Maintaining social wellness can be challenging, especially for those of us who find large social situations daunting. Since social wellness is so important to our overall health, it’s equally important that we maintain our social circles in ways that suit us. We need to think about what kind of social interactions benefit us and make us happy. If you’re an introvert and find this kind of tricky, you’ve come to the right place! If you’re an extrovert, stick around anyways, maybe you’ll learn a little something that could help you out with your introverted friends! If you’re an ambivert, you already know a thing or two about balance, but there’s always more to discover!

Let’s get into it!

What Is an Introvert?

Over the last century, the idea and definition of introversion have ping-ponged across the scientific community, and as a result, it’s come to have a number of different meanings. In general terms, introverts are thought to be people who recharge their social batteries by being alone, as opposed to extroverts who get energy from being around other people, and ambiverts who fall somewhere in the middle.

However, as the concept of introversion and its definitions have progressed, it has come to be subcategorized into four different types: Social, Thinking, Anxious, and Inhibited Introversion. Any number of these categories (or none at all) could apply to an introvert, so we thought it may be useful to delve into them here!
#1. Social Introversion refers to a preference for solitude or smaller social groups. 
#2. Thinking Introversion involves a lot of introspection, a rich and complex inner life, and plenty of creativity. 
#3. Anxious Introversion doesn’t necessarily refer to people who live with the mental health condition known as anxiety, but it speaks more of a predisposition toward the emotion of anxiety. These are introverts who don’t want too much stimulation, be it from noise or social interactions, and are often very self-aware. Social anxiety is a separate entity, but can often come hand in hand with anxious introversion—if  you feel you may be experiencing anxiety, there are always positive steps you can take, and it’s always a good idea to speak with a medical professional!
#4. Inhibited (or Restrained) Introversion is used to describe introverts who think deeply before they act, or speak, and who always take their time with everything!

Social Isolation

Now, just because someone’s introverted, doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t need social interaction. Humans are sociable creatures, but we’re all different, and, as such, have different social needs and preferences. Socialization can be beneficial to our wellbeing for a number of reasons, and one of the foremost reasons is to avoid what is known in the medical community as social isolation. This essentially refers to a person having little or no social support. 

Social isolation has been shown to be a huge predictor when it comes to outcomes in not only mental health but physical health as well. The best way to avoid loneliness and isolation is to nurture our social lives, and this is doubly important for introverts, who may find social connections a bit harder to develop or maintain. If we can sustain healthy social lives, the implications for our wellness are far-reaching. Emotional support can boost happiness and can help to prevent anxiety, depression, stress, and many related physical symptoms.

Social Fatigue

On the other hand, we should all be aware of the possibility and implications of social fatigue. Contrary to popular belief, social fatigue isn’t something that only affects introverts, it’s applicable for ambiverts and extroverts as well. Social activities can be draining, and the potential outcome of social tiredness can have the unfortunate side effect of putting us off spending time with those close to us. Social interactions involve a lot of cognitive processing and impression management, which even the most sociable of extroverts can find exhausting after a while, so when it comes to introverts we should be doubly aware. 

The one thing to keep in mind regarding social and mental wellness is that it can be very difficult to recommend a “one size fits all” solution. As with many things in health and wellness, the key here is to work on creating and maintaining a balance in our social lives. Starting off with some introspective reasoning can pave the way to identifying the perfect amount of social interaction for us as individuals. Another point we need to consider is the type of social activity that appeals to and works for us.

With that in mind, here are a few types of social activities that may suit an introvert!

Keep it Short and Sweet

Instead of lengthy social interactions, we could try to choose activities that only have to be as long as we desire. This could mean things like meeting a friend for an afternoon coffee, having a quick video call, or going for a walk in the park!

Try Smaller Groups

If big groups of people can seem like a little bit too much, why not take things into your own hands and organize a social occasion that works for you? Invite a small group of friends over for a board games night, or go to a pub quiz. The options are really endless, but having a small group of close (and possibly also introverted) buddies can really help to curb that potential for getting overwhelmed.

Engage in Virtual Activities 

Interacting with friends, or even meeting new people, from the comfort of our own homes can give us all the joy of human connection without the added stress of going somewhere and having to be constantly mentally active! Why not try video calling to watch a show together, or playing some video games online?

Have a Go of Artistic Practices

Another fantastic way to make our social activities more manageable and meaningful is to involve art. If we want to get out of the house we could try classes like painting or sculpting. Both of these activities provide an environment that’s calming, as well as conducive to meeting new people. Art also has a wonderful way of making us feel good, which can reduce the feelings of stress we may normally associate with social gatherings. Plus, we get to reap the additional benefit of getting to flex our creative muscles!

Dive Into Sports  

Last, but very much not least, why not try combining exercise with a little social activity? It can provide a way to spend time with one or two close friends, as well as an activity that can distract us from how intimidating the social aspect of the activity may seem. There are also a number of other benefits to working out with other people. Fitness partners can increase motivation, help us stick to a schedule, and even boost performance!

The takeaway here is that to find the right balance, we need to know ourselves. We’re all different, and we all like to socialize in different ways and degrees, so it’s all about finding what’s right for us! Look for activities that give you a chance to regularly see those close to you, but in ways that don’t stress you out! It’s all about finding a happy middle ground where we feel fulfilled, loved, motivated, and energized!