My comfort zone is pretty nice, actually 

By Erin Smith

Contributing columnist

You know what I mean. This rah-rah phrase is often accompanied by a picture of a circle with the term comfort zone written inside it. Outside the circle is text decrying the magic or growth zone or where life begins. It’s the rallying cry of the self-improvement industry, reminding us to push past our self-imposed limitations to lead a big life. There is plenty of science to back this up. That which is uncertain or uncomfortable forces our brains to grow and learn. As an objective-driven goal medalist, getting out of my comfort zone is a philosophy I can get behind. 

But not right now. 

I am in a season of soul stretching, in a time of forced rearranging of expectations and dreams. Also in the busiest time in my life, I have stretched myself so thin as to become virtually invisible. In service of a more fortified future, I am giving myself permission to hang out as long as I want in my comfort zone. And I gotta tell you, it’s actually pretty darn nice here. 

Humans are hardwired to seek psychological and physical comfort. The modern term comfort zone was coined by the writer of an HVAC User’s Manual; it refers to 68 to 76 degrees, the temperature range where humans are most comfortable. There is peace and stability in the comfort zone.

The word comfort arises from the late Latin confortare, meaning to strengthen. That which gives solace also gives strength. I’m leaning into things that offer ease in this moment to create a stronger me tomorrow. But how to find solace in a world that rarely slows and certainly doesn’t stop?

In my first few guitar lessons, I remember thinking it was going to be pretty easy. This is a G, this is C, this is a D chord. No problem. “Add the truth and I can play any country song in history, right?” I joked. My guitar teacher smiled, graciously allowing for my naïveté. Soon enough, every week grew harder by building on the skills of the previous week. There were barre chords, then hammer chords, then complicated finger rolls that asked my hands to perform separate but choreographed gymnastics. It grew progressively more complicated and nuanced.

Comfort is the exact opposite of that. Our hearts and minds start out complicated, full of tricky chord progressions and baffling finger licks. The trick is moving from the complex to the ever more effortless. 

Comfort is carving out time to return to the simple. 

While pleasure can be bought, comfort must be found. For me, comfort lies in being alone in nature, in things that weren’t created by simply are. Deep breaths of fresh air and eyes peeled for the magic that is too often overlooked. The mathematical perfection of a nautilus. Morning dew outlining a spider’s web. A happy sunflower blowing gently in the breeze. A deer’s silhouette,  outlined against the sunrise, a dolphin chasing a shrimp boat, a grackle doing his silly bird dance at the feeder. Wiggling my toes in the sand at the beach. Dangling my feet off the dock at the lake. Reading or napping under my favorite tree, toasting the sunrise with an extra cup of coffee, walking barefoot so much I am forced to wash my feet before I climb into bed each night. 

Late summer is my favorite time of year, a time when the weather and the landscape beg to be enjoyed. I’m taking a summer sabbatical to soak it in before the wind and rain pushes me back inside. Nature offers comfort and I’m taking her up on it.

Maybe your life begins at the end of your comfort zone. But mine is starting again right inside it.

Erin Smith, ERYT500, CNL, MLS, is owner of the OM place. She is a therapeutically-inclined yoga teacher, certified mindfulness coach, women’s wellness coach, and the host of the OM channel, an online yoga and mindfulness channel. Learn more about the OM place at www.theomplace.net.