When’s the last time you tried something new?  I mean really tried something new: a new haircut, a new way of doing something, a new hobby, or even something as simple as a new restaurant. We often get stuck in our habits and routines.  A grocery store commercial comes to mind, where a woman is shopping the aisles with her eyes closed, having picked the same products off the shelves for so long she knows exactly where they are through muscle memory alone.

Often habits go beyond the simple daily routines we keep.  They can apply to ways of thinking, feeling and behaving on a more serious level. Staying stuck in an unhealthy or dysfunctional pattern not only prevents you from living your best life, but can be self-destructive too.  For those of you who are stuck in health habits that keep you overweight and unhappy, you know all too well how hard it can be to break free from these patterns.

Why People Stay Stuck

One big reason people stay stuck is the comfort that comes from force of habit.  Better to stick with the devil you know, than the devil you don’t know, right?  Well, maybe not.  Comfort zones are limiting, preventing you from venturing out into new, unexplored territory.

Fear of change is another big reason. With fear come all the questions: what do I have to lose by changing?  What will I be giving up?  How hard will it be to try something new?  What if I fail?  What if it doesn’t last?  How do I know things will be better the new way, anyway?

There are no ready answers for these questions. But know that anything worth having usually comes through hard work, persistence, and experimentation.  And even though things might not be better the new way, things definitely won’t get better if you don’t try.

Benefits of Trying Something New

Here are some of the advantages of trying something new: 

* Overcome your fears.  Haven’t taken a vacation in years because you’re afraid of flying?  Now’s a good a time as any to tackle that fear (whether on your own or with professional help). 

* Change as an opportunity for growth.  Every time you encounter a change in your life, you get to learn something about yourself.  Every time you experiment with something different, you learn something about the world, your strengths and even your limitations (why waste time on something you’re not good at?).

* Keep your mind sharp.  Whenever you try something new, you’re challenging your mind, keeping your skills fresh, and forging new pathways in your brain.  It also helps you stay interested, because nothing ever gets boring.

* Discover your passion.  How will you know what you’re truly in love with and good at if you haven’t taken the time to try anything and everything the world has to offer?

* Live life more fully.  Instead of staying to stuck to the same old boring routine, break out of the mold and do all those things you’ve been meaning to try.  Not only will every day be different and more interesting, you’ll have a lifetime of memories to look forward to (and no regrets, either!).

* Replace old habits with new, healthier ones.  Perhaps the most important benefit of all.  Each time you create a new habit, you have to make room by getting rid of an old one.  By finding an after-dinner activity that will keep you active, engaged and having fun, you won’t be able to park yourself on the couch every evening with a bag of snacks.

Where Should I Start?

Like anything else, you should always start small. Choose changes that are not only easy to implement, but actually sound fun or exciting.  Once you get comfortable with making smaller changes, move on to bigger, scarier ones.  See the list below for some suggestions:

* Try a different route on your way to work or during your daily walk.

* Check out local listings for interesting activities you’ve always meant to try (e.g., yoga, painting, or wine tasting classes).

* Rearrange your furniture in a way that’s more aesthetically pleasing and more functional.