Feeling Down? 10 Ways Introverts Can Be Happier

feeling down introvert

Have you been feeling down lately? You’re not alone. A lot of us introverts have a tendency toward melancholy. It’s not that we can’t be as happy as extroverts. But sometimes our busy, overthinking brain makes it difficult. Because guess what.

We introverts are thinkers. Often, our thoughts quickly turn to worries, and our ideas turn to doubt. That’s not the only reason why you might be feeling down.

The sneaky reason you’re feeling down

There is another sneaky factor that makes introverts feel down, even when everything seems peachy around us. It’s what I like to call the overstimulation cycle. Here’s what it looks like:

You go out, have ‘fun’, and stay busy because that’s what others tell you to do to have a productive and happy life. But when you do catch a moment of solitude after all your outing and abouting, you feel exhausted. And it doesn’t end there.

You feel strangely empty, which makes no sense because you just did a bunch of social activities that were supposed to make you feel fulfilled. You think you’re feeling down because you aren’t doing, seeing, and socializing enough. So, you force yourself back out the door and into the very situations that are causing the void.

If you can relate to the above scenario, you are like so many introverts who get caught up in an overstimulation cycle that leaves us feeling down, and even depressed. I should know.

Why I felt empty

I used to constantly force myself into highly extroverted environments because I thought it would cure my nagging sense of loneliness. In high school and my early twenties I was very involved at church. Later I was an avid (read obsessed) salsa dancer, going to classes and social dances several times a week.

But when I got home from church activities or dance events, I often felt strangely empty. Not knowing the true cause of this feeling, I took the extrovert’s prescription for sadness, which is to go out and surround yourself with lots of people. Can you guess what happened?

It didn’t work. The void tagged along to all the activities that were supposed to make me happy. It wasn’t until I discovered how to embrace my introversion that I learned how to stop the overstimulation cycle and feel happier.

Here are some introvert friendly ways that you can restore happiness when you’re feeling down:

1. Stop trying to upgrade yourself and your possessions.

“THE WORLD IS increasingly designed to depress us. Happiness isn’t very good for the economy. If we were happy with what we had, why would we need more … To be calm becomes a kind of revolutionary act. To be happy with your own non-upgraded existence. To be comfortable with our messy, human selves, would not be good for business.” ― Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive

Many introverts feel a burning need to constantly improve ourselves. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, except when it destroys our sense of self and makes us chronically unhappy.

I’m all about self-help, but I know all too well how quickly it can turn into ‘self-hurt’. Many introverts are perfections, and ruminators. We tend to overthink our flaws, and feel bad for not embodying the extrovert ideal. We think that if we could just get better at wearing the mask of extroversion we’ll stop feeling down.

But obsessive self-improvement is not the answer. Neither is upgrading our possessions. Richard Overton, a whiskey-drinking, cigar-smoking 110-year-old World War II veteran of Austin, Texas, is proof of this.

In a video interview with National Geographic, Overton (who was 109 when the video was made), shares his secrets for a long and happy life. I’ve summarized my favorite quotes from the video towards the end of this article, but for now, here is what he has to say about upgrading your material possessions:

“I’m happy with my house. It’s all I need. I would buy one thing. I would use that one thing. I wouldn’t buy another and go buy another. I’ve got a truck out there and it runs just like I want it. So I just keep it.”

Overton knows that being content with what you have is a key ingredient to happiness. More material possessions does not equal more joy.

2. Set an intention to be happy.

Outside of clinical depression, happiness is often a choice. When you wake up in the morning and decide to be happy, you’re more likely to find reasons to be joyful that day. I know this might seem hard to believe when you’re feeling down, but hear me out.

I once made friends with a woman whose husband was battling cancer. Surprisingly, this woman was not dragging her way through life, weighed down by a constant cloud of fear, and anxiety. She glowed with a serene happiness that I rarely see. One day she told me her secret.

“When my husband first got cancer, I was devastated. I was sad all the time, didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning. Then one day I realized that I didn’t want to live like that. I decided to choose to be happy, no matter what was happening around me.”

And it worked. I’m sure she still felt down some days, but she made a choice to focus on what made her happy, and to choose joy over sadness whenever possible. Even if you are tired and weary from loss, true happiness is worth fighting for. As author Elizabeth Gilbert puts it:

“People tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will descend like fine weather if you’re fortunate. But happiness is the result of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly.”

3. Let go.

As an introvert, you might find it hard to let go. It’s natural to want to cling to the people, circumstances, and objects that once made you happy. But happiness is a dynamic entity. If you hold it too tightly it suffocates. If you try to cement it in place it dies. Happiness needs to be free to come and go. As your life evolves and changes shape, so, too, do the things that make you happy.

Allow this change. Look for new ways to be happy. Remember that the hand that clings to the past cannot receive the many blessings available in the Now.

4. Talk to someone about something real.

You’ve probably already been told how important it is to talk to someone when you’re feeling down. But you might have missed the catch.

As an introvert, you need deep and meaningful conversations. Too much small talk makes you feel empty. When you’re feeling down, it’s important to share your deep thoughts and feelings with someone you can trust. This might be a close friend or family member. Or it may be a counsellor or therapist. Regardless of who you decide to talk to, remember this:

Just because you are a strong and independent introvert, doesn’t mean you need to carry this burden on your own. Sometimes, the most courageous thing you can do is to be vulnerable with another person. I know how tough this can be, but when happiness is on the line, isn’t it worth it?

5. Take care of yourself.

When we are feeling down, our self-care practices tend to fall to the bottom of our priority list. But this is the opposite of what needs to happen to feel happier again.

Often, just taking a shower, and feeling clean and fresh will instantly perk you up. Other self-care practices, like exercise, meditation, and spending time in nature, will also boost your mood.

Personally, my favourite self-care rituals include cooking beautiful healthy meals for myself, having a candlelit bath with essential oils, going for walks in nature, and relaxing in my backyard, which overlooks the ocean.

6. Help someone.

When you’re feeling down, the best cure can be something that seems counterintuitive. Instead of focusing on your problems, turn your energy towards helping someone in need. As an introvert, the thought of going out and doing good deeds when you feel down might overwhelm you. Here’s my advice.

One thing I always tell my introverted students and coaching clients is to focus on the one small action that they can take right now. Scale it back, make it achievable. Instead of vowing to volunteer in Africa some day, send a kind note to a friend who is going through a rough time today.

7. Don’t believe your thoughts.

“I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer, and this is true for every human being.” — Byron Katie

When you are feeling down, you might notice many negative thoughts arising out of nowhere. Difficult as it may be, it’s important to remember that you have a choice whether to believe these thoughts or not.

Decide not to believe your thoughts and you’ll be astonished at how quickly your suffering subsides. Byron Katie, creator of “The Work” recommends the following questions for transforming unhappy thoughts.

Ask yourself …

– Is it true?
– Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
– How do you react? What happens when you believe that thought?
– Who would you be without that thought?

8. Plan your next joyful experience.

Introverts are known for planning ahead, and thinking things through before acting. It turns out that this works to our advantage when it comes to boosting our happiness levels. Allow me to explain.

Have you ever noticed that you feel happier during the planning stage of a vacation than during or after the vacation itself? If so, you’re not alone.

This study comparing vacationers and non-vacationers found that there was little difference in post-trip happiness levels between the two groups. However, the vacationers had higher levels of pre-trip happiness compared to those who weren’t planning a vacation.

Not going on a trip anytime soon? That’s okay. You can still feel happier simply by planning an activity that you will enjoy in the near future. A nice dinner, a concert, a day at the river, a bike ride, a girl’s night out, a boy’s night in, a boat ride, a show — choose whatever activity excites you, and put it in your calendar.

9. Make goals.

Goals have come in and out of fashion over the years. For a while, goals were everything. And not just any goals. They had to be clear, measurable goals with a specific deadline. Then all of the sudden goals took a backseat to living in the Now and going with the flow. This begs the question …

What approach leads to the most happiness?

The answer is both. When we are too focused on goals, our confidence and happiness hinges on what we achieve. When failure finds us, we start feeling down again. But when we find a healthy balance between goals for the future + appreciation for the now, our overall happiness levels improve.

Here’s an easy exercise to put this philosophy into practice:

Write a gratitude list of everything you’re grateful for today. Circle the things that you would like more of in the future. Take a look at the items you’ve circled and ask yourself, what is it about these things that brings me joy? Next, brainstorm some goals that reflect those joy points.

10. Follow the Richard Overton recipe for happiness.

110-year-old veteran Richard Overton had so many priceless words of wisdom about happiness. As promised, I’ve included some of my favorite quotes from his interview with National Geographic below.

The overarching theme that seems to emerge is that happiness stems from three key ingredients:

1) Appreciation for simplicity.
2) Companionship.
3) Doing things that make you happy.

In his own words, here’s how Overton has achieved a long, happy life:

“I eat ice cream every night. It makes me happy.”

“Every time I get up in the morning that cat’s sitting there waiting. I help those cats and they keep me happy. I wanna see my cats every morning.”

“Church is a wonderful place, a lovely place. It keeps me going, makes me feel good. I think that helps me push myself along, going to church … And singing. I love that church singing. Beautiful. It’s good to have a spiritual life, but you gotta live it.”

“It makes you feel better to have a person around like Ms. Love. We get along real nice. Oh, she’s 91 years old. You know, I’m 109. And yeah, we go to the hospital to see people. We go to the grocery store. We go shopping sometimes … Yeah, we have fun together.”

“If you give up, you’re through. You just doubting yourself.”

“I may give out, but I never give up.”

Remember …

When you’re feeling down, it’s easy to get lost in the sea of darkness. You lose sight of the truth of who you are and where you’re going. Allow me to remind you.

You are an imperfect being, in a challenging world. And you are doing the best that you can. After all, you’re not here to be perfect. You’re here to grow, learn, and love.

You may be feeling down now, but happiness is a true friend who will find you again. Most likely, she has just been waiting for an invitation to return to you. Will you welcome her back into your life today?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this

A while ago a friend of mine mentioned how insightful and constructive the comments on this site are. It’s true! We have a community of lovely and wise innies here at Introvert Spring.

Please do feel free to share your insights and experiences related to today’s article. What do you do when you’re feeling down? Do you have any happiness habits to share with our community?

Xo,

Michaela Chung introvert

26 Comments

  1. I have no words to describe how healing this article is Michaela. It speaks on so many levels, so deeply and kindly… What you wrote here is simply gorgeous in every single way and no words can do justice of how deeply it affected me (positively of course). 😊

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    • Thanks Marko! Glad to hear that.

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    • Not only do I agree with your comments, Marko, I love how beautifully you expressed them!

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  2. This is just what needed. Thank you! 🙏

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    • Glad to hear that, Carmen! 🙂 xo

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  3. Hi,
    First of all thanks for your post .I can so much relate to it and feeling much better and positive 🙂
    Have a beautiful day everyone

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  4. This is so great, Michaela! I can`t explain how important this is to me! I`ve tried to figured out many of these problems for so many years – and then I can read all about it in 5-10 minutes! Thank you!

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  5. I can relate to most of that, though I’m not sure point 2 on deciding to be happy is always relevant. My experiences mean I can’t subscribe to any notion that essentially you can be as happy as you want, as any notion of happiness in my life seems to be a reactive thing to what’s going on; I’ve had depressive experiences though, with one in particular being a real low moment, so I’m probably not representative of everyone on this one.

    For me, exercise is the best thing, and is the one thing that can transform a bad day like no other. In the last year though, I’ve had a bad injury that’s completely stopped me from running (I was reasonably competitive and running 6 times a week before) but also stops me from cycling or going for a nice quick walk. To be blunt, it’s been a crap time, but a really important thing has been to find something to replace my normal thing that helps my happiness level – at least to a point. So, I’ve taken to swimming every morning before work, which I can manage if I shove a float between my legs and just use my arms. I can’t relicate the intensity I used to train with when I was running, but it still gives me that tingling feeling afterwards for a few minutes, and similar to being at my running club, I have a few words chat with the other folk in the pool, without any need for a prolonged conversation. I’ve also taken to volunteering around running, and I’ll shortly be a qualified official for track and field meetings – I enjoy going to these, and again, I like just getting on with what I’m doing with bits and pieces of chat, rather than any need for a long conversation.

    My point (belatedly, after much rambling!) is that if you’re unlucky and can’t do what normally makes you happy for whatever reason, try to find something that at least partially replaces it. It might not be as good as what you were used to before, but if you can find something that fits your personality, it really is much better than nothing. If you can, don’t do what I did in the early weeks of this, by just sitting about moaning than my normal activity wasn’t possible. I started off by saying that I don’t think it’s always possible to just decide to be happy, but being proactive in the sense of finding an activity that helps to be happy – that’s a different matter, an something that’s been pretty effective for me.

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  6. This part is now permanently on my brain:

    “Ask yourself …
    – Is it true?
    – Can you absolutely know that it’s true?”

    I am struggling with depression over my beloved cat’s recent diagnosis with a (usually) fatal disease. When I spiral downward, thinking her death is inevitable (despite the fact that she’s doing really well right now), I will remind myself that I cannot absolutely know it’s true, as the treatment she is getting can sometimes really work. Thank you for this, and bless you.

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  7. What a kind and wise man! I absolutely believe society is designed to depress us. You will be happy if…new clothes, new car, new furniture, new house…! To be happy and content is difficult in our society. This is going to be something I return to, it will ground me and remind me that I am enough and everything is working just the way I need it!

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  8. Thanks for including the wonderful quotes by Richard Overton. They are simple yet priceless!

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  9. Much of this article speaks to me, especially about socializing too much and becoming obsessively involved in an activity. I find myself accepting invitations to do just about anything because I think it will be good for me to “get out,” and I’m afraid if I say no, people will stop inviting me. I’m also very much into “upgrading” myself right now, buying a lot of clothes and beauty products, hoping to find a magic formula that will restore my self confidence in how I look. I am coming out of a relationship that just vaporized (i.e., the guy disappeared) and my twin sister moving far away from me, and I’m often overwhelmed by feelings of sadness, abandonment, and not-good-enoughness. I need to do some work on not believing my thoughts. Thank you for an enlightening and thought-provoking article.

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  10. Today is my birthday and I am already anxious that I have invited friends to celebrate. I dislike being the centre of attention and the atmosphere of too many people. Reading this validates me so well. Thank-you so much for your awesome advice once again!

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  11. Micahaela : Nice article. Thanks.

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  12. Michaela, your advice is so simple and easy to put into practice, yet so very deep. Thank you for sharing self-lessly. And Richard Overton. My heart. I had to share that video <3

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  13. Thanks so much Michaela for this beautiful and uplifting piece. Just what my heart needed today.

    I particularly liked your thoughts on goals vs being in the now. I really liked your idea about a gratitude list and going with what brings you joy.

    After watching the inspirational movie ‘Awakening’ last night, this article aligns with my morning thoughts and feelings (esp as an INFJ) so much ~ to live and love the life I have!

    Thanks again

    Lucy

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  14. I think this is the best article Introvert Spring article I’ve read in a long time. Thanks for this!

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    • Agreed! I think this is your best article so far! Very insightful and helpful. I will print it out and study it!

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  15. thank you for this! do introverts struggle with overthnking if they are living up to their morals or if they think they need to live up morals that are not expected of them? thank you.

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  16. Take hold lightly, let go lightly, a bit of cbt I had was,,, I think but I’m not my thoughts, I feel but I’m not my feelings. Love the inner self, life of the INFJ , never stop learning

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  17. This article was amazing! I have been looking for a job and it hasn’t been going as well as I’d like. So I’ve been down on myself. I liked your ideas. I actually had an opportunity to have lunch with a friend of mine on Sunday. He and I live in different states, so it has been awhile since Dan and I have seen each other. He’s an introvert as well, so he lets me talk about philosophy and sociology with no questions asked. I’ve been trying to take time for myself. I’ll listen to almost any kind of music, but since I’m feeling uptight I’ve been slowing the tempo down. John Denver is my go to for relaxing. I know, I know, the punk emo kid from Los Angeles. But really, his lyrics make me happier.

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  18. Hey Michaela,

    Thank you so much for this article. I watched the Richard Overton video before, but thank you for sharing it here. My favorite was no. 9 – make goals! That always works for me when I’m feeling blue. Just grab a piece of paper and write down new dreams to pursue!

    Cheers!
    Rafal

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  19. Glad I found your site. I always enjoy your article. After struggling through life I’m now learning that I’m not so weird, just better in different ways. My mindset default mode seems to be depression, self doubt, and criticizing myself. I’m working on changing that everyday. Richard Overton is such an inspiration and someone to emulate. Thanks for all the insights and encouragement.
    Oh yah, agree with the John Denver comment above.

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  20. The kind of Overton’s life has always been the path of life that I hope to have in future. It’s all start from simplicity <3 Thanks Michaela to share a beautiful meaning of a life for INFJ's, God bless you.

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  21. Thank you so much for this information. I can’t even think which part was best but at 70 yrs young I thank you again. For all my life I felt a fraud, a successful, anxiety ridden person who was afraid to be herself. Even though a Senior I am learning to have fun and love myself and of course my 2 Weimaraners Thank you again and again.

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  22. I think you made an important distinction from the get go: “outside of clinical depression.” That’s the key issue. Having this personality trait and battling depression at the same time is one of the worse life experiences to deal with. Unless a person has gone through it and dealt with it, there is no amount of good wishes and positive reminders that can help. It is a very individualized process and only those going through it or who had survived it understand it.

    Reply

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