When was the last time you did something for the first time? It’s easy to slip into a bit of a rut with our everyday lives, opting for the safe and familiar rather than pushing ourselves to get out of our comfort zone. And why not? Especially as we get older, the familiar can seem like a much more comfortable option.
But surprisingly, scientists have found that taking risks is good for us. Of course, I don’t necessarily mean throwing yourself from an airplane or abseiling down a cliff (although some of you may be up for that!). But stepping out and taking calculated risks can benefit our health and happiness.
How taking risks affects us physically
You’ve probably heard about how exercise makes us feel good because of the endorphins which are released.
When we do something that scares us a little, our body releases hormones such as adrenaline which affect how we feel. Adrenaline gives us that buzz you recognize when you are about to do something scary, such as giving a presentation or take an exam.
Too much adrenaline isn’t good for us, but small amounts make us alert and focused, and give us enough of a zap to lift our mood. Studies show that people who take measured risks regularly and challenge themselves just enough to feel uncomfortable are the happiest.
How taking risks affects us emotionally
Taking a calculated risk can have many benefits. Trying something frightening such as an adventure sport can give you a real sense of satisfaction. Conquering your fear and pushing yourself to perform physically will leave you feeling great.
Mastering a new skill or grasping a new activity with both hands will also give you a fantastic sense of achievement. That feeling will far outweigh any worries you might experience beforehand.
And of course, you will feel wonderfully fulfilled if you find that very special person, and build a deep and loving relationship together.
Why do people avoid taking risks?
No-one likes feeling bad, and often we avoid risks because we believe that if things go wrong then the consequences could be unpleasant. We might end up feeling miserable or depressed.
There’s always the chance that we might fail at our new endeavor and perhaps look stupid or incompetent in front of our friends – it seems safer not to try at all.
A new relationship might fail, leaving us hurt, so some people prefer not to open themselves up to the potential pain of rejection.
A few risks to try
So what kind of risks am I talking about? After all, one person’s risk is another person’s walk in the park. Essentially, if it doesn’t make you scared it’s not really a risk for you, so you need to know which kind of risk works for you.
Here are a few suggestions for some ‘gentle’ risks you could try.
1. Take up a new hobby
Taking risks up a brand new activity is a great way to get out of your everyday routine. Look for something that’s unusual for you. If indoor activities are your style, then have a go at an outdoor pursuit like kayaking or hiking. If you’ve always thought you sing like a duck, join a local choir – you may surprise yourself at your prowess and anyway, no-one will hear you amongst all those other voices.
2. Go somewhere new
If you’re the kind of person that always goes to the same place on vacation, plan somewhere completely new. Push the boundaries a little and try a destination that’s completely outside your experience. Who knows? You could end up with some fabulous memories and a taste for getting off the beaten track.
3. Connect with new people
Keeping up with your old friends is great, but making new friends can be invigorating. You could try a friendship group, or look for like-minded people in a book circle, craft group, or local re-enactment organization.
Eleanor Roosevelt said’ Do something that scares you every day’. So here’s my challenge: what will you do tomorrow that scares you? It could be the start of a whole new you.