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The Introvert’s Guide to Getting in Shape

The Introvert’s Guide to Getting in Shape

I am an introvert–and I’m quite content with this fact–but a lot of my introverted comrades aren’t.

Many think something is wrong with them, largely because our culture holds “the extrovert ideal” in high esteem, says Susan Cain in her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts. Extroverts are viewed as healthier, happier, and more successful.

But here’s the thing: both introverts and extroverts have unique skills they can use to maximize their health and happiness.

Several years ago, I discovered how to apply my strengths as an introvert to my health. If you’re an introvert and you’re struggling to get healthy, these are some strategies that will help you.

Eating healthy for introverts.

Research shows that an introvert’s brain is wired differently. We have more gray matter in our prefrontal cortex–the area of the brain that’s associated with abstract thought and decision-making. This helps explain why introverts devote more brain power to analysis, while extroverts tend to live in the moment.

Introverts are masters at processing, digesting, and analyzing data. But many don’t use this skill to their advantage.

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If you’re an introvert and you’re not as healthy as you want to be, start by using your brain.

Read, research, write, explore, listen, reflect, meditate, design, think.

Eating healthy starts with learning how to eat healthy.

Mindful eating is a proven technique you can use to eat healthier, and can be a great place to start.

Step one to eat more mindfully: plan for the worst.

In the world of psychology, this is called an implementation intention. Here’s how it works: if you know a situation is coming up where you might be prone to eat and/or drink too much (a friend’s birthday party, for example), write or state your back-up plan beforehand:

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“When I encounter ______, I will _____.”

Here are some examples:

  • “When I go out to eat tonight, I will order a salad and skip dessert.”
  • “When I go grocery shopping, I won’t buy any soda.”
  • “When someone offers me pizza, I’ll politely decline.”

Implementation intentions are effective for introverts because they give clear instructions on what to do when your willpower muscle goes limp. Research proves they can help you make healthier decisions and stick with your goals.

Spend time thinking through your goals and preparing for challenges, and you’ll give yourself an edge.

One strategy I use and recommend: keep checklists. In the book Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard, Dan and Chip Heath say checklists help you avoid “blind spots in a complex environment,” provide insurance against overconfidence, and make big screw-ups less likely.

In The Checklist Manifesto, surgeon Atul Gawande says:

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“Good checklists…are precise. They are efficient, to the point, and easy to use even in the most difficult situations. They do not try to spell out everything–a checklist cannot fly a plane. Instead, they provide reminders of only the most critical and important steps–the ones that even the highly skilled professional using them could miss.”

Exercise for introverts.

Several years ago, I stopped going to the gym and started working out at home instead. The environment was too over-stimulating for my introverted brain to handle.

Loud, crappy music. Crowded spaces. Hundreds of people.

No thanks.

I found a way to exercise that worked for my personality. I started lifting weights and boxing at home in my basement. My wife and I go for walks or bike rides on the trails by our house. And now I work out 5-6 days a week and I absolutely love it.

The lesson here is simple: if you’re an introvert and you hate going to the gym or to group classes, stop going. Introverts thrive in quiet, minimally stimulating environments.

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I’m all about challenging yourself and getting out of your comfort zone, but doing stuff you hate is unsustainable. When it comes to exercise, forming habits is vital. And to form habits, you need to find something you actually enjoy doing.

Exercise in an environment that matches your personality type. Try working out at home, outside, or in smaller groups. You’ll save money on gym fees. You’ll stop dreading going to the gym. And you’ll increase your odds of developing healthy exercise habits.

As an introvert, you have natural talents most extroverts lack.

Don’t waste them.

Use the power of your inquisitive mind to help you form healthy habits that last a lifetime.

Featured photo credit: Abdullah AL-Naser via flickr.com

More by this author

Scott Christ

Scott Christ is a writer, entrepreneur, and founder of Pure Food Company.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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