Though society rewards extroverts for their outgoing, social behaviors, a new book by psychologist Elaine Aron, Psychotherapy and the Highly Sensitive Person, brings to light the often-overlooked benefits to being an introvert.

Many people confuse being introverted with being shy, but Aron finds that this actually overlooks many of the important characteristics that distinguish these temperaments – shy people fear judgment, introverts simply prefer environments with less stimulation. Introversion can be seen in children as young as four months of age, as they tend to be more sensitive to their environments and more careful around unique stimuli.

Though extroverts can win people over with their gregarious and friendly behaviors, studies show that introverts tend to get better grades than extroverts, win more academic awards, and show a greater depth of knowledge of academic subjects. Yet, introverts do not have higher IQ scores than their more social counterparts.

Furthermore, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania management professor Adam Grant makes a case that those hiring should look again at introverts. His study found that introverted leaders tend to be better managers than extroverts are because they encourage others instead of trying to advance their own agendas. When employees are proactive, an introverted leader can aid the team in earning higher profits. Extroverted leaders, however, can be more threatened by employee proactivity as they prefer to be the center of attention. Once an extroverted leader responds in a less receptive way, employees become discouraged, less willing to share ideas, and less willing to work hard.

In financial matters, extroverts are more likely to take risks and underestimate the size of the risk they are taking. Furthermore, extroverts respond better to praise than punishment, but do not learn new tasks well, while introverts, if punished, learn from their mistakes.

Though introverts may have many unnoticed traits, they still need their extrovert counterparts to truly thrive. Aron notes that successful partnerships arise when introverts and extroverts work together – like the charismatic Steve Jobs and introvert co-founder of Apple Steve Wozniak.

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions concerning introverts? Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert? How do you think those traits help or harm you?
The physical benefits of yoga, such as increased strength, greater flexibility, and surges in feel-good chemicals like dopamine, have been proven through science. But is there a psychological component to this type of exercise, as well?

The Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living is attempting to scientifically evaluate the effects yoga has on those who practice. The institute supports a team of researchers from Harvard Medical School who are researching the impact yoga has on a wide range of mental health issues.

One such study funded by the institute is using brain-imaging studies to better understand how contemplative practices such as yoga and meditation can alter behavior, mood, and states of consciousness. Dr. Sara Lazar, principal investigator, is analyzing these images to assess if a yoga practice can change the actual structure of the brain. If so, how do these changes influence attention, fluid intelligence, and cognitive and emotional functioning? Previous work by Dr. Lazar has shown that the brains of individuals who regularly practiced Buddhist meditation are different from the brains of a control group who did not. This study will evaluate a group of highly experienced yogis to investigate whether they show similar changes to the meditation group.

Several other studies focusing on the link between yoga and mental health are ongoing. One study is attempting to reduce posttraumatic stress disorder severity and symptoms through yoga, and is currently recruiting military veterans for the next phase of research. Another study is using yoga as a preventive mental health measure in high school students — and initial results show that it improves mood states and resiliency when compared to traditional physical education. A third study involving yoga in mindful eating and weight gain prevention programs has documented changes in participants physical and mental health.

Do you recommend yoga to your clients? Do you think yoga helps psychologically as well as physically?