7 surprising benefits of trying a new activity

I once tried a new physical activity every day for an entire month. It was exhausting.

It was also an exception. For the most part we don’t try new things all that often. Perhaps it’s because we are creatures of habit. Our fear of the unknown has a tendency to hold us back. To try something new is to take a risk – what if we aren’t good at it? What if we don’t like it?

And so, we don’t do it at all. Instead we stick to what we know, we do the things we like, and tell ourselves we’ll try something some other day. The problem is, trying something new has a ton of great benefits that we tend to overlook and, as a result, miss out on.

Here are the top seven reasons for trying something new:

1. It’s interesting

I think one of the top reasons to try something new, is that it’s NEW! Life gets boring, and the more bored we get, the more likely we are to find ourselves watching Netflix and sleeping in until noon on weekends. A new activity is a chance to spice things up.

A week or two ago I tried paddle-boarding for the first time and it was super interesting. I didn’t immediately go buy a board and a paddle or sign up for classes, but it did get me more interested in life. It got me thinking about other things I might like to try. And that’s really where you want to be. It’s an active place to be.

2. It’s a chance to overcome a fear

Maybe you’re afraid you won’t be good or won’t like it. Maybe you’re afraid you’ll fall or look silly or make a mistake. Whatever form it may take, fear has a way of holding us hostage without us even realizing. It’s often the driving force behind our inaction.

So take each opportunity to try something new as a chance to overcome your fear and take the power back. Really think about what it is that you’re afraid of. Try to pinpoint what it is. Try to visualize it. Because the more aware you are of your fear, the easier it is to overcome.

Once you identify your fear, you can start to work on convincing yourself that it’s an exaggerated and overblown. Because often, there’s really nothing to be afraid of. It’s just in our heads. That’s why trying something new can be so empowering.

3. It’s good for your brain

Science has actually shown that trying something new stimulate the growth of new brain cells. We tend to think that some people are naturally athletic, while others are clumsier. Bur the truth is that trying new activities is an excellent way to improve your motor-skills. It can make you more athletic.

Plus, the side-benefits for your brain health should not underestimated. Though we tend to think of crossword and Sudoku puzzles as the best way to keep our brain firing on all cylinders, it turns out new activities can be equally challenging, cognitively speaking.

4. It’s an opportunity to learn a new skill

We tend to think that learning a new skill takes a really long time. We can thank Malcolm Gladwell for popularizing the 10,000-hour figure.

But he was talking about mastery, not about the basics. Learning the fundamentals can often take little to no time at all.

Just think about the last time that you tried something new with a group of people. Who was the best one? Likely the person that had tried it before! Even a quick lesson and an hour of practice can have a huge effect. Who was the best at paddle-boarding when I went? Jon, the ParticipACTION team member that had paddle-boarded once or twice before.

Plus, the better you get at picking up new skills, the more well-rounded and confident you will become.

5. It’s a chance to discover something

Sometimes when you try something new you discover a hidden talent. When I tried axe-throwing a few months ago, I wasn’t good at all. But my fiancée was awesome! She could have gone her whole life without discovering that she had a natural knack for throwing an axe, and what a shame that would’ve been.

Don’t underestimate yourself. Think about all the hidden talents you might have right now and you’ll be a lot more motivated to try something new. It’s exciting to think about what you might be capable of.

6. It’s confidence building

To be honest, I wasn’t afraid of paddle-boarding. I don’t have the best balance in the world. I really thought I might be terrible and fall off the second I tried to stand.

But I went slow, I listened to the instructor and in no time I was standing up no problem. I did of course eventually get too confident and fall in…twice! But the feeling I was left with at the end of the day was one of confidence.

I felt more confident not just in my ability to paddleboard, but to try other new things. I felt empowered for having overcome that fear and for doing something that I initially didn’t think I would be able to do.

7. It’s fun!

Whether it’s paddle-boarding or axe-throwing or flying a kite, trying something new is always fun. Sometimes I’m terrible, other times I’m surprisingly good, but I have a good time either way. There’s a joy in trying something new that’s really hard to get from anything else.

Which is why it’s sad that we don’t do it more often. I get frustrated with myself all the time for falling into old routines, and sticking to what I know and am comfortable with. There’s no room to grow doing that, no opportunity to build confidence, or learn, or overcome fear.

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It’s also why I’m so excited for the ParticipACTION 150 Play List! If you haven’t heard about it yet, now is the time to go check it out. With the help of Canadian voters, we've created a list of 150 physical activities that are uniquely Canadian in honour of our country's 150th birthday.

During 2017, we are challenging all Canadians to try as many of the activities as possible. The opportunities to try new activities are almost endless! And, the more new activities you try, the more chances you earn at great prizes.