Whether you’re an extrovert, an introvert, or somewhere in between, you can find happiness in solitude.

The COVID-19 pandemic has posed new challenges most of us have never faced. Suddenly, we’ve been physically cut off from the friends, family, and activities that brought us joy.

Many people have spent more time alone in the past year than ever before.

For some, a chance for more peace and solitude has been a welcome silver lining to a devastating pandemic. For others, social isolation has brought on feelings of loneliness.

How you’ve fared in this surge of alone time may be a reflection of your personality type, but extroverts, introverts, and ambiverts all have the ability to feel lonely.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to find joy in being alone.

In the 1920s, psychoanalyst Carl Jung described two extremes on a spectrum of personalities: extroverts and introverts.

According to Jung, the crucial difference between the two is the way they become energized. Extroverts gain energy by interacting with the world around them. Introverts, on the other hand, draw their energy from within.

Jung’s description still holds true, but the way we classify extroverts and introverts today is a bit more complex.

Though all personality types can be found globally, some studies suggest that average levels of extroversion do vary by country and culture.

Extroverts

The usual stereotype about extroverts is that they’re loud, overbearing, and always the life of the party. Though it’s true that they tend to feel at home in social settings, these characterizations paint extroverts with far too broad a brush.

If you’re an extrovert, you likely:

  • feel energized when interacting with others
  • find being alone draining
  • lean towards optimistic thinking
  • are enthusiastic about social events
  • are willing to take risks and try new things
  • will speak up in group settings

Being an extrovert doesn’t mean you’re always the outgoing social butterfly. Extroverts can enjoy alone time, too.

But because they draw energy from the people and activities around them, extroverts may find the social isolation that’s dominated the era of COVID-19 particularly challenging.

Introverts

The big myth about introverts is that they’re always shy, quiet, and anxious in social settings.

It’s entirely possible — and in fact common — for introverted people to enjoy social interactions, too. But unlike extroverts, introverts typically consider solitude a necessity for energy restoration and recovery.

If you’re an introvert, you probably:

  • feel recharged after spending time alone
  • have a small group of close friends
  • prefer intimate gatherings to large parties
  • avoid conflict when possible
  • consider decisions carefully before acting
  • observe and listen to people closely

Even though introverted people tend to prefer time alone, they can also experience feelings of loneliness.

Ambiverts

Extroversion is a spectrum, and most people fall somewhere in between the two extremes.

Jung himself agreed that nobody perfectly embodies either pole.

If you identify with qualities of both introverts and extroverts, you may be what’s called an ambivert.

If you’re an ambivert, you may:

  • draw energy from both social settings and time alone
  • problem solve and adapt easily
  • be decisive, but cautious with taking risks
  • feel comfortable participating in conversations
  • lean towards introversion or extroversion depending on the situation

Being alone and being lonely are very different.

Loneliness is generally defined as a negative mental response to a difference in the social relationships you actually have and social relationships you desire.

Unlike being alone physically, loneliness is a subjective feeling.

Though it’s not commonly thought of as a health threat, studies have shown that loneliness increases the likelihood of serious health conditions, including mental health disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and even mortality.

Anybody can feel lonely, but groups at more likely to experience loneliness include:

  • women
  • single people
  • older adults
  • students
  • those who don’t participate in the labor force

Isolation may very well may create feelings of loneliness, but it’s entirely possible to be alone and also happy.

Many of the ways people typically overcome loneliness aren’t currently possible, as the COVID-19 pandemic persists globally.

Being able to draw happiness from solitude is an important life skill and can improve mental health and overall well-being.

Effective strategies for finding joy in being alone likely depend on your personality type. What works for an extrovert may not for an introvert, and vice versa.

Let’s explore some ways extroverts, introverts, and ambiverts can become comfortable with being alone.

Extroverts

Talk it out

Talking through problems is particularly useful for extroverts. If you’re feeling lonely, have a conversation with a family member or friend and try to work out solutions.

Ironically, venting to someone else may help you find joy in being alone.

Practice self-care

Even those who prefer social interaction to alone time can benefit from relaxation techniques, sleep, exercise, and mindfulness.

Try a new online workout class, mute your social media accounts, or practice walking meditation outside.

Self-care for extroverts can also mean connecting with loved ones virtually. Though online interactions aren’t as fulfilling as being face-to-face, a video call can provide some of the energy you’re missing by being alone.

Reaching out to others and providing them with support can also be effective in reducing your own feelings of disconnectedness and loneliness.

Foster or adopt a dog

What’s the closest thing to a human best friend? A dog.

Research shows that extroverts are more likely to be dog people. Not only are dogs built-in companions, but the work and attention they require can be a nice distraction from quiet time alone.

Of course, fostering or adopting a dog is a huge responsibility, so evaluate your ability to care for an animal carefully before deciding.

Look at alone time as a chance for growth

Solitude gives extroverts a unique opportunity for reflection. Acknowledging that time alone can be important in personal growth can help you overcome feelings of loneliness.

Your time alone can be productive and worthwhile.

Introverts

Practice gratitude

Research shows that gratitude has a negative correlation with loneliness, meaning that the more you feel and express gratitude, the less likely you’ll be to experience feelings of loneliness. If you’re lonely, practicing gratitude is one of the best ways to reconnect.

Get creative

Introverts often prefer expressing themselves in creative ways, like through art, writing, or music.

Put on your artist’s beret and dive into a creative project. Look into virtual art classes or writing groups.

Consider writing a letter to a friend instead of joining an overwhelming video call.

Foster or adopt a cat

The qualities of cats are especially appealing to many introverts. They’re independent and subdued but still provide comfort and companionship without the pressures of human interaction.

Again, consider your ability to care for a cat before adopting or fostering.

Don’t overthink it

You may feel that the stigma of being alone negatively affects you more than actually being alone.

If you enjoy solitude, that’s great! Don’t let anyone else tell you that you must be lonely just because you appreciate being by yourself.

Ambiverts

Since ambiverts fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, many of the previous tips for finding joy in being alone likely apply.

Other strategies for easing loneliness that can help people all along the extroversion spectrum include:

  • spending time in nature
  • taking time away from social media
  • being physically active
  • making plans for after social isolation ends
  • maintaining optimism

Sometimes all the acts of self-care and gratitude aren’t enough to stop feelings of loneliness. Being lonely can significantly impact your mental health, daily life, and overall well-being.

If being alone is causing you or someone you know to feel depressed or anxious, consider reaching out for help.

Behavioral changes like over- or under-eating, substance use, or disrupted sleep schedules are especially indicative of mental health problems.

Primary care doctors or mental health professionals can provide the support and guidance you need to overcome feelings of loneliness.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us into long stretches of isolation. Though crucial for slowing the spread of the virus, physical distancing and the loneliness it can foster pose different health challenges.

Loneliness doesn’t discriminate among personality types. It affects extroverts, introverts, and ambiverts alike.

But spending time by yourself doesn’t mean you have to feel lonely. In fact, solitude can be one of the best opportunities for personal growth, rest, and reflection.

Try the tips listed above and see what works best for you. And if you’re in need of more help, consider talking with your doctor. They can refer you to a mental health professional, if necessary, for further steps.

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