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Scientific Explanation For Why Introverts Need Much More Alone Time Than Extroverts

Scientific Explanation For Why Introverts Need Much More Alone Time Than Extroverts

Picture this: You’re at a party. A few of the people you know fairly well, most are mild acquaintances and the rest you’ve never before. How do you interact?

The way you view and respond to social situations is the primary indicator on whether you are an introvert or an extrovert.

What is the difference between an introvert and an extrovert?

There are several popular misconceptions surrounding introversion and extroversion. And because of this, introverts, in particular, are often misunderstood. They are often branded as shy, aloof, and even antisocial. While extroverts are described as bubbly, friendly, charismatic, and fun.

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But it is important to understand that introversion and extroversion are not personality types in and of themselves — rather, they’re important pieces of the personality puzzle. They also aren’t the only two options — there’s a whole spectrum of introversion and extroversion, and almost no one is purely introverted or pure extroverted. In fact, science has coined a new term to describe those exhibiting an even mix of traits from both intro and extroverts; they are the ambivert.

intro-extrovert spectrum
    By: Joseph Bennington-Castro

    What are the causes of introversion and extroversion?

    Scientist believe that the causes of introversion and extroversion lie in the brain and how it responds to dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate the brain’s pleasure and reward system. It enables us to recognize rewards and move towards them. It is part of the guidance system for our emotions.

    In social situations, the extroverted brain is stimulated. It views social interaction as rewarding and responds as such. The thought of positive social interaction floods the brain with dopamine and drives the extrovert towards interaction as it is seeking to be rewarded.

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    The pleasure center of an introvert brain functions the same way—but with one very distinct difference. Extroverts have a more active dopamine reward network than introverts—meaning extroverts need more dopamine to feel pleasure. When dopamine floods the introvert brain, introverts do experience the feeling of excitement but it is accompanied by the feeling of being overwhelmed.

    Dr. Marti Olsen Laney explains in her book The Introvert Advantage: How Quiet People Can Thrive in an Extrovert World, “for introverts, too much of a good thing really is too much. They feel overstimulated when dopamine floods their brains.”

    The introvert brain is more responsive to the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. Like dopamine, acetylcholine is also linked to the brain’s pleasure center. The difference is, acetylcholine makes us feel good when we turn inward. It powers our abilities to think deeply, reflect, and focus intensely on just one thing for a long period of time.

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    Research tells us that everyone’s nervous system has two modes: parasympathetic and sympathetic. When we use the parasympathetic side (nicknamed the “rest and digest” side), we feel calm and are focused inwardly. Our body conserves energy and withdraws from the environment; muscles relax, energy is stored, and our heart rate and blood pressure slow. The sympathetic side (a.k.a “full throttle”) puts us in a state of fight or flight. Our pressure and heart rate are elevated, we are alert and poised for action.

    Introverts thrive when they are operating in parasympathetic mode. This is the reason for the constant desire introverts have to be alone. Their desire and pension to engage in quiet, thoughtful activities away from others is not antisocial or moody behavior. It is a physiological need they have that is driven by their brain chemistry and function.

    When introverts are deprived of their alone time they can experience:

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    • Fatigue
    • Mental and physical exhaustion
    • Inability to concentrate
    • Irritability
    • Increased anxiety
    • Depression

    The causes of introversion and extroversion are directly linked to how our brains operate and respond to neurotransmitters. So the best thing you can do for the introvert that needs time by themselves is to leave them alone.

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    Denise Hill

    Denise shares about psychology and communication tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on December 10, 2019

    5 Smart Reasons to Start Journal Writing Today

    5 Smart Reasons to Start Journal Writing Today

    Here’s the truth: your effectiveness at life is not what it could be. You’re missing out.

    Each day passes by and you have nothing to prove that it even happened. Did you achieve something? Go on a date? Have an emotional breakthrough? Who knows?

    But what you do know is that you don’t want to make the same mistakes that you’ve made in the past.

    Our lives are full of hidden gems of knowledge and insight, and the most recent events in our lives contain the most useful gems of all. Do you know why? It’s simple, those hidden lessons are the most up to date, meaning they have the largest impact on what we’re doing right now.

    But the question is, how do you get those lessons? There’s a simple way to do it, and it doesn’t involve time machines:

    Journal writing.

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    Improved mental clarity, the ability to see our lives in the big picture, as well as serving as a piece of evidence cataloguing every success we’ve ever had; we are provided all of the above and more by doing some journal writing.

    Journal writing is a useful and flexible tool to help shed light on achieving your goals.

    Here’s 5 smart reasons why you should do journal writing:

    1. Journals Help You Have a Better Connection with Your Values, Emotions, and Goals

    By journaling about what you believe in, why you believe it, how you feel, and what your goals are, you understand your relationships with these things better. This is because you must sort through the mental clutter and provide details on why you do what you do and feel what you feel.

    Consider this:

    Perhaps you’ve spent the last year or so working at a job you don’t like. It would be easy to just suck it up and keep working with your head down, going on as if it’s supposed to be normal to not like your job. Nobody else is complaining, so why should you, right?

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    But a little journal writing will set things straight for you. You don’t like your job. You feel like it’s robbing you of happiness and satisfaction, and you don’t see yourself better there in the future.

    The other workers? Maybe they don’t know, maybe they don’t care. But you do, you know and care enough to do something about it. And you’re capable of fixing this problem because your journal writing allows you to finally be honest with yourself about it.

    2. Journals Improve Mental Clarity and Help Improve Your Focus

    If there’s one thing journal writing is good for, it’s clearing the mental clutter.

    How does it work? Simply, whenever you have a problem and write about it in a journal, you transfer the problem from your head to the paper. This empties the mind, allowing allocation of precious resources to problem-solving rather than problem-storing.

    Let’s say you’ve been juggling several tasks at work. You’ve got data entry, testing, e-mails, problems with the boss, and so on—enough to overwhelm you—but as you start journal writing, things become clearer and easier to understand: Data entry can actually wait till Thursday; Bill kindly offered earlier to do my testing; For e-mails, I can check them now; the boss is just upset because Becky called in sick, etc.

    You become better able to focus and reason your tasks out, and this is an indispensable and useful skill to have.

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    3. Journals Improve Insight and Understanding

    As a positive consequence of improving your mental clarity, you become more open to insights you may have missed before. As you write your notes out, you’re essentially having a dialogue with yourself. This draws out insights that you would have missed otherwise; it’s almost as if two people are working together to better understand each other. This kind of insight is only available to the person who has taken the time to connect with and understand themselves in the form of writing.

    Once you’ve gotten a few entries written down, new insights can be gleaned from reading over them. What themes do you see in your life? Do you keep switching goals halfway through? Are you constantly dating the same type of people who aren’t good for you? Have you slowly but surely pushed people out of your life for fear of being hurt?

    All of these questions can be answered by simply self-reflecting, but you can only discover the answers if you’ve captured them in writing. These questions are going to be tough to answer without a journal of your actions and experiences.

    4. Journals Track Your Overall Development

    Life happens, and it can happen fast. Sometimes we don’t take the time to stop and look around at what’s happening to us at each moment. We don’t get to see the step-by-step progress that we’re making in our own lives. So what happens? One day it’s the future, and you have no idea how you’ve gotten there.

    Journal writing allows you to see how you’ve changed over time, so you can see where you did things right, and you can see where you took a misstep and fell.

    The great thing about journals is that you’ll know what that misstep was, and you can make sure it doesn’t happen again—all because you made sure to log it, allowing yourself to learn from your mistakes.

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    5. Journals Facilitate Personal Growth

    The best thing about journal writing is that no matter what you end up writing about, it’s hard to not grow from it. You can’t just look at a past entry in which you acted shamefully and say “that was dumb, anyway!” No, we say “I will never make a dumb choice like that again!”

    It’s impossible not to grow when it comes to journal writing. That’s what makes journal writing such a powerful tool, whether it’s about achieving goals, becoming a better person, or just general personal-development. No matter what you use it for, you’ll eventually see yourself growing as a person.

    Kickstart Journaling

    How can journaling best be of use to you? To vent your emotions? To help achieve your goals? To help clear your mind? What do you think makes journaling such a useful life skill?

    Know the answer? Then it’s about time you reap the benefits of journal writing and start putting pen to paper.

    Here’s what you can do to start journaling:

    Featured photo credit: Jealous Weekends via unsplash.com

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