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Extroverts: How to Thrive Like an Introvert (when you’re forced to isolate during the COVID-19 pandemic)

First of all, notice that I say “thrive like an introvert,” not “become like an introvert.” To really thrive during this period of physical isolation, you’re going to have to do things differently than an introvert. Because of your brain wiring, you’re not likely to ever embrace the conditions and activities that make up the […]

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First of all, notice that I say “thrive like an introvert,” not “become like an introvert.” To really thrive during this period of physical isolation, you’re going to have to do things differently than an introvert.

Because of your brain wiring, you’re not likely to ever embrace the conditions and activities that make up the introverts’ happy place: being alone and quiet, reading for hours at a time, introspection, writing for hours in a journal, writing articles and books, intricate planning… You get the idea.

Briefly, introverts are wired for thinking and planning, and extroverts are wired for taking action.

Introverts need a low-stimulation environment because their brains are already stimulated almost to the max from pre-frontal cortex activity (thinking). They need calm.

Extroverts need a high-stimulation environment because their brains are wired for the outer world of sights and sounds. They need excitement.

Most of us are a combination of introvert/extrovert (called Ambiverts), but in times like this, we see which side of the introvert/extrovert spectrum we’re on.

So to thrive while in isolation as an extrovert (or an ambivert on the extrovert side of the spectrum), you need to find ways to get the outside stimulation you need and ways to take action, i.e., by doing things that register in your brain as “action.”

Here’s a list of ideas (which might prompt your own ideas):

  • Participate in video games. While this isn’t an action involving your body, it does register as action to your brain, because the avatar (or whatever you identify with in the game) is taking action.
  • Move furniture around to create a new configuration. This might even be necessary if you live with others and need to make your spaces more livable.  
  • Reorganize your closet. This involves more intense physical movement than you might think – taking clothes off the rack, pulling boxes off the shelf and floor, etc.
  • Reorganize your shed. This is often a disaster area for many of us. (You’re welcome to come reorganize mine!)
  • Yard work. This is a great time to get out in your yard – or help a neighbor with their yard.
  • Help neighbors with chores they find difficult or impossible. This not only satisfies your need for doing something, it also makes you feel good about yourself.
  • Dancing to music. This offers multiple benefits: exercise, sounds, release of “happy” chemicals in the brain for a sense of joy.
  • Vigorous exercise. YouTube has lots of free exercise programs. Do it to music for even more stimulation.
  • Repair something that you’ve been putting off. You can find tutorials on YouTube for just about anything.
  • Paint your walls. Choose a color that perks you up!
  • Start a new business! This can give you the feelings of excitement your brain needs. Start with a rudimentary idea and jump into action – online, of course. (I specialize in helping introverts start their businesses in brain-friendly ways, but I’m willing to see if you as an extrovert would be a fit for my mentoring services – Reach out to me.)
  • Get together with friends on a live virtual platform. Social stimulation is vital for your wellbeing! Many people are using Zoom (.com) to get together. Check their plan to see what you can do on the free plan vs. the paid plan.
  • Coordinate a neighborhood “front yard” daily event with your neighbors. You’ve seen on social media how neighbors gather and share music or “cocktail hour” or whatever else they think up. (Forgive the introverts for not participating, and please don’t shame them. This might be their worst nightmare. Frame your invitation to include: “for those of you who need to be with people.”)
  • Have an art party with family members or with friends virtually online. I saw where one of our local “Wine and Design” businesses offers kits (wine not included!). People can purchase them and pick them up curbside.
  • Learn how to do something you’ve always wanted to learn. You’ll find online classes and YouTube tutorials for almost anything.
  • Participate in exciting virtual experiences. Your brain needs adrenaline because it creates dopamine, your “happy juice.” You’ll find many sensory experiences posted on social media. For example, here’s where you can find some Disney rides you can do virtually: https://bit.ly/33y6NqY

A caveat: If you live with introverts, work with them to create a plan where they can get what they need and you can get what you need. This will involve physical boundaries and space allocation negotiations. For example, if you decide to throw yourself a dance party, your introverted family member or roommate will have something to say about the loudness of the music!

I hope this list sparks your own ideas of what will help you thrive during this stressful time of isolation.

I started out by reassuring you that you never have to act like an introvert. That’s because I know what it’s like to be told my whole life by parents, teachers, and well-meaning friends that I need “get out more, speak up more, be more assertive, etc.”

The implicit message, in other words, is that “there’s something wrong with me.” Introverts have been shamed in this way ever since the Industrial Revolution, when extrovert traits became highly valued and introversion was equated with “neuroticism.”

Now that brain imaging technology has come along, we see that the differences between introversion and extroversion are biological. When we try to be different than how we’re naturally wired, in essence we’re “faking it” and we can’t sustain it.

My belief is that introverts and extroverts do better when they operate from their natural brain wiring and capitalize on their strengths.

Here’s a little fun “action” you can take right now: Watch this short “flipped fable” video I created showing what life would be like for you extroverts if you were ever expected to act like an introvert. It’ll also help you see what life has always been like for us introverts. Flipped Fable

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