before bed.
For those brave enough to get up in time for 7.30 (and I believe everyone did) there was a wake up Yoga session before breakfast.
After breakfast on Saturday a guided visualisation relaxation helps the food go down and everyone attended. A stroll around the grounds proved to be a photo opportunity as well a bird spotting exercise - we definately heard a woodpacker peck pecking at the trees. This was fololwed by an energising yoga class with postures to prepare for lunch which was a 3 course meal with vegetable soup,a fantastic selection of imaginative salads and a choice of puddlings.
In the afternoon as the weather was reasonable we managed a walk to the beach which involved a 15 minute stroll through the village down a tunnel under the main road leading us to a smooth sandy beach with pebbles. We had some fun there and although it wasn't possible to do any real yoga on the beach, for the sake of pride we made an attempt (just while the film was running). We all got a good injjection of ozone.
A few people had stayed behind doing their own thing which might have been reading, sleeping or mooching.
Back in time for a yoga session to the sound of a gong which was a different experience.
Then before dinner we have time to have a fun exercise and play a game to get to know each other a little better and to stretch those comforts zones - only fair as the muscles and joints had plenty of stretching so far.
The evening meal was curry and rice and for pud bread and butter pudding with a glutton free version too.
After dinner we decided the weather is good enough for an outdoor activity so we prepared indoors for the labyrith walk meditation. Once we have the process firmly in mind we make our way to the stone Labyrinth, fantastic. One of the most charming things about this area is that it is hidden through a stone arch just off the rustic path that leads up the hill to the sea view. The labyrinth is planted with a selection of herbs and shrubs amd is truly hidden gem. The walk and meditation is enhanced by the sound of your feet moving across the small stones.
The labryinth thereafter seems to be like a magnet for quiet moments and almost everyone had a lone contemplative walk.
Our evening yoga before sleep class is becoming a habit now.
Sunday morning everyone attended the wake up yoga session. Following breakfast we relaxed to a gong bath. Then a final yoga session before lunch which was parsnip roulade with vegetables followed by egg custard and apple puree.
All yoga classes were in the chapel to the sound of silence a wonderful luxury not to be contaminated with music however relaxing.
Things I don't know about the weekend:
I don't know which labyrith I liked the best - the gravel one or the lawn one
I don't know how Barry came up with so many different versions of Yoga that seemed to be perfect for the time of day.
I don't know how to thank all the lovely people who joined us.
I don't know how a weekend can feel like its been a week.
I don't know how to find that lovely quietness at home
It took us so long to manage to book into this place but it was worth the wait and we have pencilled early for next year in the summer this time We wanted to take advantage of the outdoors to enjoy yoga on the lawn and even on the beach.