At the end of a tiring day, we might find ourselves pulled toward a certain type of environment. We might wish to be in a room full of people to socialize with. Or maybe our whole being pulls away from the thought of a busy spot, preferring instead to head home, to nothing but our own company. Often opt for the latter? That might be a sign of introversion, an commonly misunderstood personality type.
For one, identifying as an introvert doesn’t necessarily mean one’s antisocial or shy. Being an introvert simply implies that someone feels most energized after spending some time on their own. Second, introversion doesn’t signify loneliness. In fact, for many introverts, being alone with their thoughts is a relaxing and enjoyable place to be.
But there can be downsides to having a solitary sensibility and active inner dialogue. Maybe it feels challenging or stressful to be fully present, especially in busy social situations where there’s often pressure to interact with others, at what might feel like an unnatural pace.
So, how can introverts feel relaxed and less drained in these situations? We might turn to a mindfulness practice like meditation. By carving out regular alone time to meditate, we come to understand how our mind works and we learn to let go of triggering thoughts. In turn, we can feel more comfortable and less overwhelmed when we choose to engage with the surrounding world.
The main characteristics of an introvert personality are often misunderstood
There may be 4 types of introverts, and we may identify as 1 type, many types, or parts of some
Try 9 meditations for introverts
The now commonly used terms “introvert” and “extrovert” were originally popularized back in the 1920s by psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung. According to his work, an introvert is someone whose interest is generally directed inward toward their own feelings and thoughts. In contrast, an extrovert is someone whose attention is directed towards other people and the outside world.
Perhaps the most common misconception associated with this personality type is that introverts inherently dislike socializing. In actuality, being an introvert is less about how much someone likes people and more about whether being around others ultimately gives them energy or requires them to exert it. For introverts, too much socializing can feel draining, which is why they often choose to do it in small doses or prefer having an intimate group of friends. This same inclination to recoup in the company of their own thoughts also means that many introverts are keenly self-aware, extremely observant, and highly in tune with their emotions and intuition.
If we find that we identify with some parts of introversion but not all of it, that may be because there may be several different types of introverts. In 2011, a team of psychologists further explored the nuances within introversion, ultimately presenting findings from their small, single study that separated introverts into 4 different types:
This type of introvert fits what most people associate with the classic introvert definition: a person who prefers to spend their time solo or occasionally with a select small group of people. For social introverts, shyness or anxiety isn’t an underlying reason for mostly keeping to themselves. Instead, their behavior is heavily influenced by the fact that they feel content and most energized when spending time in quiet, sometimes solitary environments.
Thinking introverts are introspective, pensive, and self-reflective. They also tend to be highly imaginative and creative with a rich inner life. It’s common for this introvert type to get lost in their own thoughts. Thinking introverts may sometimes struggle to identify as introverts, as they don’t typically feel drained after social events. However, you may find them in the back of a crowded room observing their environment, rather than actively participating in it.
This type of introversion describes people who are introverted because they experience social anxiety in some form. They may avoid social situations, not necessarily because it depletes their energy, but because they have low self-esteem or feel anxious about being negatively perceived or harshly judged by others.
Restrained introverts need a little bit of time to “warm-up.” In their daily life, this often means that they need a good amount of time in the morning to get into the groove of the day. While they may not necessarily be shy, they may come off this way due to their tendency to gather all their thoughts before speaking. As most restrained introverts prefer to have time to mentally prepare for new environments, a spontaneous social outing isn’t likely to be their cup of tea.
Some of us might connect with one introvert type. Others may connect with multiple types or certain parts of the 4 types. That’s all completely normal.
It may even feel normal to identify with some of these characteristics as well as certain traits associated with extroverts. This personality type is dubbed an ambivert: someone who feels equally energized by solo and social settings. In any case, it can be extremely helpful to pinpoint specific introverted behaviors that resonate with us. With this new insight, we can consciously address any characteristics that may make us feel isolated, while still allowing the ones we deem positive to thrive.
Meditation is a practice of being present and fully engaged with the moment, without distraction, self-judgment, or inner commentary. For anyone wishing to be less in their heads — like some introverts — it can be an invaluable tool. Distracting thoughts and emotions will always arise, but in sitting with the mind, we learn to step away from the ruminating and not get swept away. With practice, a once overactive, hyper-analytical mind starts to quiet, calm, and feel less busy, allowing us to be more present in social situations.
Understanding how to passively observe distracting thoughts may even feel like a welcome reprieve. “There is something beautifully simple and uncomplicated about the present moment,” says Headspace co-founder and former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe. “It requires no analysis, only our attention.”
Ultimately, a meditation practice affords introverts the opportunity to experience inner peace and a deeper appreciation for the present moment, allowing us to fully enjoy it without the interruption of distracting thoughts, anxiety-inducing storylines, or exhausting analysis. We simply learn to let it all go.
Once we’ve let go — we’re less in our own heads and less caught up in our own storylines — we naturally allow ourselves to be more receptive to those around us. So, introverts might notice their meditation practice doesn’t only help with self-improvement, but it can also strengthen the compassion and empathy needed to deepen positive relationships (while better equipping us to deal with the toxic ones, too.)
Looking for ways to feel more present and energized around others? The Headspace app offers subscribers several courses and single meditations on topics related to introversion, including:
Feeling Overwhelmed meditation. Give yourself room to breathe.
Changing Perspective guidance. What if there was a way to step back from thoughts?
Connect With the World mindful activity. Get out of your head and into the world around you.
Kindness course. Foster feelings of compassion towards yourself and learn to judge others less harshly, too.
Alone Time meditation. Allow yourself to unwind when no one’s around.
Unwind single meditation. Lead your mind to a natural place of rest.
Restore single meditation. Let go of any tension or busyness in the mind.
Reset single meditation. Find some focus and relaxation during a busy day.
Listening to Others meditation. Learn to realize when you’re distracted and gently bring your attention back to the person speaking.
Like all personality traits, navigating introversion is all about striking the right balance. By consciously crafting a routine and mindfulness practice that nurtures your unique ability to think inwardly while also curbing any tendencies to over-isolate, you just may tap into benefits of introversion that feel new and rewarding.