When you combine your introvert brain (always thinking!) with a solid mindset, you end up with a powerful force for good in your life—whatever you’re facing.
Tromsø, Norway is an island of nearly 80,000 people that sits more than 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle.
Its location is so extreme that it experiences two months of polar night each year: Between late November and late January, the people of Tromsø see only a few hours of indirect sunlight each day.
Yet studies have repeatedly shown that the people of Tromsø don’t experience much seasonal- related depression or wintertime mental distress. Not nearly as much as you might suspect, at least.
In August 2014, Stanford University health psychologist and mindset researcher Kari Leibowitz—then a Ph.D. student—decided to move to Tromsø for 10 months to find out.
She quickly discovered she was asking the wrong question.
“[T]o many locals, the original question I’d planned to ask—‘Why aren’t people in Tromsø more depressed during winter?’—didn’t make sense,” she writes in a 2016 article about the experience for the website The Conversation:
“Most people I spoke to in Tromsø were actually looking forward to the winter. They spoke enthusiastically about the ski season. They loved the opportunities for coziness provided by the winter months.”
It soon became clear to Leibowitz that how Tromsø residents thought about winter—their mindset toward the season—played a key role in their experience of it, and in their well-being in the midst of it.
Introvert Brain and Mindset
The winter season may or, much more likely, may not be quite as extreme where you live. (It may be summer right now where you live!)
But wherever you call home, and whatever the season, you still face adversity each day.
As an introvert, you likely spend a lot of time in your head; it’s part of your wiring. So your mindset is going to have an impact—for better or worse—on your daily experience.
So … what’s going on in that introvert brain of yours right now? Are you focused on what’s going wrong in your life? Are you thinking about all the things you can’t do?
That’s understandable. It’s human.
But as the people of Tromsø consistently demonstrate, it’s critical for us to ask at least two additional questions of ourselves whenever we are facing some sort of difficulty, be it harsh weather or anything else.
1) Any Opportunities Here?
As I write this piece from my basement office, we are coming off a nasty week of winter weather that’s been cold even for these parts. The daily highs have been in the single digits Fahrenheit—sometimes above 0, sometimes below!
It’s no Tromsø—at least we have a decent amount of sunlight each day!—but it wears thin. Quickly.
It is a time, though, when we can curl up in our house together as a family and watch the “flame” on our fake fireplace while we do a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle of a beautiful Lake Tahoe scene.
And with the new year now unfolding, my lovely wife Adrianne and I have both been taking advantage of the semi-hibernation time to rethink some of the ways we do things around the house, and to plan and set goals for ourselves for the weeks and months ahead.
In short: We’ve had a chance to step back, relax a bit, reflect, and regroup thanks to the mercury freezing in our thermometer.
Are there any opportunities you can discern in your current situation, even (especially?) if it’s a difficult one?
2) What Can I Do?
We all tend to be crystal clear on what we can’t do (or what we think we can’t do, at any rate). It comes so easily to mind that it can dominate our thinking, to our potential detriment.
So carefully ponder the opposite question in your introvert brain: What can you do, especially during challenging times in your life?
This is the essence of the Tromsø mindset that you can adopt.
It’s why the people of Norway as a whole have a clever saying when it comes to winter activities outdoors:
“Det finnes ikke dårlig vær, bare dårlige klær!”
“There is no bad weather, only bad clothes!”
As Leibowitz puts it in a September 2020 article on The Guardian website:
“[O]nce you put it in people’s heads that mindsets exist, and that you have control over your mindset—I think that that’s tremendously powerful.”