It is not possible to live a good life alone. However we define “the good life,” it will include other people. To have meaning and purpose in life, we need to work with – and for the benefit of – other people.
So what does that mean for those of us who are introverted? For those of us who get overwhelmed when we spend too much time with other people and not enough time alone?
It means two things. 1. We need to protect time for solitude. 2. We need to make sure we spend quality time with other people.
Why do we need peace and quiet?
First, so we’re on the same page. Let’s talk about extroversion and introversion briefly. There are a couple different definitions of each, and most people will fall somewhere between the two. Here are the descriptions that I’m working with. 1
- Feel energized by spending time with other people
- Are comfortable with small talk & networking type events
- Figure out their ideas by talking it through with someone else
- Are drawn to group activities
- Are drained by spending time with other people
- Are more comfortable with 1-on-1 conversations
- Figure out their ideas by thinking it through on their own (often by drawing or writing)
- Are drawn to solo activities
As I said, most people will fall somewhere between these categories. Very, very few people will be happy to spend a long time totally alone or constantly surrounded by other people. What varies between people though is the actual balance point. In other words, the amount of time you need alone versus the amount of time you spend with other people. 2
What are the benefits of quiet alone time?
- Reflection: In order to soak in experiences, learn and grow from them, we need to reflect on them. It is a key part of the learning process.
- Knowing yourself better – This site is all about creating healthy habits that allow you to live the life you want for yourself. But in order to build habits, to know what you do want, you need to know yourself. When you are constantly surrounded by other people’s ideas, it can push your own ideas out of your mind.
- Reduced stress. The world is noisy. If we don’t take a break from all that noise, it builds up in our levels of stress. This might be more obvious to introverts, but I think we can all identify with this.
How to protect your quiet time
There are three questions that you need to answer. The answers will vary from person to person and at different times in your life.
- How do you know when we need quiet time?
- How much time do you need?
- How do you best recharge?
You can answer those questions by reflecting, by being mindful and aware of your own experience, and by journaling.
Whatever answer that comes to you, accept it as true. And know that the answers will probably evolve over time.
As far as what is recharging, here’s a list of some things that might work for you:
- Reading a book that makes you think and explores ideas.
- Reflecting on a page (aka journaling) or looking out a window (at nature!) and thinking
- Walking – without listening to music or podcasts
- Painting, drawing, or doing woodwork – creating something with your hands
- Writing – much of the stuff in this blog comes from my own reflecting and quiet time. This could also include writing fiction, poetry, whatever calls to you.
- And I’m sure there is more. Let me know in the comments below what I missed. 🙂
Commit to yourself
5 minutes – 1 hour
Set aside some time each day that you can be alone with yourself. Journal, meditate, stare out a window. This could be as little as 5 minutes, or it could be an hour or more. If you don’t think you have time, let the time you spend in the shower or even just brushing your teeth be this time for you.
1 hour – A couple hours
Each week, or at least every couple weeks, spend a little longer in quiet time. Look back at that list of recharging activities. What calls out to you?
I get that it may not feel like you have the time. But your own mental health requires a little bit of time to recharge. I think it is true for everyone; it most certainly is for us introverts.
Monthly, Quarterly, or Annually
Several hours or more
In all of these categories, your life and your needs will influence how much time you need and how much time is possible for you to take. Especially this final category.
Find your people. Don’t forget to keep in touch.
Everything I’ve said about protecting your time is important. We introverts need to respect our nature and allow quiet and solitude. But we also need to connect with our people. It is possible to get so concerned with seeking and protecting quiet that we forget that.
We can also get so wrapped up with what’s going on in our minds that the rest of the world kind of disappears for a while. Then the next thing you know, it has been weeks or months since you’ve last talked to the people that you care about the most. It is even more tricky when you live far apart.
If you’re wanting to talk to your favourite people more often, here are a few ideas that you can try out:
- Sending a letter to reach out when it feels like it’s been too long to just text.
- Deciding when you’ll talk next before hanging up a phone call
- Sharing any pictures of anything that make you think of them – something in a store, online, on a movie
- Video chat! It’s not quite as good as hanging out in person, but It’s pretty awesome when you’re just too far apart
- Scheduling a text to go out later. 3
- Working on a project together, or meeting regularly to talk about similar projects that you are individually working on
- Start a book club – and like other ideas, this doesn’t have to be in person. You could meet by video chat or phone. And you don’t even have to read the same book – just hang out and talk about the books you have read or are reading. Similarly, you could do a podcast club, or a movie club, or a TV show club.
Whatever excuse you can find that allows you to communicate with people who are important to you is a good excuse. Make that time special by really engaging, and even if you’re an introvert, you’ll enjoy your time together.
We need both solitude and connection. Too much of either is unhealthy. Both loneliness and a lack of self-knowledge can lead you to struggle with your mental health and/or with a sense that your life has meaning.
Each one of us needs to find the point of balance. You likely need a different amount of solitude versus interaction than I do. We each need to respect what balance means to us by protecting our quiet, while also reaching out to other people.
By finding and honouring that balance, we can go from overwhelmed and lonely, to a bit more balance. That balance point will shift as we go through life, but we know how to handle that.
Let me know in the comments below: Do you need to protect your quiet or do you need to reach out to others more?
You are reading this because you are interested in improving your life. That means we have something in common. I’m still working on what the Foundations for the Good Life is all about, and I’d love for you to join me in this journey. I’d love to build a community with you. With people who are trying to figure out what “the good life” means, and how to set up their life to make it possible for them.
If this interests you, join the newsletter to be the first to know about updates, new articles, and to try out tools as they are developed and improved. I hope to connect with you soon.
- I started to go down a bit of a rabbit hole on the definitions of extroversion and introversion, and whether the correct spelling was extrovert or extravert. If you’re interested, this article on whether it is extro- or extra-vert also alludes to some of the different definitions in use. Enjoy. :)
- If you want to go deeper on this idea, check out introvertdear.com. I recommend starting with this article: What is an Introvert?
- This one has been so helpful for me. I usually remember that I wanted to chat with someone at the end of the day – when I’m too tired to hold any sort of conversation. So I’ll type up a message and schedule it to send the next day. Now the technology is doing the work of remembering instead of my brain. :)