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Are Introverts Doomed To Unhappiness?

On the International Day of Happiness (March 20), I ask a taboo question that needs to be addressed.

Visit any introvert-centric Group on Facebook (trust me I belong to a LOT of them) and you would think introversion is synonymous with anxiety, depression and social alienation. One would be naive to deny there is a skewed correlation but this may be as much a consequence of the assessment criteria employed as much as the inherent nature of the introvert psyche. Anyone who has ever been asked by a well-meaning host if you are OK because you are quietly stiting on the fringes of the party, perfectly happy in your own thoughts, will understand what I mean.


Introverts have as much capacity and God-given right to be happy as the extreme extrovert in the centre of the dancefloor doing the 'sprinkler'. At the same time, as introverts we must take special care to be aware of the influences that may yank us out of our happy place. Here are some of the biggies and tips on how to cut them down to size:


DOUBT It is important to recognise that you are not a failure if you are not feeling perky 100% of the time. Remember that happiness can defined beyond simple pleasure and that moods come and go like the tide. Feeling down is a natural, normal part of the human experience.

In fact, there is a greater enemy lurking - apathy. You can't feel bad about something you don't care about. It is when you cease to care that there could be a problem developing. If you start to feel down or apathetic, acknowledge what is not ideal (yet) and make the decision to continue moving towards your potential with renewed purpose.


COMPARISON We have all heard the saying: "comparison is the thief of joy." The meteoric rise in the popularity of social media (especially among extroverts) has amplified this pressure. Being constantly bombarded other people's 'perfect' lives in our news feed can make us feel inadequate and even jealous. Of course, no one can 'make' us feel anything and intellectually we know that we are only seeing a selective snapshot of others' lives but in a low mood it can be confronting.


A lot of these feelings spring from the commonly accepted view that happiness is a zero-sum game: for you to gain, someone else has to lose. In fact, the opposite is true. When you experience happiness and express that joy it is infectious, cascading on to everyone in your social circle. We’re not designed to create success and happiness in isolation. Humans (yes, even introverts!) are social creatures that thrive on interaction. A lot of unhappiness in the modern world can be undone by the simple realisation that we’re not in this alone and that raising our own level of happiness can have a ripple effect on the rest of our world.


Don't make the mistake of comparing your feelings and levels of happiness to those of others. Our experiences and reactions to them are all totally unique and it is also important to realise that you are gauging their happiness by what they show or tell you, which isn't always comprehensive, balanced, congruent or authentic.


If you notice yourself feeling uncomfortable around someone/something a disproportionate amount of the time you can either confront the person/situation or avoid them/it. One of the keys to long-term happiness is surrounding yourself with supportive, positive people and immersing yourself in joyful, uplifting experiences.


INCONSISTENCY Happiness, like any other discipline, requires focus and effort. Without consistent attention and action, happiness can disappear as quickly as you found it. Just as we need to keep on working out to maintain or improve our fitness and muscle mass, we also need to consciously choose happiness and keep moving toward our potential.


HARSH REALITY Turn on the news any day of the week and the headlines will feature murder, corruption and disaster. It has been found that just three minutes of exposure to negative news in the morning increases your chances of having a bad day by 27% . A similar phenomenon is known as 'medical school syndrome' where first year medical students exposed to the startling range of diseases and other maladies become hypochondriacs and even start manifesting the symptoms they have been studying.


Simple avoidance can be an effective strategy but also remember that you interpret the facts of the world through your own unique filter. At any time you could feel happy or sad depending on which set of facts you choose to focus.


LACK OF SLEEP

As a society, we now get less time in the sack and poorer sleep quality. It is estimated that up to a third of the population is sleep deprived and that's just taking the total number of hours slept into consideration. Introverts are notious for losing sleep due to overthinking and rumination - we have difficulty getting out of our own heads and switching off.


Insomnia affects more than just your physical health it also impacts your mental and emotional states. The reduction in our cognitive abilities in a sleep-deprived state has been well documented and we all know how lack of sleep ordinarily affects our (and others') mood but the issue is deeper than just simple crankiness. If you sleep eight hours, you can remember both positive and negative words around 80 percent of the time 24 hours later. But with five hours of sleep, you remember 70 percent of the negative words, and 20 to 30 percent of the positive. So your perception of reality literally shifts based on your energy levels.


POOR HEALTH On a related note, it is difficult to experience optimal happiness and personal growth with sub-optimal health. There is no need to convince anyone of that or dwell on it. Rather, the thousands upon millions of personal testimonials from those who have followed through on their decision to improve their health provide ample inspiration to do the same if it threatens your happiness.


There is comprehensive information in the Fitness and Nutrition posts of this blog and if you need further guidance, I am here to help.


STRESS The impact of stress and its importance to our enjoyment of life is so important that I have decided to dedicate the entire next post to it so as the (happiness) doctor says...see you next week!

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