This one is an interesting guest post by Amit Amin. It’s another reason why we don’t need to change the way we are and we can be happy about it!
The facts are in: extroverts are happier than introverts
Dozens of studies have revealed that extroverts have more responsive reward centers and are more likely than introverts to be happy and to report higher well-being.
This matters to me. Two months ago, inspired by positive psychology and Gretchin Rubin’s Happiness Project
, I decided to make myself a Happier Human. I’m an introvert so— at least for me—the science speaks true: It seems to me that my extroverted friends are happier than I am
So … I pondered … should I “transform” myself into an extrovert?
Although a total transformation like this is impossible, the power of neuroplasticity offers the opportunity to push myself along the spectrum toward extroversion.
Happiness science is also clear: introverts who socialize more are happier than introverts who socialize less. In the same way we feel tired after exercise, but feel better for having done it, we may need to fight through social fatigue to feel good afterward. This is certainly true for me; on nights when I socialize I feel more tired, but the next day I have more energy and am happier.
But introverts have started to fight back.
Susan Cain, the author of QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, suggests that scientists are defining happiness too narrowly. Instead of just looking at feel good dopamine and self-reports of well-being, she provides five additional forms of happiness:
- The happiness of short social bursts — followed by blissful solitude
- The happiness of melancholy
- The happiness of flow
- The happiness of gratitude
- The happiness of meaning
But wait… these forms of happiness are surely not introvert-specific. My extroverted friends search for meaning in their lives too. They seek out flow experiences. When I told them about the power of appreciation, they started a gratitude journal. They’re also less likely than introverts to become depressed.
So then, perhaps I really should push myself to become an extrovert?
Just because that’s the most obvious answer doesn’t make it the best one. The way to move forward fastest is to select methods that work best for those with my biological settings.
Becoming more extroverted may make me happier. It may make you happier. But the best way to move forward is to accept that we’re introverted and select activities that work best for us.
Here’s an example:
If you asked positive psychology, the science of happiness, which of the two following exercises is better correlated with an increase in happiness; it would select the first one.
- Increase the number of your social interactions.
- Spend more time on a challenging but relaxing non-social hobby.
But as we’ve already discussed, there are multiple forms of happiness. Science so far has laser-focused on the form of happiness that is the easiest to quantify: extroverts’ happiness, exemplified by dopamine and feelings of bubbly goodness.
But as an introvert, I’m starting to believe that the better choice is #2. Just because moments of flow don’t create a smile on my face doesn’t mean they don’t make me happy.
Perhaps the idea of converting to an extrovert never occurred to you as it has to me but, surrounded by a world that idealizes the extrovert and by research which suggests they are happier than introverts, the research results bugged me.
I now know there are multiple forms of happiness. Some of them are more easily pursued by extroverts, some of them are more easily pursued by introverts.
So, in my journey to become a Happier Human, I’ve reached the conclusion that I don’t need to push myself to become more extroverted. There is more than one path to maximum happiness.
What’s the path you took to attain happiness?
Guest post by Amit Amin, a Positive Psychologist and Happier Human in training. He blogs about happiness ideas, philosophy and science at HappierHuman.com. Tune in to The Month of Happiness for easy steps to becoming happier one day at a time.