7 Things Introverts Do When They Live Alone, According To Science
Introverts living alone are in heaven 24/7, right? Well, not necessarily; introverts — whose personalities are shaped by the degree to which social interaction and stimuli exhaust rather than revive them — are most often not complete loners, and do require a bit of social interaction in order to be at peak functioning. However, science has let us in on some of the neurological particularities of introverts, which gives us a bit of an idea regarding what their ideal solo living space would be like.
It turns out that a lot of the science surrounding introversion doesn't really focus on the social side of things at all. The brain of an introvert is an extremely interesting place for neurologists and psychologists, who point out, for instance, that introverts often have more grey matter in their prefrontal cortex in areas to do with abstract thought than extroverts. Introversion is not a handicap; it's a particular personality type that gives certain strengths and poses certain challenges. And because of its nature, living situations are a particularly sensitive place for introverts.
This is particularly crucial if you happen to be making a home with an introvert; their private space, and how it's set up, is essential for their happiness and recharging capability. And if you're an introvert going it alone, this is a good guide to what you should look for in a living space — what nourishes your introverted soul, in other words.
Here are some of the things science has discovered about the ideal way for introverts to live on their own.
1. Avoid Using Images Of Human Faces While Decorating
It seems that if you want to tell the dorm room of an introvert from the private living quarters of an extrovert, a lack of human faces — real or 2D — in the decorating scheme might be a distinguishing factor. Photo walls of family and friend aren't necessarily an introvert's first choice of decoration for their private pad.
This is only a theory, of course; but it's borne out in real science. A 2010 study found that introverts and extroverts show fundamentally different attitudes towards human faces, and that's reflected in their neurology. The brains of 28 people — some of whom had extrovert tendencies and some of whom had introvert tendencies — were scanned while they looked at "social" and "non-social" stimuli: in other words, photos of faces and photos of inanimate objects. While the extrovert brains lit up when they saw faces, the introvert brains didn't pick them out as special; it treated them exactly the same as images of dogs, or flowers, or beaches.
2. Give Themselves Permission To Ignore The Phone
If an introvert lives with somebody, they're generally in some way expected to maintain normal social order around them: if a housemate is in the room, for instance, you acknowledge their existence and have a polite conversation if possible. But without that impetus, when introverts are purely on their own, they can do something called "giving themselves permission" to revert to their most energy-conserving states.
Introversion expert Sophia Dembling informed Psychology Today that one of the best gifts you can give an introvert is this "permission to indulge these introvertish desires," from not picking up the phone to sitting inside all day with a book while everybody else is out partying. Without social pressure or shame, introverts can act with more freedom.
3. Stare Quietly Into Space For Ages
This is another one that, when living with people, has to be curtailed for fear of freaking them out. A research study from the University of Virginia found that extroverts prefer the experience of small electric shocks to a period staring into space with only their thoughts for company, while introverts are much more comfortable with the concept of "wool-gathering." If you happen upon an introvert, there's a chance they'll be quietly looking into space thinking, with no apparent distraction or purpose in sight. This may alarm you; please don't startle them unnecessarily.
4. Create A Space For Small Social Gatherings Only
It's a misconception that introverts have no taste for any kind of social gatherings. It's not true that introverts don't like to hang around with friends; rather, the issue is with their energy levels. Social events deplete introverts, often rapidly, rather than replenishing them. New York Magazine highlights new research that indicates there may in fact be four different types of introversion: the social, the self-reflective, the anxious and the reserved.
Of these, New York declares, the social is "the closest to the commonly held understanding of introversion, in that it's a preference for socializing with small groups instead of large ones." The other types don't share the same responses to social groupings, and avoid them for separate reasons. For the first type of introvert, though, entertaining is likely not to be a Gatsby-style blow-out; if they live on their own, chances are that the place is set up for tete-a-tetes and small dinners, not gargantuan ragers.
5. Emphasize Privacy
One of the most notable parts of Susan Cain's bestseller Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Won't Stop Talking was her analysis of the modern corporate workplace. Specifically, she criticized open-plan offices and other working options that were devised mostly for people who thrived on lots of personal contact and interaction. In 2015, the Financial Times revealed that a study had shown introverts had a marked distaste for open-plan offices with no private areas, while the introversion support network Introvert Retreat calls them "not only unpleasant to endure, particularly for introverts and highly sensitive people, [but] also damaging in terms of productivity, memory, creativity and stress levels."
For introverts with power over their own environment at home, then, privacy will be a premium, particularly if they have to work in an open area all day. Doors that lock, blinds that can come down, noise-canceling everything: it's all part of the ideal introvert scenario.
6. Keep Their Space From Being Too Stimulating
An introvert's private space is unlikely to have a lot going on in terms of noise, conversation and other people. Research outlined by Medical Daily back in 2014 found that examinations of the brains of introverts have highlighted their capacity to be over-stimulated by outside stimuli: too much social interaction, in particular, would make them exhausted, and their need to "recharge" led them to quiet places without a great deal going on. Introverts require "less stimulation from the world in order to be awake and alert than extroverts do," according to Cain's website, Quiet Revolution. An introvert living on their own won't be existing in a padded cell — but they'll likely not have fifteen things happening around them at once, either.
7. Live Near Mountains (As Opposed To Plains)
In 2015, a study emerged in Social Psychological and Personality Science that linked personality type to preferences about land location. It turns out that, the more introverted you are, the more likely you are to prefer to live in mountains and wooded areas than in flat, open places.
The researchers didn't offer an explanation, but it's not hard to think of one: mountainous areas tend to be less populous, more isolated and with fewer distractions or stimuli, while flat ones may be the opposite. If an introvert has a choice of location, they'll flee for the hills — or to any place that gives them peace and quiet on their own terms.
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