March 21, 2012

The Ins and Outs of Relaxation

By Andrew at 11:53 AM

Introverts are often assumed to be anti-social.  While this is not always the case, it is more likely true than with extroverts.  However, a more accurate definition that I have learned to embrace over the past several years describes introversion as the social preference of tending toward single-participant activities in order to rest and recharge.  Introspective relaxation is not the only way to relax, but for certain individuals it can be the most effective.

Introversion is not defined by being “shy” or lacking a social life.  Rather, it seems more accurate to describe introversion as preferring non-social environments when stressed to the limit and given a chance to unwind.  Introverts can and do participate in social events as well, but those events could quite easily end up becoming another stressor in life rather than an anticipated break.  Introverts tend to consider situations introspectively; when not given ample time to reflect on and appreciate the meaning of a situation, they can more easily become overwhelmed by the extent of information surrounding them.

Recharging and relaxation are concepts that we as humans, and especially as Americans with endless opportunities, tend to gravitate toward whenever given the chance.  I think that the activities we choose when selecting a vacation or relaxing pastime can unknowingly reflect our natural social tendencies.  Introverts may tend to choose quiet getaways in the mountains with their immediate family or perhaps a weekday afternoon trip to a museum.  I have seen introversion manifested in methodologies of everything from visiting the grocery store at odd hours to avoid a busy onrush of the “general population!”  As awful as it could sound, introverts tend to be the most comfortable in quiet and solitary situations, and instead of shopping with even a close friend, shopping alone may be just what they need to maintain their sanity.  Even a small thing like mowing a yard could provide a level of relaxation for an introvert, as could driving alone to work once a week instead of carpooling.

Although being alone can be very important to the introvert, there is a crucial social balance that still must be maintained for the introvert.  Introverts also need time around other people, and contrary to popular opinion, introverts can enjoy spending time with people!  Their social time may tend to be spent around other introverts, but it is social activity nonetheless.  Similarly, introverts enjoy spending time with the excitement and activity of extroverts, yet introverts will likely spend less total time at the party than the extroverts do.  It is not like they are always looking for the exit, but introverts do sometimes need to have the comfort of knowing that they can step out of a situation if need be, even if it only means stepping back to observe the occasion from further off.

For those of you who do not know me, I realize that I am definitely an introvert.  However, I also realize that “introversion” and “extroversion” are merely labels that our culture uses to define our personalities, and as such can only go so far in describing my unique personality.  My introversion definitely shows itself in my work and play preferences, yet I have come to realize over the past year or two that exclusively individual activities all the time are no way to live.  Regardless of our social tendencies, we all need other people to interact with, we just have different social needs for finding rest.  As introverts, we do need our time to recharge, but we also need time to spend with others who have a part in our lives.

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