I have a question for you. Why is it that even after seeing my friends and being social, I still feel down? Am I the only one who feels this way? Okay, so that was really two questions.
Think about it. The world is designed for extroverts. It tells us that we need to go out and be social – ALL THE TIME – in order to be happy. Feeling sad or lonely? The world gives us a simple answer: plan get togethers with your friends, go out for coffee or dinner.
It sounds so simple and logically, it makes sense. And I’ve tried this advice lots of time. I plan get togethers with friends that I haven’t seen in a while and with friends who I see on a more regular basis. I do look forward to seeing my friends and catching up on what’s happening in their lives. I enjoy our time together. But my sense of happiness quickly fades after our visit.
So, why is it that even after seeing my friends and being social, I still feel down? If being social isn’t working, then what will make me happy? To answer that question, I thought about times when I was happy – not only during the activity, but after. The answer was surprising – I was happiest when I was either alone or with one other person.
Here are 7 lessons I learned about what really makes an introvert happy.
Focus on Self-Care
When life gets busy, it’s easy to put our own needs aside and care for ourselves last. Then, if we run out of time, our self-care ends up on the list of things we didn’t get done that day. But what would happen if we made ourselves a priority? What if we made it a priority to get enough sleep, exercise and eat healthy?
Often times that means something else wouldn’t get done – our house wouldn’t be spotless and chores wouldn’t be done. What’s the worse that would happen? I’m not talking about not feeding a kid or a pet. But unless it’s life or death, it’s okay to leave it undone or ask for help. That’s because when you focus on self-care, you actually have more energy for everything and everyone else in your life.
Get Alone Time
As an introvert, it’s important that we have alone time in order to recharge. When introverts are overstimulated and can’t get enough alone time, they can:
- Feel tired, mentally and physically,
- Find it hard to concentrate,
- Become irritable, and/or
- Have increased anxiety.
Here are some tips on how to get alone time:
- Set blocks of time where you won’t be disturbed,
- Simplify your life by not overscheduling,
- Ask for help or outsource chores like housecleaning and yard maintenance,
- Be alone together – where you are hanging out with someone, but not talking. One example is watching tv together.
Material Possessions Don’t Really Make Us Happy
According to all the ads out there, if you just buy this one thing, this one possession, then you’ll also be smiling and happy all the time. And buying stuff does make us happy – in the short term. But then we get used to all the things we own. So, we have to go buy more stuff to get that shot of happiness. Pretty soon your house is crowded with stuff and you’re not any happier.
The reason – our minds get accustomed to the stuff, leaving you trapped in a never-ending cycle. So, get off the hamster treadmill. Buying more stuff doesn’t make us happy. Only buy what you need and what you use. Learn how you can increase happiness, without buying stuff.
Learn to Let Go
As an introvert, we have a tendency to overthink everything. We replay past events, over and over again. But this just keeps us stuck. We need to learn how to let go. So, how do we let go?
- Ask yourself, “What are the reasons why I can’t let go?”. Are you using this as an excuse for not doing something? Are you using this as a way to get attention?
- Focus on something else in order to redirect your attention away. Watch some tv, try a new hobby or give a friend a call. Pick an activity that will engage your attention and require you to focus on it.
- What would you say to a friend? Someone who was going through the exact same situation? Introverts tend to be pretty hard on themselves, so give yourself a break. Talk to yourself with tenderness and understanding.
Don’t Believe Your Negative Thoughts
When we are trapped in negative thoughts, that’s all we see. That’s because we’re asking our minds to focus on negativity, in order to feed those negative thoughts. And when we are feeling sad or lonely, the negative thoughts seem to multiply. But know this: just because we are thinking something, doesn’t mean it’s true.
When you feel trapped in a sea of negative thoughts, here are some questions to ask yourself to transform those thoughts into positive ones. Ask yourself:
- Is this really true?
- How do you react when you have this thought?
- Could there be another explanation?
- Could there be another way to look at the situation to find any positives?
I love this quote about negative thoughts by Byron Katie, “I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer, and that this is true for every human being. Freedom is as simple as that. I found that suffering is optional.” Always remember to challenge your negative thoughts, in order to increase your happiness.
Have Meaningful Conversations
Yes, you are going out with friends and being social. But how deep are your conversations? Are you having meaningful conversations or just making small talk? For an introvert, small talk is boring. So, go ahead and amp up those conversations. Ask questions that gently dig a little deeper. Share your struggles with your friends. Most importantly, celebrate all the good news in life!
Plan to Have Fun
So, if stuff doesn’t make us happy, then what does? It turns out that experiences, aka adventures, make us happy. That’s because just planning for an experience makes us happy. That experience can be anything that we find fun – a bike ride, a concert, a weekend trip to a nearby town or a week-long vacation. These experiences turn into stories that we share with friends and family. Some stories will even turn into life long memories. As you get older, you won’t remember all the stuff you bought; but you will remember the stories of the fun and the adventures you had!
So, remember that if even after seeing your friends and being social, you still feel down, then perhaps what you need isn’t more social time. Are you getting enough alone time, self-care or fun time? Review the list above. Figure out what really makes you happy and do more of that. What are some things that make you happy?
Until my next blog post, here’s wishing you lots of joy and happiness!