Getting out in nature is an easy way for introverts to get out more, yet still have solitude.
As introverts, we get comfortable in our routines and rituals, comfortable with being alone, and comfortable amidst solitude. Sometimes we don’t realize we’ve gotten too comfortable until the need for companionship and connectivity, seemingly out of nowhere, sneaks up on us.
Social connections and engagement with the world are good for our mental health. So how can we comfortably cultivate them while also honoring our introverted tendencies? The first step is to get out of the house.
Here are some actionable items that I’ve personally found helpful. All of these activities puncture inertia without being too much of a dive into the deep end of the icy pool. The key is, while they may be a bit out of our comfort zones, they are all doable and not too unrealistic.
7 Ways to Get Out More as an Introvert
1. Talk to a new person, like someone in line at the grocery store.
Many of us introverts tend to have a hard time with small talk, or we just don’t enjoy it that much.
We thrive off deep interaction and meaningful conversation. And yet there’s a place for small talk. Soul-feeding exchanges about why we’re all here can fulfill us, but what I’ve also realized is that the simpler, seemingly insignificant exchanges can be just as powerful. I’ve learned that simple isn’t a synonym for superficial. To that point, a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that connecting with others does increase happiness.
Additionally, a lot of these conversations — even if they start off in the form of small talk — can deepen in less time than you would think. As a former Lyft driver, I talked to all kinds of people. Often, my Toyota Corolla felt like it was “therapy on wheels” for one-time clients. I parted ways with some passengers knowing more about them than I do about some of the people I now see at my day job on a regular basis.
Suffice it to say, one-on-one interactions are also a good way for introverts to get their social needs met without feeling overstimulated. In case you are not a Lyft driver, other ways I have found to meet this need are casually striking up conversation with a person in line for something (“Have you tried their bear claw pastry?”). The other day, a woman in the same aisle at CVS started talking to me about the greeting card selection, so that was good for me, too. Still other times, you witness an adorable or fascinating sight, and this can automatically bring you and another person together. When I was hiking the other day, for instance, a quail poked her head out of a bush, stopping both me and a male hiker in our tracks (and facilitating conversation).
2. Go to a café (or other public communal space) just to be around the social energy.
Toward the beginning of the pandemic, I deeply enjoyed my solitude. It was a relief to not feel beholden to social obligations. Yet as time went on, I also began experiencing an itch familiar to any extrovert who’s ever walked this planet. I recall a scene from the lobby of a pharmacy 11 months into the pandemic, when the world was slowly beginning to reopen after almost a year of isolation.
The bespectacled, middle-aged man to my left listened to Persian music on his phone while an emotional support beagle napped at its owner’s feet a chair away from them. Six feet apart from each other, everyone (aside from the beagle) was masked. Some of the masks were stylish: black with gold, rainbow patterns (I see you, LGBTQ ally!), and strawberries shining in the sunlight.
All these signs of life energized me. They made for the closest to a café experience — wherein each person channeled their energy into their own endeavors, seated individually but surrounded by the company of many — that I’d had in months. And I realized I’d missed it. Starbucks founder Howard Schultz’s vision for the café was of a “third space” somewhere between work and home, where one can relax without the worries associated with either. Introverts can get a comfortable dose of social energy in these settings, without the overwhelm of social obligation.
3. Engage in tactile experiences.
Growing up, I enjoyed taking trips to the local arcade. I had no trouble whiling away hours at home making Sims’ video game characters fall in love with each other or designing what I hoped would be the longest roller coaster of all time in Roller Coaster Tycoon. Yet there was something about the multi-sensory experience of arcade attractions that games contained to a mere computer screen just couldn’t replicate. Summer camp as a kid was also a great way to engage in tactile experiences, and it’s something I wish more kids had access to.
Many introverts are prone to daydreaming and disappearing into our imaginations. This can be a wonderful experience, but balance is key. To combat staying locked inside our heads, we can turn toward the tactile: Climb rocks when you go on hikes. Do yoga barefoot on the beach so you can feel the texture of the sand against your skin. Consider archery, hammer throwing, or crocheting — there are so many possibilities.
4. Get up close and personal with nature.
Nature is a gentle arena through which introverts can leave their cocoon while not feeling overstimulated. We can find ways to turn the planet into our own personal workout space (in a way that is respectful to Her and leaves things as we’ve found them). For instance, I’ve done sit-ups against smooth stones out in the quiet desert landscape of Palm Springs. I’ve run barefoot on beaches, the breeze cool against my skin and the undisturbed sand pristine beneath my feet. The fresh green grass at many parks has beckoned me into yoga poses, stretches, and ab circuits.
Outdoor workouts facilitate a more meditative, “get back in touch with yourself” experience. Fallen trees make great benches for sit-ups. Sand offers optimal resistance for glute toning (plus, a barefoot beach run is to working out in the gym as a cozy hard copy of a book is to a Kindle). Rivers await swimmers and rocks beckon climbers. I love the full-body exertion you get from both these activities — how every muscle, from your abs to your legs to little muscles in your arms you didn’t even know you had, suddenly come alive.
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5. Reconnect with your inner child.
In her book Below the Edge of Darkness, Edith Widder, Ph.D., wrote: “The happiest people I know are those who have managed to hang on to a childish sense of wonder at discovering new things. But hanging on is not always easy. Too often, the world is served up a collection of facts to be learned, rather than grand mysteries to be solved.”
My LyftTales blog contains illustrations that look like a child drew them. I didn’t recruit a seven-year-old, though; they were done by yours truly. I draw them because they’re cathartic and help me to not take myself too seriously. They also reconnect me with my playful side that doesn’t always have the opportunity to emerge during the day’s more routine drudgery. They replace my rigid, linear thinking, making me more receptive to creative ideas and alternative ways of seeing.
Play. Sing. Color. Do things you may even be bad at but that bring you joy. Or spend time with actual kids to reconnect with your inner child. I did this with my little cousin one sunny day last year. We “flower-smelled” in my aunt’s backyard, which felt like wine-tasting, but for our noses (and more innocent and pure).
As psychiatrist Stuart Brown wrote: “A lack of play should be treated like malnutrition. It’s a health risk to your body and mind.”
6. Take a trip on your own.
One thing I love about solo travel is how the absence of other people allows you to pay closer attention to small details. Details like how one cocktail consisted of ingredients like crushed avocado, pineapple juice, and mezcal; how the wooden furniture outside a cafe in South Lake Tahoe blended seamlessly with the surrounding trees, while a stone’s throw away, the vast lake — impossibly, paradisiacally blue — shimmered beneath the sun; the red poncho of a pit bull puppy watching his owner perform at an open mic night in Asheville, North Carolina; and I could go on and on…
On road trips, moving and changing locations can meet a need for people with introverted tendencies. It provides us with stimulation while not being overstimulating, as we’re also granted the comfort and insulation of our car.
7. Read something you never would have considered.
“Getting out more” also includes getting out of our heads, where we introverts often live. Pre-COVID-19, at Barnes & Noble, I’d gather a tall stack of reading materials and transport them to the cozy chair by the Starbucks fireplace. After ordering my coffee, I’d then pore through them while trying to soak in as much as I could. The magazines, with topics spanning from bird-watching to mountaineering to geology, were ones I wouldn’t ordinarily purchase. But my brain delighted in unexpected knowledge when consuming them.
Imagine if we pushed past confirmation bias in other realms of our daily worlds. What if we engaged with people we didn’t immediately like, who may turn out to house some hidden treasures? What if we prodded deeper into an argument or belief when our knee-jerk reaction is to reject it?
For the purpose of this specific tip, though: Reading gives us this exposure in a way that’s safe and contained for introverts. We’re stepping out of our comfort zone mentally while remaining cocooned physically. All of this helps in the process of incorporating new beliefs into our current repertoires.
Introverts, what would you add to the list? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
You might like:
- How to Get an Introvert Out of the House (Maybe)
- The Beauty of Solitude: 10 Reasons Why Introverts Embrace Being Alone
- 4 Meditation Tips for Introverts Who Struggle to Focus
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