Stepping outside your comfort zone can improve your life satisfaction
Intuitively, we tend to stay in our comfort zones to feel safe and secure. But researchers Russo-Netzer & Cohen (2023) suspected that we would do well to regularly step outside our comfort zone. They investigated whether this could increase people's life satisfaction.
Is stepping outside our comfort zone good for us?
Russo-Netzer and Cohen's central hypothesis is that by actively participating in activities that are beyond the boundaries of the known, individuals can increase their resilience, self-confidence, and overall life satisfaction. This hypothesis is rooted in the work of Abraham Maslow, a humanistic psychologist who believed that personal growth is achieved by choosing growth over security.
The study, conducted in Israel, involved a diverse group of 167 adults. The participants were randomly divided into an intervention group and a control group. The intervention group was asked to do something surprising, different, and outside their comfort zone, while the control group kept up with their regular daily activities without making any changes. Participants' life satisfaction was assessed using the Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS) at baseline, two weeks after the intervention, and again three weeks after the intervention.
Results of the study
After analyzing the results, Russo-Netzer and Cohen found that those in the intervention group who stepped outside their comfort zone, especially by helping others, experienced a significant improvement in life satisfaction. This was especially true for those who initially reported lower life satisfaction. In contrast, the life satisfaction of the participants in the control group, who continued their normal daily activities, appeared to be largely unchanged.
Discussion and conclusion
Russo-Netzer and Cohen conclude that actively pursuing new, challenging experiences outside the comfort zone contributes to increased life satisfaction. This is especially true for individuals with an initially lower level of life satisfaction. Their research confirms the human capacity for growth and adaptation and underscores the importance of personal challenges in promoting well-being.