At The Mind Room we are excited to bring you a new series of wellbeing science blog posts. Our Rising Stars series gives a voice to up-and-coming academics and practitioners with a focus on wellbeing science and psychology. In this months post we introduce Jessie Sun, a switched-on, critical thinking Kiwi student at Melbourne University who was awarded 2014 Bachelor of Arts Medal.
The Relationship Between Extraversion and Happiness
A growing body of evidence suggests that working on personal relationships and contributing to social affairs can indeed make us feel happier. Rising Star psychology student Jessie Sun explores this concept in relation to extraversion on her Mindful Psych blog. She discusses a journal article by Smillie et al. (2015) titled, ‘Quality of Social Experiences Explains the Relation Between Extroversion and Positive Affect.’ This article looks at the relationship between extroversion and happiness, and how extroverts are more likely to connect and contribute socially. The study found a positive relationship between extroversion and happiness.
Can introverts get extraverted?
People high in extroversion reflect tendencies towards being bold, assertive, gregarious. This contrasts with introverts who tend towards being passive, quiet and reserved. Happiness in the study was measured by PANAS a scale that looks at positive and negative affect. It captures high activation states such as being interested, excited, strong, enthusiastic, proud, alert, inspired, attentive, determined and active.
Interestingly, the study suggests that you don’t have to be an extravert by nature; we can get benefits simply by acting extraverted. So what if you don’t see yourself as an extrovert but still want a boost of positive affect? The Mind Room team have put their heads together to bring you a list of five ways to enhance your level of extroversion (and maybe bring you a little more happiness).
Tip 1: Power-up on talkativeness
Make eye contact, smile and strike up a conversation. Remember that an open-ended questions - ones that require more than a yes or no answer - opens up conversations more easily and keep it flowing. Ask a colleague, neighbour or shop keeper what they got up to on the weekend? Listen to what they say and find a lead to follow, e.g., "I went to the footy with my family"..."Oh - who did you watch?". Why not challenge yourself to a little bit of small-talk today?
Tip 2: Power-up on bravery
Even the briefest connection with others can boost our well-being, yet often in the most crowded public places we can miss these moments. Instead of being absorbed in your phone, or own thoughts, try connecting to the people around you instead. When you are on public transport look out for any little sign of connection, harness your strength of bravery, and return it with a smile or a hello.
Tip 3: Power-up on gratitude
Look out for small acts of thoughtfulness and kindness in your everyday life. If you spot one, then take that opportunity to express your gratitude - with a small, a "thank you", a Band4Hope or a K-Tag card. The act of expressing gratitude in this way will nudge you out of your comfort zone.
Tip 4: Power-up on posing
Take moments throughout your day to pause and notice your body language. How are you standing or sitting? If you have closed body language (shoulders hunched, arms folded, chin down), put your hands on your hips to open up your chest, lift your chin up and stand strong. If you need an extra confidence boost - find somewhere private (you may look a little geeky doing this) and get into the superhero pose, hold it for 2-minutes, then step out into the world. Turns out this exercise enhances our feelings of power and confidence.
Tip 5: Power-up on volunteering
Research shows that there can be benefits to our well-being when we help others. If we volunteer in our community we are thrown into new situations where we meet new people, learn new skills and explore new ideas. It forces us out of our comfort zone and can shift old patterns of behaviour. So, volunteer and embrace the chance to act differently! Even if you find this hard to do, you could well feel happier just from helping others.
The Last Word
Overall, extroversion has been linked happiness, but you don’t have to be an extrovert to benefit from a boost of positive affect; even acting extroverted has the potential to increase our well-being. You can try our tips to see if any of them work for you. To find out more about this topic visit Jessie Sun’s Mindful Psych blog.
Smillie, L., Wilt, J., Kabbani, R., Garratt, C., & Revelle, W. (2015). Quality of Social Experience Explains the Relation Between Extraversion and Positive Affect. Emotion DOI: 10.1037/emo0000047