Socialize Your Blues Away

January 13, 2015

Defeating the Winter Blues

social interaction 1In the post “Defeating the Winter Blues,” tip #7 mentioned the importance of socializing for the purpose of helping defeat the winter blues. This post delves into that point a bit more and gets at what the very obvious social nature of extroverts can teach those of us who struggle with and even avoid socializing.

I’m an introvert by nature who has occasional bouts of shyness too. Plus, I’m a writer and love to read. In other words, my natural tendencies and interests gear me toward social isolation. Balancing this area of myself, which I realize is both a strength and a weakness, requires a lot of deliberate effort.

Antisocial Tendencies and Depression

The journal of Clinical Psychology says, “Social isolation puts you at greater risk for mental health problems.”

My own experience confirms this research. The more antisocial I am, the more I struggle with mood and the easier I become depressed. On the other hand, the more consistently I engage in social interaction, the easier it is to maintain an optimistic and hopeful perspective. This truth also exists infused into my Christian walk.

The Socially Interactive Christian

Even though the words “though shalt interact with others” do not exist in Scripture, you don’t have to read very far into the Bible to realize that it’s a book about relationships. The 10 Commandments start with directives in our relationship to God and end with commands regarding our relationship to others. Paul’s statement in Romans 13:9 takes these commands and connects them with all we are to be and do as God’s children.

social interaction 2

Love requires action, which requires interaction with others. I’ve yet to find a way to truly love another person without human interaction. In my mind, and experience again supports this realization, I need social interaction in order to truly and fully live out God’s Word to love Him and others.

The Extrovert Example

In my experiences with social interaction along with my studies of personality styles, I wondered if extroverts, who seem to actually need social interaction, struggle much with depression. I even researched the topic and found little specifically – and nothing truly helpful – regarding extroverts and depression.

While I’m certain that some extroverts do struggle with depression, I don’t personally know any. Or, more accurately, I have not seen a true extrovert show visible signs of depression. Maybe extroverts are just better at hiding depression. Or, perhaps, they truly get depressed a lot less frequently or possibly just less severely than do introverts.

Since research yielded little information on the topic, I decided to look more closely at my extroverted friends to figure out how they ward off melancholy moods of any severity from a funk to the winder blues or doldrums, which everyone gets from time to time, to depression. Before I get to the two points about how extroverts seem to avoid any lengthy down moods of much severity, let me share two related observations.

First, I’m surrounded dominantly in my social circles (starting with my husband and youngest son with my oldest son being in the middle and then moving into my close circle of friends) by extroverts, though I’m not sure if this was subconsciously intentional or not. Second, my extroverted friends help me tremendously in what is one of my greatest weaknesses, the desire to be alone and the growth of social isolation, by nudging me toward regular, meaningful interaction with others.

As I asked myself why my social circles are dominated by extroverts, though my few introverted friends do hold a special place in my life, I discovered two tendencies my extroverted friends ALL have in common.

  1. They’re active.
  2. They’re interactive.

Extroverts tend to be more active in general than introverts, sitting less and needing activity more. They also maintain a very interactive social life and in fact gain energy from being around others.

Since my extrovert friends seem to have more consistent victory over depression or any other sort of mood struggle or disorder and since they ALL have these two points in common, I make a deliberate decision to apply their example and incorporate consistent activity and social interaction into my life.

While I will always need more alone time than my extroverted friends and while I will always get my energy from being alone and getting more rest than them, I am constantly reminded by their consistently upbeat moods that I must also maintain a certain level of activity and interaction on a regular basis. While the amount varies from one introvert to the next, it likely exists as a greater need than most will admit.

DISCUSSION: What are your experiences with extroverts and introverts regarding activity and social interaction as well as mood?

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22 Responses to “Socialize Your Blues Away”

  1. Mark Allman Says:

    I don't know if extroverts are less prone to depression but most likely they deal with it by tying themselves to others in their outgoing way. I don't always want to interact with people but if I do it with intention it always seems to be such a positive.

    • Kari Scare Says:

      I do not know either, but there sure isn\’t much research on it that I know of. Perhaps it is simply that extroverts deal with depression more effectively.

  2. coachmbrown Says:

    Introvert and Extrovert blues – each wears their blues differently. Each struggles with issues of depression, just differently. But then again an extreme on either aspect can be the root of depression issues for anyone.

    • Kari Scare Says:

      Very true. I simply see the way most extroverts handle depression or the blues as a way for me as an introvert to better handle them. Maybe there\’s a lesson in the other direction too.

  3. lorenpinilis Says:

    This has been something that has been convicting me lately. Not only am I a little introverted, but I grew up with a father who didn't really have friends. So I had this idea that once you become a man, you work and don't worry about things like friendship. Plus, friendships take time, and I've just concentrated elsewhere for so long.
    But I know that living in community is what God has called us to do. Now I just need to learn how to incorporate that into my life well.
    My recent post I Can Relax through Christ Who Strengthens Me

    • Kari Scare Says:

      I experienced a similar conviction many years ago too, Loren. No matter how much I preferred being alone and working alone, Scripture simple does not support living an isolated life. It supports community for the purpose encouragement of each other as well as many other reasons. I also look at Jesus' example of spending time both alone and with others as a goal for balance in my own life. Studying personality styles and preferences has helped me get a better understanding of where I am in all this and how to better balance my life.

  4. marymccauley Says:

    Things like being hard of hearing has changed my interaction. I am much more of an introvert than I once was. I have a close group of friends I still interact with, but life changes have affected that. While I still love to be around people it is difficult sometimes, and so I pull away, except in small settings. I know most people would not consider me an introvert, but deep down I am, and when I am alone to much or inactive for to long I can get into the blues. So you are right on that relationships, activity and such do have a great impact as do rest and quiet time with God. Thanks again Kari!

    • Kari Scare Says:

      You make a great point about how life's situations can create or lead to a lack of interaction. On the one hand, a person needs to make a point to seek out relationships & activity, but on the other hand, others can help by coming into other people's worlds even if that means it's not the type of environment we might normally enjoy. Relationships take a lot of compromise, and this is a perfect example of why that needs to happen.

  5. Barb Says:

    This is an interesting discussion, Kari. I'm an extrovert, and yes, I've struggled with depression on and off! I think you might not see it with extroverts as often because we're usually not depressed when we're with other people – we're energized.

    When I've been depressed, it's usually because I'm not getting enough social interaction. This happened for me when my kids were young and I was homeschooling, and it sometimes happens because I'm a writer, which is a very non-social profession. One of the things I do which really helps is to write at the bakery or coffee shop where I'm surrounded by people.
    My recent post 13 Questions to Ask Before You Give Advice

    • Kari Scare Says:

      Your example shows one of my points, Barb. Because extroverts tend to be energized from being with others, it's harder to tell if they are depressed. There's such a good lesson in this because social interaction, certainly to different degrees and extents, helps a person fight depression. It seems that extroverts are less often and less severely depressed because of their natural tendency toward social interaction while introverts are more often and more severely depressed because they tend to avoid social interaction. Of course, there are exceptions, but the research on depression definitely supports this role of social interaction. Thanks for weighing in on this.

  6. cycleguy Says:

    I'm an extrovert kari. no matter what I say or no matter what I try to do to tame that it ain't going to happen. God didn't make me to sit or stand on the sidelines. So the "active" and "interactive" part your post hit true. That is me. I like my space. I do like my quiet from time to time. But give me people!!
    My recent post Weather

    • Kari Scare Says:

      My question to you, then, is do you believe that your being \”active\” and \”interactive\” it\’s at least one reason you don\’t struggle with depression? What about the winter blues?

      • cycleguy Says:

        I am one of those people who have been blessed in having never battled depression. Even in the winter I don't struggle with it. Wen I don't stay active I don't get depressed; I get sluggish physically. Does that make sense? I will tell Jo "All week and no exercise/cycling makes Bill a very dull man." I have also found working jigsaw puzzles to be a great way to relax and pass time.
        My recent post Weather

  7. bettydraper1947 Says:

    Being an introvert has it's own pitfalls, such as not giving quality time to those closest to us. since we need a lot of interaction we can over look the introvert we are married to who needs quality time at home with just us or that friend who is quiet about their struggles. Up until a few years ago I had never experienced depression, anxiety yes, but not full blown depression where I need medical help to over come. And it came as a result of moving a lot, leaving my friends, starting over, AGAIN. On top of that my health took a toll and goodness I was no long young. Living with limitations due to all these issue put me in depression. My husband handled all this better then this extrovert. I am so very grateful my husband understand my need for people and I understand his need to be alone, both ways to refresh ourselves. I look at depression like a physical ailment coming from the fallen mind just as heart disease comes from a fallen body. All will end someday, no depression or heart disease in heaven. All that to say, keep seeking resources to help with depression…it's so needed. Just this morning I sit across from a pastor wife who was in a trap of depression. As we talked, I ask certain questions that helped her see if it was from sin on her part, the sin others, circumstances, the season of life and weather related which is usually not a factor in southern California. But if you are physically impaired and cannot get out in the wonderful weather, that would cause depression. I am not sure who was helped the most, her or I. We were both very glad we met and talked and learned from each other. Grant you, this does not happen all the time when you meet with a depressed person, timing, God's timing is everything. Now this may sound a little "stupid' but I am thankful for my bouts of depression for it has helped me not be a, just get over it kind of woman. One cannot put themselves up by their boot straps when the boot straps have broken. Only God can fit a broken boot strap. I just want to be one of the tools He use to help others. Great post Kari,
    My recent post More pure wisdom…

    • Kari Scare Says:

      So much good advice here, Betty. Even though you are an extrovert, and I am an introvert, we found the same solutions to help us find victory over depression. Tons of resources. Socializing. Relying on others. Most importantly, letting God guide and lead you through it all. You have actually really helped me with my roadblock in writing my book. Thanks for the input! P.S. We may need to chat more about the book via email if you are game.

  8. Chris Says:

    Coming from the introvert side, I really believe extroverts just do a better job of hiding their blues than introverts do – often masking it by being in constant social settings and through humor. Introverts tend to have a more difficult time masking it because we revert to isolation and being quiet (although many people may not notice we have gone into hiding, ha ha).

    Either way, spending time in the company of good friends is extremely important for all of us, no matter our personality style. Even if we can't spend time with a friend, just sending them a note or text can lift both our spirits and theirs. The key is that we must take the initiative to make contact and/or get together. It's an area I've improved on, but still have a long ways to go to build consistency in my relationships.

    • Kari Scare Says:

      I think you are right, Chris. We all experience the blues, regardless of personality. I think the numbers are higher for depression and introverts, but those may be a bit skewed because of how well extroverts hide it. I have heard from a few extroverts, one who even had serious depression. Maybe they are better at working through it too. Regardless, it seems the solutions are the same… Take care off physical issues & socialize. Consistency is definitely key for all of us, that is for certain.

  9. tc Avey Says:

    This is a deep topic. My dad was an extrovert and while he never seemed depressed I think sometimes he was just better at hiding things that bothered him. He stayed busy, he distracted himself by focusing on others and on tasks.
    I think his coping skills were just different than my mom's who is a severe introvert.

    I haven't really thought much on this topic before. I have a feeling in the days to come I'll be pondering it more.
    Thanks, Kari. Have a great week!

    • Kari Scare Says:

      Interesting, TC. I am learning more about how extroverts deal with depression, and I believe they have a lot to teach introverts in that area. Looking at this has helped me as a fairly extreme introvery for sure. Thank you for the additional insight.

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