The peace and quiet you need as an introvert sometimes materializes only as a quick, unplanned escape. Make sure it’s also an active pursuit in your life.
Often, right after our family has finished dinner and the kitchen cleanup has begun, the audio volume in our house seems to double.
I probably don’t have to tell you that kids are involved.
Kids are kids, of course, and especially when they are young and forced by ridiculously old-school parents to do actual chores, they—well, they often yell their conversations when merely talking to each other would do just fine.
You gotta be kidding—I have no idea.
I only know that:
- When I was a kid, my siblings and I did it too (sorry, Mom and Dad).
- The same is undoubtedly true in other families.
- All I can think about when it happens now is getting away from it. Fast.
So I typically retreat to the bedroom for a bit of peace and quiet, closing the door behind me, perhaps working on a crossword puzzle, and hoping not to get caught.
Peace and Quiet as a BAND-AID
This is a form of alone time that is the equivalent of direct pressure on a wound to stop the bleeding: It’s helpful, and it’s important. But it’s not exactly satisfying.
And it certainly isn’t chosen.
Contrast that scenario with a very different form of alone time—the kind of alone time that revitalizes.
I just got back from a silent, 15-minute walk around the block. I was all by myself, cell phone left purposely at home.
This walk was a true walk—an easy stroll—and when I got to the final corner before turning back toward my house, my mind kept telling me “just keep going instead!”
But alas, there’s work to do.
So here I am.
Now, though, I sit here refreshed and renewed.
The headache I had before my walk is gone.
I’m thinking more clearly, despite my sleep being a little rough last night.
The words are flowing more freely from my fingers than they were just an hour ago.
Everything’s just … better.
Not merely stabilized.
The Power of Choice
Not all alone time is created equal, it turns out.
As Durham University researcher Thuy-vy Nguyen and her colleagues have found in studies they’ve conducted, a personality characteristic known as dispositional autonomy combines with introversion (and extroversion, for that matter) to determine how you feel about solitude and what you end up getting out of it.
Dispositional autonomy is a fancy name for believing you have a choice when it comes to managing your daily experiences.
“People with an autonomous personality [i.e., dispositional autonomy] feel that they have chosen to do what they’re doing, instead of seeing themselves as pawns at the mercy of the external environment,” Nguyen writes in her Aeon website article “Time Alone (Chosen or Not) Can Be a Chance to Hit the Reset Button.”
“[W]hen we created a manipulation in the lab where some people were forced into experiencing solitude (thus reducing their sense of autonomy) and others were invited to take interest in it and try it out (fostering their autonomy), those who were forced into solitude saw less value in experiencing it and, in turn, derived less enjoyment from it.”
Pursue Peace and Quiet
You won’t always be able to get chosen alone time, of course. Sometimes, living in the real world, you won’t be able to get alone time of any sort.
But you can work on building up your reserves.
So consciously pursue solitude whenever and wherever and however you can, even if it’s only for a few minutes at a time.
You’ll enjoy it so much more—and get far more out of it—when it’s a pursuit, not an escape.