Alone And Still Not Happy
I’m an introvert and I struggle with anxiety. So, I tend to interact with others minimally to keep my stress lower. But it doesn’t seem to be working. Any suggestions?
Signed: Alone and Still Not Happy
Dear Alone and Still Not Happy,
The behaviour you are describing is very common with many people who have socially triggered anxiety. But the truth is, keeping ourselves away from others is exactly what tends to trigger the anxiety even more, just in different ways. The greater our level of isolation (especially if we find ourselves living with chronic MH issues), the greater our level of anxiety and unhappiness.
Believe it or not, connection and/or attachment to others is the very thing people need to help them overcome feelings of insecurity and uncertainty. In fact, many studies and vast amounts of research show us that almost all mental health issues are markedly improved when the individual living with the problem is able to build a support network of people around them. The bigger and stronger the support network, the less the mental health issue can thrive. And the more the level of individual happiness and satisfaction with life can grow – it is a domino effect.
Cultivating a strong network of people has been proven to enhance our quality of life in a number of ways. It makes us less vulnerable to premature death; it makes us more likely to survive chronic and fatal physical health issues (like cancer and heart disease); and it decreases the likelihood that we will fall prey to stressful life issues that can create or enhance the mental health problems we might experience. And studies designed to define the root ingredients found in happy people’s lives show that there are more close friend relationships, stronger family ties, and more/deeper romantic or intimate connections in their lives than those found in the lives of people who are generally unhappy.
Interestingly enough, the attachments that we are describing as part of this “social web” required for happiness do NOT have to begin with people we know. Research shows that connections made with strangers have the same healthy impact on our physical, emotional and mental wellness as do the interactions that we have with people we know and trust. Smiling or making eye contact with someone passing by on the sidewalk or in a store is just as valuable to our level of happiness as is time spent enjoying a meal or hanging out with someone we feel comfortable with on a deeper level, as long as some form of a positive connection gets made (a smile back, a nod of the head, a small conversation about the weather, etc). And this opens the door for a large difference in the types of connections that can be made by an introverted or an extroverted personality. Someone who is more introverted does not need to suddenly start to participate in a multitude of social events. They just need to connect on a level they are comfortable with, when they are interacting in the world naturally/with strangers. What we give is what comes back to us. And this is why isolation is one of the worst things we can do to overcome anxiety and increase our state of happiness.
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