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Especially in this warm weather, there is great emphasis on the introverts of this world to abandon home comforts and desperately toss Frisbees to their great-aunt as if their life depended on it.
The reason for this is because it’s generally thought that staying in your own company is lonely, miserable and unhealthy. How can you possibly be happy living your life in such a way? For Jennifer Granneman, the answer is scientific.
In her blog, she explains that, whilst dopamine is equally present in both introverts and extroverts, they don’t react to it in the same way. Dopamine is a chemical released in the brain that essentially motivates us to seek external rewards, like getting a promotion or being in the popular clique at school.
For an extrovert, achieving such social awards during a networking event or a party will give them a ‘buzz’ – they’ll feel happier as a result of acting on these dopamine-based desires. And introverts will too, but the difference is, there’s a limit. They’re likely to feel more drained by social activity more quickly after they’ve achieved their desires.
Consider introverts and extroverts as two different-sized cups being filled with the same amount of water, with water representing social activity. The same amount of water that fills the (bigger) extrovert cup would be overflowing, too much for the introvert cup to hold.
So, we’ve established that the dopamine-reward process doesn’t please introverts in the same way that it pleases extroverts. But that doesn’t mean that introverts are doomed to an unhappy, unfulfilling life. As we know, introverts value time for themselves. They need that time to recharge and reflect before they can go out and face the world in the way extroverts can. Why? Because this is the thing that gives them the same ‘buzz’ as extroverts get with external rewards.
A chemical in the brain known as acetylcholine is what motivates us to seek these internal rewards, and this is something that is more rewarding to the introvert than the external ones. Thus, internal rewards like reflection are to the introvert what dopamine is to the extroverts.
The bottom line is that, due to them having the same levels of dopamine, introverts are equally as capable of expressing certain desires that are usually thought to be extrovert-exclusive. The difference is they don’t always want to, and that’s because they find their happiness in different ways; it’s important to remember that just because it’s different (namely a different hormone), that doesn’t make it invalid.