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 perfectionists, 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?
- Introvert: When Your Mind Turns Against You
- How To Quiet The Introvert Mind
- Are Introverts More Likely To Be Depressed?
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.
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.”
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?