I recently read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I found it an absolutely fascinating read and one that resonated with me personally. I most definitely consider myself to be a natural introvert.
There were many things in the book that struck me as interesting from an Alexander Technique perspective, but one thing that stood out was Cain’s recommendation that introverts create “as many ‘restorative niches’ as possible in daily life.”1
The term “restorative niche” denotes “the place you go when you want to return to your true self.”2 For the introvert this means finding places and/or times where and when you can be by yourself, away from the stimulation of being with many other people.
Cain’s suggestions for possible restorative niches include quiet breaks between sales calls, canceling social plans on the weekend before a big meeting at work, practicing yoga or meditation, and even choosing to use email rather than have an in-person meeting.
On reading this I realized that I’ve been incorporating my own kind of restorative niches into my schedule for a while now. For instance, I always allow 15 minutes between students in my calendar, I often like to do my daily walk by myself, when I attend conferences I always pay the extra to have a room to myself (somewhere I can retreat to!), AND I have a daily Constructive Rest practice.
In fact I immediately realized that the Alexander Technique practice of Constructive Rest is a wonderful example of a restorative niche. Even term restorative niche immediately resonated. Constructive Rest fulfills all the requirements set out by Cain – you practice on your own, quietly, and you have time to think and be aware of and be with yourself. Constructive Rest is, however, a restorative niche in more ways than one. Practicing Constructive Rest not only restores the introvert’s need for quiet and space to be with themselves, but also restores in other important ways too.
Restorative benefits of Constructive Rest include:
- muscles and joints are restored as they release excess tension
- pressure is taken off the spine, allowing displaced spinal fluid to be reabsorbed – restored – which eases compression, restoring you to your full height
- calmness is restored as you take time away from the stresses of the day
- your breathing calms and is restored to become more regular
- your digestive system has time to release, helping restore optimal function
- energy and ease is restored as you return to your life in the upright
According to Cain, and this is certainly true for me, introverts crave – indeed need – to incorporate restorative niches into their day to be at their best and most productive. Constructive Rest is a practice that has served this function for me on many different levels – not just as an introvert. This doesn’t mean, however, that restorative niches aren’t useful, and even necessary, for extroverts too, although they may take quite a different form from those sought after by introverts. This might also explain why some people take to constructive rest so easily, and others avoid it or find the practice difficult. In terms of Constructive Rest, I’m sure back pain and poor posture, for instance, are just as prevalent among extroverts as introverts, so it would definitely be worth giving it a try. And in the 21st century I think even extroverts can use a little break from the fast pace and ultra-stimulating environment in which we live.
Introverts and extroverts have much to learn from each other. And while Constructive Rest may be more challenging for extroverts, learning to quiet the mind and be comfortable by ourselves is a useful skill for us all, even if it’s not our natural preference. If you do find it testing to lie still by yourself, start with very short amounts of time (5 minutes or less). You may also find it helpful to listen to an audio or even to music – anything that helps you be more comfortable as you learn this new skill.
Do you consider yourself an extrovert or an introvert? Do you have restorative niches in your life? What helps you cope and be more productive? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
And if you haven’t already tried it, giving yourself the gift of Constructive Rest as a restorative niche would be a great place to start!
1. Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking (New York: Crown Publishers, 2012), 219
2. Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking (New York: Crown Publishers, 2012), 219