For Introverts and Sensitive People, the Right Environment Is Magic

An introvert in a cozy bedroom

When introverts and sensitive people can retreat to a calm, quiet space, it’s nothing short of magic. 

I quickly silence my alarm so it won’t wake my husband. It’s not his fault I need to get up so much earlier. Well, I don’t technically need to, but at the same time, I definitely need to. 

I don’t have a responsibility to account for the ungodly hour. But I need the silence and stillness the early morning brings. I need to enjoy my coffee and breakfast alone, in quiet. I need to sit in my oversized armchair, snuggled under the perfect blanket, my journal at the ready, and watch as the day’s first light slowly fills the sky beyond my window. 

Those early morning hours offer an environment that is simply impossible to cultivate at any other time of day. I need as much of it as I can get, as much as my family can allow me, and as much as I can sacrifice extra sleep for. 

It has become a space that is all mine

Carving out that time, and space, in my morning transforms the rest of my day. Yes, my morning routine of meditation and journaling is an important factor, but it’s just as important to get my daily dose of that peaceful environment with its minimal distractions, grounding elements, and gentle comforts. 

I’ve always known that I had different environmental preferences compared to others. Before I knew much about myself, I just knew that I liked quiet and disliked noise. I liked being by myself and I disliked crowds. 

But the whys behind the preferences have become guideposts as I’ve learned more about myself and my introversion. We know that research has found that our environment influences our well-being, for better or worse, and that introverts tend to be affected by environmental factors — like noise, lights, and of course, social elements — more so than extroverts. (Introverts who are also highly sensitive people may feel the impact of their surroundings even more deeply.)

As I’ve learned about my energy sources and drains, as well as my environment’s impact on my nervous system, I’ve begun to notice how environments work for me… or against me. So, these days, I’m learning to prioritize environments that inspire me instead of discourage me. 

Suffice it to say, when the environment is right, it’s nothing short of magic. 

How Subpar Environments Drain Introverts 

My first job after college was in an open-office call center. In that environment, my sensitive, introverted nature coupled with my millennial phone phobia, was a recipe for intense environmental overwhelm.

Draining doesn’t begin to cover it. That environment was nothing short of an assault on my needs as an introvert. 

First of all, in every direction, there were people. Coworkers facing me, or I, them. All day, every day. There was no escape. Like many introverts, I am drained simply by being around others, likely due to my sensitive nature and involuntary tendency to soak up their energy. I deeply process every single conversation and expression, down to the exhausted sighs of my coworkers after finishing a frustrating call. Plus, that feeling of being on display at all times was debilitating, especially as someone who struggles with performance anxiety

The phones were a detriment to my environment in and of themselves. Never mind that I absolutely detest talking on the phone and honestly had no business working in a call center. I’m reminded of the scene in Elf when Buddy (Will Ferrell) is given the job of “Jack-in-the-Box Tester” and he is startled by each toy over and over again. That was how it felt every time the phone rang. 

Being bound to my desk was also suffocating. In a small, open call center, coworkers rely on you to be available to pull your weight on the phones. You can’t get up from your desk without being noticed. The lack of autonomy and flexibility hung over me like an oppressive cloud. 

And, of course, the draining experience of talking to customers and coworkers every minute of my 40-hour work week was untenable. I couldn’t help but be heavily invested in customer experience and satisfaction, as well as in my interactions with coworkers

I imagine that if any of my call center coworkers read this description, they would have no clue I was describing the same office they worked in. To be fair, it was a casual, friendly, and enjoyable environment for most people. It just wasn’t right for me. 

When your primary descriptions of an environment are words like debilitating, exhausting, overwhelming, and oppressive, it’s safe to say it is not going to contribute positively to your well-being. In that open-plan office, I couldn’t concentrate. I was in a state of chronic overwhelm. The environment alone was enough to leave me stressed and exhausted, even before accounting for the work! 

When an environment just doesn’t jive with your best self, it’s worth taking a hard look at what you can change. 

The Magic of Environments That Speak to Introverts

The magic of my morning routine lies in every environmental element. I get to make it my own and prioritize the factors that make it right for me. 

It can start with asking yourself big questions, like What would fill me with peace? What would inspire me? And it helps to look for answers in your physical surroundings. Organization, natural light, a thriving house plant, and ambient music fill me with peace. A painting, a photo from my travels, or simply a window can be a source of inspiration. So, what about you?

At home, there is magic in pursuing comfort and indulging in the slightest improvements to maximize it. Whether you have an entire house or a corner of a room (or bedroom), create an “introvert zen zone” or sanctuary and make it yours. If you live with others, having conversations around this is well worth it, too. 

Maximum comfort in my cultivated environment enables maximum tolerance for discomfort in environments I can’t cultivate. The curated environment fills my tank for the other. 

But I need not have total control over my environment to find the magic. 

One example is the outdoors. For me, nothing is more magical than sitting along the banks of flowing water. The sound of the water rushing over rocks, and the feel of it flowing across my toes without end, is always therapeutic.

Outside, I am rarely (if ever) perfectly comfortable. But it doesn’t matter. There, comfort isn’t the magical part. It’s how being in nature grounds me and speaks to me. How it calms my anxious thoughts and revives my weary spirit. It’s the connection to nature that makes outdoor environments magical. 

The same can be said for the right social environments — the magic is in the connection. An introvert can have a more magical experience at a loud concert if they’re connected to the music and the hype of the crowd more than a quiet dinner party with tense energy and charged conversation. It’s the connection to the environment, and the people in it, that make it the transcendent experience introverts crave. 

And, sometimes, environments can surprise us. The party we didn’t want to go to turned out to be a blast. The intimate dinner out ended up being a bust. We should stay open to all sorts of environments, because transcendent environments are possible whether we have total control over the specifics, or very little. It’s a matter of cultivation, choice, and a little bit of magic.

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Cultivating a Magical Environment, Wherever We Are 

The more we can cultivate our environment to match our needs, the more it can nourish and energize us.

There are, of course, limits to our abilities to create the perfect environment all the time. There are environmental pollutants that affect people’s health on a massive scale. There are noise and light pollutants that can wear on us more, as people who need less stimulating environments. And there are social pollutants that can drain our energy supply faster than we could ever hope to recover (until we can retreat to the refuge of our calming, cultivated environments). 

But there are ways to infuse a little magic into our environments, wherever we find ourselves. 

Introverts have always possessed an innate, inner GPS for finding the nooks and crannies of quiet and stillness in an otherwise noisy and chaotic world. We can, and should, always be on the lookout for those little pockets of peace. They are magic for introverts. 

For example, my car is my refuge when I’m out and about. I am cultivating the habit of spending a few extra seconds sitting in it before (and after) an errand or event. Just a breath or two in its bubble makes a huge difference. 

Cultivating environments that help us thrive requires us introverts to value our self-worth. We must believe we are worthy of a magical and inspiring environment, even if our preferences go against the mainstream. We must commit to pursuing it, even if it means making hard choices, like changing jobs or setting an earlier alarm. 

Tomorrow, I’ll silence my alarm again, dragging myself out of bed. Yes, I’ll wish I could get more sleep. But I can’t miss the chance to soak up all that the early morning has to offer. I need its stillness to speak to me, inspire me, and nourish me. We introverts need our environments to work their magic — so we can work ours.

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