According to the “Big 5” personality traits, extraversion is linked to several advantageous qualities when it comes to our wellbeing. Whilst introversion and extroversion are, perhaps, more accurately described as lying on a continuum rather than existing as two separate entities, most of us identify with being more one than the others (even those of us who identify as being middle-of-the-scale ambiverts).
So, are extroverts likely to be happier ― or introverts likely to be any more unhappy?
If we look at the definitions of “introvert” and “extrovert” against the context in which “extraversion” tends to be used in psychology (and in the case of the “Big 5”) we can begin to see where the disconnect is.
Introverts simply need to spend time alone to re-charge. As with all humans, social relationships are a crucial part of their wellbeing; however, it is after prolonged time spent interacting, and especially in more active/noisier/larger group settings, that their downtime afterwards is a necessity. In other words, introverts gain and replenish their energy from being alone.
Extroverts, on the other hand, gain their energy from being around and interacting with others. Whilst most extroverts do, eventually, need some rest – this is long after introverts to, and their alone time tends not to be prolonged. In short, if they can help it, they would much rather interact in some way.
With widespread agreement that social relationships contribute significantly to our mental wellbeing, it is easy to see why some deduce that extraversion -> interaction -> social relationships -> better wellbeing. However, this is failing to acknowledge the fact that introverts value their social relationships, too. In fact, they often prefer fewer and higher quality social relationships. I know plenty of introverts who have very healthy social relationships.
Equally, I also know extroverts who, perhaps, aren’t as “outgoing” as we tend to expect them to be.
Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert or ambivert, the most important thing is that you recognize the importance of having strong social relationships in your life and so make a conscious effort to cultivate these. Just one or two high quality relationships can be all that is needed. Social relationships can take the form of quality time spent with our family and friends, or being active in a community- or team-based environment.
See also: Why you need to join a community
Over to you…
Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Whichever one you ‘are’, do you feel this has affected your happiness in any way, or not at all?
About: This article first appeared on QuarterLifeIntrovert, a blog for those wanting to live happier, or otherwise improve their mental health + lives in general.