The holiday season is here. For many people, it’s their favorite time of year. For introverts like me, it can be a real challenge.
Let’s face it, it’s not a very introvert-friendly world out there. The personality type, is often misunderstood. For those who don’t identify as introverts, it might conjure up ideas of someone who is quiet or shy. For some that may be true, however it’s is not true for me. We introverts really just process things differently.
Studies show that introverts have a higher blood flow to the frontal lobe, the part of the brain that helps you remember things, solve problems and plan ahead. So, it becomes more complicated for introverts to process information, interactions and events.
It’s also been shown that introverts are more sensitive to that feel good brain chemical, dopamine. Too much and we feel run down. Or another way to look at it is we need less of it to feel happy. Opiates, amphetamines, alcohol and gambling all increase dopamine. That explains a lot – why I’m not a fan of Las Vegas, why one glass of wine is just enough, why I’ve never had a drug problem.
The introvert’s brain treats interactions with people at the same intensity level that it treats encounters with inanimate objects. Introverts process everything in their surroundings and pay attention to all the sensory details in the environment, not just the people. Basically there’s a lot going on in our heads.
Thoughts take a much longer route to process, tapping in to long-term memory, comparing old and new experiences when making a decision, carefully weighing pros and cons. With this active inner dialogue, I tend to respond more slowly than an extrovert, and I can see how this may come across as shy or quiet. Oftentimes, when I’m in a large group of people, by the time I’ve come up with my response the topic has changed.
With such active minds, it’s no wonder that introverts are exhausted by large groups of people. There’s just too much stimulation. It’s why you might find me sitting in a corner at a party, talking to the host’s dog. For us, there’s nothing like a quiet evening at home with a good book, or a hike with one or two of our closest friends to energize us. We’re not anti-social, we just do best in small groups.
All of this leads to some pretty cool advantages of being an introvert. For instance, we don’t have to rely on outside stimuli to energize us – it’s an inside job. And we notice things, lots of things, which is great for creative tasks and problem-solving. In fact, there are some very famous inventors, scientists and artists who are considered introverts – folks like Albert Einstein (my personal fave), Charles Darwin, J.K. Rowling, Steven Spielberg and Eleanor Roosevelt, just to name a few.
For introverts, all that time at home during the pandemic was delightful. We’re very independent, and we work best independently. And speaking of work, we’re the ones that thrive when working behind the scenes. We don’t feel the need, in fact we prefer not to be in the spotlight.
I think my introversion is what first attracted me to meditation. I have a very busy mind and I was looking for a way to dial it down a bit. I share this trait with about one-third of people in the U.S. If you recognized yourself in this article, you might be one of them. And if you can’t relate to any of it, you’re probably an extrovert, with hopefully a little more understanding of what it’s like in the world of an introvert.