By Aisja Mahmood
Original images by Kat Kon
1. Find out what a good time means to you.
This process can be tiring, as you’ll probably end up navigating things you don’t enjoy while you find the things you do, but it can also be fun. Start with things you’re genuinely interested in; as a huge fan of solitude, art galleries, museums, nature parks and libraries are my go-to places. If you’re more of an audio fiend than a visual, try checking out a new Spotify playlist in a café, on a walk, or in the gym.
2. It can be great trying new things, but it’s also okay to stick to what you know you enjoy.
If you struggle with the anxiety of unfamiliarity, easing yourself into things that branch off from your comfort zone can be a gentler way of experiencing things you aren’t so used to.
3. It’s perfectly okay to do things alone.
While it can feel like squad goals and big nights out are seen as the pinnacle of fun, especially on the uni scene, it’s definitely not the case. If you love staying in and watching Netflix or gaming or reading a book, you have full autonomy over that and don’t let anybody convince you otherwise. If you like going to the cinema or out for dinner alone, do it. Social media can make it feel like everyone has 89375987345 friends that they go out with all the time – and some people do – but it’s okay to not have that, nor want it.
4. But being introverted doesn’t mean you have to do everything alone either.
Before I developed my own fun-time-tool-kit, I often avoided a lot of social activities because I knew the stress would outweigh any fun. But by developing confidence in my boundaries, coping mechanisms and the idea that ‘a good time’ is not a universal thing, I was able to build on the social relationships that respected my needs too. Mutual respect for both your own and your friends’ interests is 100% the best basis for a healthy social life. Friends who invalidate you or pressure you into things are not good friends.
5. Having insight into what you enjoy on your own can make it easier to filter through the more social things going on around you.
Exhibition openings, workshops, sports clubs or small gigs give the chance to mingle with likeminded people but are much more lowkey than busy clubs or bars. If you’d like to try out something a bit more niche, I’ve found Facebook events are a godsend in helping to keep up to date with what’s going on locally. You can also peep what friends might be interested in, and get them involved.
6. Set your own boundaries and practice being confident in them.
Once you have some ideas of what you’re into, put things in place to maximise what you get out of experiences, and minimise the things that might make them suck – but this also applies to those cases where you just want to tolerate something for the company / food / performance etc. (everyone does it). Boundaries can include at what time or for how long you’re out, where you go, or how involved you want to get. And we all know spontaneity is sometimes worth the introvert hangover the next day, but don’t be afraid to prioritise your own needs if you know you’ll suffer for it at some point.
7. QUIET SPACES!
These are a relatively new phenomena and a lot of people still don’t really know what they’re for. Essentially, it’s the use of a separate, quiet space for people to take a breather if they need it – while they’re often included in accessibility statements, you don’t have to be disabled to need them (just make sure you respect that some people there may be). Normalise them by asking for them, offering them, and using them. If you’re somewhere that doesn’t offer a quiet space, sometimes a toilet cubicle can suffice in helping you clear your head and decide if you’ve had enough, or just need a break.
8. Have a backup plan.
Especially if you’re relying on others to go somewhere, find out how you could get home on your own if you need to – it’s worth keeping Uber, and two or three local taxi numbers or apps on your phone. Familiarise yourself with public transport in the area and make sure you have a means of paying for it. Having this independence will help massively with points 1-5.
9. Set time aside to recover from social interaction.
Introvert. Hangover. Is. A. Real. Thing. It’s perfectly normal to need to rest for a day (or two, or seven) after a busy day or a night out. It took a lot of trial and error, but I’ve gotten real good at making sure my schedule works around how much energy a task will take – all I’ll say is, if you know you’ll need a day in bed to recover, maybe don’t be Doing The Most™ the night before a supervision.
10. And remember, everyone is into different things. The more you value your own idea of a good time and/or what it takes to make something more enjoyable, the more time you can spend feeling good!