We can choose between healthy and unhealthy coping mechanisms, so why do we pick unhealthy options? Discover why the comfort zone is not the healthy zone. Learn to spot the signs of these unhealthy strategies and what you can do about them.
Comfort is splendid and enjoyable. Much of our modern world has many conveniences. Some of these conveniences are things we need, but we purchase a lot of things that just take up space. Acquiring stuff is the goal for some personality types.
But too much of a good thing always has unforeseen complications, and our personal growth stops. We think we have what we want. What’s worse, we get comfortable in unhealthy situations just because they are familiar. We like the familiar even when it is unhealthy. When we live in routines that become familiar, we can mistake them for comfort. It is deadly because we can spend a lifetime in this situation and not realize it until it is too late. Time goes by faster when we are in the twilight zone.
“This highway leads to the shadowy tip of reality: you’re on a through route to the land of the different, the bizarre, the unexplainable. Go as far as you like on this road. Its limits are only those of mind itself. Ladies and Gentlemen, you’re entering the wondrous dimension of imagination. Next stop The Twilight Zone.” ― Rod Serling
The Comfort Zone
Just because we are comfortable doesn’t mean what we do is good for us. That’s weird. However, habitual practices can be a slippery slope to unhealthy thinking. The Ego naturally disintegrates into harmful thought patterns when we are complacent and fall into a routine. Negative, toxic thinking becomes harmful behavior. It’s the spawning ground for suicidal ideas, revenge, and many other negative thought patterns. But as we go along, things seem normal and comfortable.
We often fall down the slippery slope because we are subject to religious indoctrination that programs harmful scripts. Religion is comfortable because it provides simple answers to hard questions. However, the answers it provides are counterfeits substantiated by circular logic. So, losing your faith in imaginary friends is the best thing that could happen; it removes the boundaries of your mind.
Learn how to spot the signs of your comfort and move beyond it. The comfort zone masquerades as the healthy zone. It is a place where we are not living, simply existing.
Healthy and Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms
1. Conformity ― Surrendering to the Situation
“The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it is conformity.” ― Rollo May
In this sense, surrendering means giving up hope. A life without hope makes it easy to conform and fit in, but it’s not better; it’s just easier. So, we live a twilight existence, simply learning to get by. There’s no joy in living, just compliance.
Just because we are comfortable doesn’t mean we are happy. We accept a situation even though it is unhealthy or painful. The similarity brings a level of comfort. That’s because we fear the unknown more than the pain, so we conform to the situation. That’s why it’s number one on the list and one of the first choices between healthy and unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Complacency leads to conformity because it is familiar and comfortable. Conformity feels safe, but it’s a trap; it wastes our most valuable resource: time. Conformity and complacency are easy to settle into; that’s why the comfort zone is not the healthy zone.
The Healthy Antidote for Complacency
The antidote is to move from conformity to authenticity by making an honest assessment of your situation. Brainstorm and find all the ways you conform and what you could do to change them. Don’t leave out any options. Use your imagination; it doesn’t matter how crazy the idea seems. You can sort out those you can act upon when you are done brainstorming.
Now that you have your list of things you do to comply and conform look at the crazy things you could do to change them. Leave out those options that are harmful or against the law. Now pick one thing you can do and make it a priority.
Change something in your life that expresses the real you. It could be as simple as wearing two socks or changing the route to and from work. Find something that defines the real you, and you’ll feel better.
The most powerful thing you can do is vow to live a courageous life. If you follow this proclamation, it will bring opportunities that will positively impact you and the world.
2. Weary and Defeated ― Self-Doubt
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. It may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” — Maya Angelou
We become weary for several reasons. Weariness is on a downward spiral. This downward trend often starts with complacency. As a result, our lives become a never-ending series of weary tasks, and eventually, we doubt everything.
We develop self-doubts about our skills and, eventually, our worthiness. The attack on our self-worth blinds us to this unhealthy cycle. We don’t see a way to reverse this trend when this happens. The most significant loss is not seeing the lesson this situation can provide because it’s a wake-up call prompting us to change direction. If we miss this wake-up call, we continue the downward trend toward depression.
Despite these negative feelings of defeat, it becomes comfortable. That’s because it is familiar. Familiarity makes failure comfortable. Just because it’s unhealthy doesn’t mean it isn’t a place of comfort for our Ego. It satisfies the Ego no matter the situation, as long as it is in control. That’s why the comfort zone can become the unhealthy zone where we live.
When we are weary and defeated, we take on the role of the victim, which results in a downward spiral to more unhealthy thinking.
The Healthy Antidote for Weariness and Defeat
The key to breaking this cycle is rekindling our joy and hope. You find hope and joy in the place where you last experienced it. Search for memories that bring you joy, and they bring that joy into the present moment. How do you do that? You write them down.
Remember to focus on the lessons of failure, but move on; this takes courage. That’s because weariness is addictive and becomes the comfort zone, even if it is harmful.
Courage is a mixture of action, vulnerability, and risk. It takes personal courage because it makes us vulnerable emotionally, and although we risk exposing our emotions, it is worth it.
3. The Unhealthy Zone of Boredom ― Lack of Desire
“Boredom: the desire for desires.” ― Leo Tolstoy
We all experience boredom from time to time. Hopefully, not while reading this… However, when a habitual behavior pattern wastes time, it needs to be changed. Routines are proper for exercise, bed, study time, etc. However, some patterns are symptoms of boredom, like spending several hours scrolling social media.
When the mind keeps busy with mindless activities, this becomes boring. If this mindless activity is our work, which provides our income, we must become more mindful. Otherwise, the lack of desire will affect our attitude and abilities.
The Healthy Antidote for Chronic Boredom
Most people think doing more is the best way to break the habit of boredom, but this isn’t true. What works better to break boredom is meditation. That’s right. Instead of more activity, we introduce silence. That’s because effective meditation disengages the Ego and personality. These are the culprits behind the mindset of boredom. The healthy and unhealthy coping mechanisms need the proper environment to work. Silence is the key to making better choices, not doing more.
This comfort zone will burn up a lot of time, but rather than feeling guilty, you may have a sense of accomplishment or satisfaction. When you realize the time and effort investment, you’ll see an unhealthy pattern that needs to change.
The fact is, it’s not things you do or the situation which makes us bored. It’s what we experience when our personality is in control, which is mind-numbing. If you don’t know how to meditate, there’s a link above to a simple two-step method anyone can use. So, the next time you feel bored, meditate for three minutes. Three minutes of silence refreshes the mind and body.
4. Easily Distracted ― Acting like a Trout
“Focus helps you do something. Distraction makes you avoid doing anything.” ― Mani S. Sivasubramanian
Our modern culture narrative is a product of groupthink manipulation. The advertising industry grew out of this misuse of emotional triggers. As a result, there’s no doubt we are all programmed to act like trout because no one escapes the critical mass of advertising. We go after anything that is bright and shiny or which looks tasty. Being easily distracted is a choice. When there’s a battle between healthy and unhealthy coping mechanisms, the unhealthy usually wins because it is easy to do.
All media communications contain the potential to become an unhealthy distraction. For instance, you can spend mindless hours engaging in TV, video games, and the internet. Unfortunately, even people can become distractions. It’s possible to waste hours just bouncing from one thing to another. It’s merely time-consuming but not satisfying. Nor does it bring lasting happiness. Afterward, there is always a feeling of guilt, and you realize this is why your comfort zone is just a waste of your precious time.
The Healthy Antidote for the Easily Distracted
The first thing we need to do is admit we have a problem and remove those things which distract us. If you use people as a distraction, this is a bigger problem. In that case, seek professional help.
Realize the root of this is patterns of thought. We can break these patterns with some time and work. Some things that help are working to improve memory. Mnemonic tools are vivid stories that combine unusual elements and the data we need to remember. Again, meditation is an effective antidote.
5. Apathy ― Justifying Inaction
“The inactive must justify their sloth by picking nits with those making an attempt.” ― Dave Eggers
Apathy takes inaction to a whole different level. Apathy is an excuse to explain away and justify your inaction. This one often runs along with complacency. You convince yourself it’s okay to ignore your conscience, which is how rational people make poor decisions.
We know the right thing to do, but it means going against our cultural narrative. And if we do this, it will move us out of the comfort zone. We must fight against falling back into old thought patterns to justify our inaction. Apathy is also more than procrastination, and it’s a lack of interest.
You lose touch with your heart and creative center when you lose interest. Losing touch with your heart makes life monotonous. Even if you see what’s going on and know what you should do, you ignore it. This situation is happening to more and more people. That’s because there isn’t just one thing wrong with the cultural narrative. Many things need improvement in our society.
The Healthy Antidote For Apathy
Apathy is probably the most challenging mindset to conquer. You don’t just snap out of indifference. Because apathy is like a vine, it gets stronger the longer it grows. So, the longer the vines are in place, the harder they are to remove. It will take time to overcome this mindset. But learning to cultivate a beginner’s perspective can help overcome this inertia.
The way out is with some serious inner work. Start by reading about the subject. Carl Jung shows us how our childhood holds the key to fulfillment as adults. Mindfulness meditation, both seated and moving forms, is also great for elevating your attitude.
6. Lack of Goals ― No Goals, You’ll Never Fail
“It’s a lack of clarity that creates chaos and frustration. Those emotions are poison to any living goal.” ― Steve Maraboli
Life without goals is the mantra of the comfort zone. If you have no plans and never fail, this is perhaps the most insidious trap. Objectives help us avoid many other traps.
The Healthy Antidote for Lack of Goals
Start with small goals and put them in writing, even if it’s just a reminder on your smartphone. Success builds momentum. Once you can complete small things, then you make the goal larger. You can do this!
We set boundaries and limitations because it’s comfortable. However, nothing grows in this comfort zone. Our culture reinforces this idea that comfort is the goal, even if it is harmful to ourselves and others. The use of substances like alcohol is addictive and harmful, but it also generates a lot of cash which can be taxed. So, personal improvement goals are a way of combating this message. The antidote is to set simple incremental goals. Above all, always make SMART goals.
Smart is an acronym to remind us of the best way to set goals. It’s a part of building good habits.
Smart goals are:
- Specific and Precise
- Attainable and Possible
- Realistic and Practical
- Time-sensitive (a particular measure of time)
Here are some ideas for setting simple goals:
- Make the bed today.
- Smile and say something positive to the first person you see.
- Exercise this afternoon when you get home from work.
- Set a one-hour social media blackout today.
- Find one thing to give away.
- Practice saying “thank you” instead of saying “I’m sorry.” For instance, if you are late for a meeting, instead of saying, “I’m sorry I’m late.” In place, say, “thank you for waiting for me.”
7. Unfulfilled Pleasure-Seeking
“Seek not greater wealth, but simpler pleasure; not higher fortune, but deeper felicity.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
Some personality types, like the Enneagram type seven, are more susceptible to this lifestyle. They aren’t the only ones who can turn to an adrenalin rush to cover up what’s happening. Yes, there is excitement. If there isn’t anything exciting to do, they slip quickly into depression.
However, activities and adventures are a way to cover up; they are unhappy. It’s all wrapped up in the motives for being active. The reasons differ between having fun and needing to do it. So, if the motivation is to have fun, that’s good. But, if we need to engage in thrill-seeking to avoid facing something, that’s unhealthy.
The difference between healthy and unhealthy coping mechanisms requires a shift of perspective. Instead of seeking new ways to find pleasure, we must grasp the joy of simple things.
Thrill-seekers are always trying new things. If skydiving becomes dull, they move up to wing-surfer flying. When that isn’t enough, they find something higher and more dangerous. They may set world records, but the victories are hollow. Achievements provide fulfillment, just frustration. Does this sound familiar?
Thrill-seeking may not seem like a comforting place, but being scared releases adrenalin that makes you high. It’s why people like scary movies and roller coasters. Fear is an adrenalin rush. So, you aren’t satisfied. You are addicted to the adrenalin rush. Once you start down the road of excitement, you’ll always be looking for the next thing. Unfulfilled pleasure-seeking is one of the significant drivers of commercialism, and that’s why your comfort zone becomes less and less fulfilling.
The Healthy Antidote for Unfilled Pleasure-Seeking
The Enneagram Personality Profile is the best tool to help you understand your personality and instinct. This mental tool is key to “serious inner work.” And this tool will show you the connections between thoughts and personality. It can even show you the links between your desires and cultural programming.
By all means, learn about the triggers for your personality and instincts. Then, attend an Enneagram workshop where they help you drill down to the genuine answers. Most competent teachers use the repeating question model to do this because this tool will show you what fears you need to face.
Entering The Healthy Zone
“It’s only after you’ve stepped outside your comfort zone that you begin to change, grow, and transform.” ― Roy T. Bennett
Does one or more of the above situations seem familiar? If they do, then your place of comfort may be your unhealthy zone. Chances are you have become accustomed to picking the easy but harmful option. So, you must learn to stop and think about how you choose. That way, you’ll make a better choice between healthy and unhealthy coping mechanisms. You can do it!
“You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension: a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into… the Twilight Zone.” ― Rod Serling, The Twilight Zone: Complete Stories
The comfort zone may seem like a beautiful place, but it prevents you from facing the things you need to deal with, so you can grow. Trust your gut and build relationships based on healthy spiritual energy rather than superficial and temporary gratification. Challenge yourself to identify and replace these coping strategies with healthy thought scripts.