How To Make Your Brain Happy

By Anni


I’ve had a couple of episodes of major depression in my life – episodes when I sunk so low I started feeling like this life just might not be worth all the effort it takes.

The most recent one came seemingly out of nowhere, taking me by surprise. I have an awesome husband I’m very much in love with. After years of fertility treatments, I have three beautiful kids. I have a good job that pays well and gives me the flexibility to work from home. My husband and I are renovating a fixer-upper – a long-time dream come true.

Why would I get depressed? Don’t I have everything anyone would ever want? Am I just an ungrateful bitch with first world problems?

Since there is nothing visibly amiss, I must have a chemical imbalance that needs to be medicated, right?

Well…

The Myers-Briggs Personality Type theory would beg to differ. According to this theory, humans have eight cognitive functions at their disposal. The cognitive functions are eight different ways for our brains to gather and process information. And we each have a favorite function assigned by our genes (also called the primary or dominant function). Using our favorite function brings happiness. It feels effortless. When you are using your favorite function, you feel “in the flow”.

In other words, if you want to learn how to make your brain happy, find out your Myers Briggs dominant function and start using it!

Let’s see what each personality type’s favorite function is.

(Pssst, if you don’t know your personality type, read this article first.)

  • How to make your brain happy based on your Myers Briggs personality type and cognitive functions: my solution for overcoming depression naturally! :)

Myers Briggs Cognitive Functions: The Dominant Function For Each Personality Type

Extraverted Sensing (ESFP, ESTP)

Extraverted sensing takes in the immediate environment through the five senses – seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, and touching. People whose favorite function is extraverted sensing have a gift for being present in the here and now, adapting to different physical environments, and acting in the moment. They are practical problem solvers with a realistic assessment of the current situation, whatever that may be.

  • ESFPs pair extraverted sensing with introverted feeling (their second favorite function) and are more likely to find joy in applying their gifts in fields related to people or arts.
  • ESTPs pair extraverted sensing with introverted thinking (their second favorite function) and are more likely to enjoy concrete or mechanical tasks.

Introverted Sensing (ISFJ, ISTJ)

Introverted sensing remembers past experiences and constantly compares the current to the past. People whose favorite function is introverted sensing remember what worked and what didn’t and once they have found something that works, they prefer to stick to it. As a result, they are good at following routines and standard operating procedures without getting bored. Because of this ability to stick to a task, they can be very systematic, thorough, and reliable. They can become experts at their field of choice. Introverted sensing is also a function of conserving. It compels people to conserve physical resources and energy. And because people with this function as their favorite usually see past ways of doing things as more efficient than changing and learning something new, their preference is to maintain familiar traditions, customs, and ways of doing things.

  • ISFJs pair introverted sensing with extraverted feeling (their second favorite function), which can make them a warm care-taker and give them a concern for human welfare in general.
  • ISTJs pair introverted sensing with extraverted thinking (their second favorite function), which makes them well-suited for bureaucratic office work and managerial positions.

Extraverted Intuiting (ENFP, ENTP)

Extraverted intuition is aware of possibilities and open to new ideas. Extraverted intuition asks “what could be” and “what if” and uses the answers to brainstorm ideas for changing the world. People whose favorite function is extraverted intuition have a gift for originality and enthusiasm. They give the rest of us the inspiration to try new things.

  • ENFPs pair extraverted intuiting with introverted feeling (their second favorite function), which might make them more concerned with people.
  • ENTPs pair extraverted intuiting with introverted thinking (their second favorite function), which might make them more analytical and impersonal.

Introverted Intuiting (INFJ, INTJ)

Introverted intuition is a deep and thoughtful way of perceiving that mostly focuses on abstract ideas and unseen meanings. Introverted intuition produces flashes of insight that come seemingly out of nowhere, and even though there may not be concrete evidence, introverted intuition knows the insight to be true. The insights produced by introverted intuition often turn into visions for the future.

  • INFJs pair introverted intuition with extraverted feeling (their second favorite function), which results in their intuitive insights often being related to people, relationships, and human welfare.
  • INTJs pair introverted intuition with extraverted thinking (their second favorite function), which makes them more likely to have scientific insights.

Extraverted Thinking (ENTJ, ESTJ)

Extraverted thinking analyzes the current situation, sets goals, and figures out how to reach the goal. People whose favorite function is extraverted thinking have a gift for taking charge, making decisions, and organizing people and systems to get things done.

  • ENTJs pair extraverted thinking with introverted intuition (their second favorite function), which can make them leaders who are open to new ideas and possibilities for problem solving.
  • ESTJs pair extraverted thinking with introverted sensing (their second favorite function), which makes them more likely to use past experience to solve problems.

Introverted Thinking (INTP, ISTP)

Introverted thinking is all about impersonal and objective analysis. People whose favorite function is introverted thinking have a gift for analysis, organizing, and critique. Because this is an introverted function, the people who favor introverted intuition are typically absorbed in analyzing whatever the problem of the day may be – they are not driven to take charge of the outer world or try to control other people or situations.

  • INTPs pair introverted thinking with extraverted intuition (their second favorite function), which means they are most likely to find satisfaction in analyzing and organizing ideas and knowledge. They will have intellectual curiosity and a quick understanding of theory and abstract concepts.  They will be most adept at finding solutions to problems rather than the practical application of those solutions.
  • ISTPs pair introverted thinking with extraverted sensing (their second favorite function), which makes them more likely to want to engage in tangible (as opposed to abstract or theoretical) problem solving, like mechanics.

Extraverted Feeling (ENFJ, ESFJ)

Extraverted feeling is all about group happiness. People whose favorite function is extraverted feeling seek harmony in personal relationships, and above all else, just want everyone to get along. Extraverted feeling is good at picking up cultural norms and the “appropriate” thing to do in a situation. Extraverted feelers tend to be conflict-avoidant people-pleasers. They seek to meet other people’s needs even at the cost of their own.

  • ENFJs pair extraverted feeling with introverted intuition (their second favorite function), which tends to make them more open to new ideas, possibilities, and academic interests.
  • ESFJs pair extraverted feeling with introverted sensing (their second favorite function), which tends to make them more practical and conventional.

Introverted Feeling (INFP, ISFP)

Introverted feeling could also be called the conscience. It’s a decision-making function that judges ideas and actions according to an internal value system. People whose favorite function is introverted feeling have strong convictions of right and wrong. They seek to maintain their personal integrity by behaving according to their convictions and help other people do the same. While extraverted feeling focuses on maintaining harmony in a group and in relationships, introverted feeling focuses on maintaining internal harmony. Whereas extraverted feeling prioritizes the values of the group, introverted feeling prioritizes the values of the individual. People who favor introverted feeling will feel compelled to speak out and stand up for what they believe to be right even if it creates tension in a group. They can be very devoted to people and causes they care about.

  • INFPs pair introverted feeling with extraverted intuition (their second favorite function), which makes them especially open to possibilities for helping people and improving human welfare. The combination of intuition and feeling also gives INFPs a special talent for language. They are often interested in literature and gifted writers.
  • ISFPs pair introverted feeling with extraverted sensing (their second favorite function), which makes them practical problem solvers, who are more likely to be drawn to expressing themselves with their hands either via arts and crafts or as loving and nurturing care-takers of people.

What Does This Have To Do With Depression?

Now that we know about this favorite function business, let’s go back to my depression for just a bit. I’m an INFJ, so my favorite function is introverted intuiting. As an introvert, I not only like, but need, a good bit of time by myself to feel my best. As an introverted intuitive, my favorite things to do are reading, writing, and thinking about ways to change things for the better.

Back when depression hit me out of nowhere like a lightning strike, I was doing a whole lot of things other than introverted intuiting. Taking care of a family, I was doing a whole lot of extraverted feeling (trying to keep other people happy and satisfied) and extraverted sensing (being present and living in the moment). At my job, I was doing a whole lot of extraverted thinking (management) and introverted thinking (analysis).

I can do all these things and even do them fairly well for the most part. But none of them come to me naturally and all of them take various degrees of effort. Extraverted feeling is my secondary (or second favorite) function, so it comes to me quite easily, but it’s still extraverted when my nature is deeply introverted.  The thinking functions, which I’m using eight hours a day are a real stretch, and therefore exhausting. And extraverted sensing I just suck at even when I give it my best. 😉 Too big a dose of extraverted sensing is guaranteed to result in a tension headache for me.

And most significantly, all these things were taking so much time that I had no time to do anything that puts my brain in flow. I can feel pride in taking care of and providing for my family. I can tell myself I’m “doing the right thing” until I’m blue in the face. But none of it ACTUALLY makes me feel good, as in making my brain produce feel-good chemicals. If I spend the vast majority of my time doing things that take a lot of effort – things that I have to push against my nature to do – it’s not long before I start feeling like “life is just too fucking hard”.

How To Make Your Brain Happy

The only thing that makes my brain ACTUALLY feel good is introverted intuiting. And when I started setting aside time for just that, my depression lifted almost overnight. I didn’t need to talk to a therapist about my terrible childhood. I didn’t need to take medication to numb the pain. I just needed to do my own thing – even if my thing is not what mainstream society tells me I should need or want.

So yeah, I’m the weirdo who likes to hole up in quiet solitude reading, pondering, and writing. Simply spending some time, most days, doing this one thing that feels best to me gives me positive energy to do the other things that take more effort.

Life doesn’t have to feel good and easy all the time. But if it never does, there’s a problem.

Maybe you are in a situation where you are constantly asked to do things and act in a way that doesn’t come to you naturally.

Maybe you are living a life where there is no room for “your thing” – whatever your thing may be. That’s an exhausting way to live.

And the way to fix it is to reclaim your right to be yourself.

Wanna Learn More About Creating A Life That Matches Your Personality?

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  • The 3 critical mistakes that keep people stuck in life and how YOU can avoid them.

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About the author 

Anni

Hi! I'm a life coach, a Certified MBTI® Practitioner, and a mentor for stressed out introverts and highly sensitive people. I used to be one myself! My mission is to help you discover your true self and create a life you ACTUALLY like.

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  1. Awsome. I am dealing with trying to get out of chronic depression, but I think a lot of it has to do with societies pressure and “how I’m supposed to be”. I’m going to have to dig a little deeper to find my natural state bc I think I’m a little bit of everything. Except I know I’m not because I am exhausted right now and have been for awhile.

    1. Thank you for commenting, Kimberly! It took me quite a while to figure out my natural state. I had learned to fight it and pretend to be something different. But the process was so worth it in the end. 🙂

  2. I really know my problems but I still don’t know how to change my attitude with different types of people yes I feel wierdo and I feel different than the surroundings but I can’t get myself out of this circle.

    I actually have an issue understanding the scientific expressions but I got the idea that we are different in interests and preferences or perceptions. I need your help in knowing how to deal with my inner peace when it comes to a situation that I can not detach myself from the surroundings and how to be polite when I want to disagree.

    1. Hi Nancy, thank you so much for reading and commenting. You bring up an excellent point. Detaching is something I have struggled with too.

      I’ve written a couple of articles about people-pleasing that might be helpful: 5 Things I Had To Learn In Order To Stop Being A People-Pleaser and How To Stop People-Pleasing: 10 Practical Tips.

      I’m also working on a couple of other relevant articles that will be coming out over the next few weeks: one about learning to love and respect yourself and one on how to start taking everyone else’s opinion with a grain of salt. I’ll add the links here when they are out.

  3. This is the post I’ve been wanting to find! I enjoy learning about Myers-Briggs typology and am also an INFJ. I academically know that I feel better when I take time to journal and read but your post gives me “permission” to place those higher on my priority list even though at first glance they don’t seem important.

    1. Solitude. Quiet time to process and ponder. Books. Acquiring knowledge – maybe science, but could be other things you are interested in, such as politics, the arts… And it doesn’t need to be formal education – it could be reading, movies, googling… Sharing your knowledge with people who are into it. Conversations that are deep and meaningful (as opposed to small talk). Having a few very close relationships (as opposed to many superficial ones). Big picture thinking. Analysis. Problem-solving – coming up with ideas for how to solve problems more so than actually implementing the solutions.

      As an INTJ, your dominant function is introverted intuition, the same as mine as an INFJ. I’ve learned that the easiest way for me to access my intuition is by engaging in an activity that lets my mind run free. For example, running, swimming, going for a walk, cleaning the house, listening to music… This gives my mind an opportunity to process and start putting things together. And then ideas start popping up. It should work the same way for you, but the types of things you like to focus on might differ some from the types of things I like to focus on, since you combine the intuition with thinking whereas I prefer feeling.

  4. This blog post is so relatable! I’m an INFJ too, and I often feel like my values/way of life are totally at odds with everyone else. I often circle back to blogging as my dream job too – I’ve tried it in the past but have always let it slide in favour of other commitments (or because I simply want a break from the laptop – I work on it all day as it is!)

    I’m dealing with a physical illness right now, but I’m eager to shake things up when I’m better and go after a career that is more ‘me’. Are you part of any good groups for likeminded people? I find that groups and forums really help me feel less like an oddball!

    1. Thank you, Amy! I’ve actually wondered what percentage of bloggers are INFJs. I bet it’s pretty high. I’m not part of any groups, but I like to read other INFJ writers (introvert, dear has lots) and I’m addicted to the INFJ memes and quotes on Pinterest. I’m always shoving my phone in my husband’s face going “see, it’s not just me!”. 🙂 Do you know of groups or forums you would recommend?

      I hope you feel better soon.

  5. A new point of view for me. Im an INFP and work as an analyst. After work I am always super tired and I dont have energy to do anything else. And it gets me frustrated. And you explain the reasons so well 🙂 Thanks for giving me a new perspective 🙂

  6. Hai my name is Diensh Karthic

    I would like to know how can I come out from mentel depression and keep my self happy and be focused.

    Thanks,
    DK

  7. I’ve tested as INTJ, ESTJ and more recently as ISTJ. I and E were always 55-45 so depending on my job at the time I guess there was an influence. A few years ago my situation caused me to sink to a deep depression. I was suicidal. It was due to being blindsided by an affair my second wife had only 6 months after we were married. Being an I and generally not outgoing I have few friends and few who aren’t married so had little support. I could not sleep for 9 months which pretty much exacerbated the whole thing. Ruminating. That’s what I’s do in that case. Beat ourselves up reflecting on what we did wrong and how we could change it. Until a doc got me on the right antidepressant that knocked me out I was planning to end it, but once sleep was achieved I got better and my will to live returned. It’s so Fkd up how the actions of others can influence our sense of worth. But in this case the love of my life whom I thought loved me clearly did not give a fk and had other plans and left for a “better” option.

    Hard to say whether more Is get depressed over Es but chances are if you’re and I and intelligent, if you haven’t been alone or on your own for a long time and suddenly you are and have few support folk, too much time alone can be a killer. If you can’t distract yourself from your own minds destructive narratives.

    Likely more so if you’re middle aged and you feel you have to restart your life because you aren’t where you think you should be. It’s different from age 45 than at 25.

  8. Scott- Bro! I totally agree!1 I also know them feels. I hate sleeping. The silence, the stillness, the isolating darkness, it takes me to a place. I call it ‘the nightmare picture palace’. My minds haunted. I am a fractured version of myself. I witnessed my own death, everything I loved, lost. Disconnected, the pain never stops, I’ve accepted that my life will always feel this somber way. When I think about the old me, its like randomly remebering the death of someone who didn’t deserve such fate. I don’t like my memories, because I am so scarred by heartbreak now, I feel like I’m watching a deceased persons highly intimate, and sacred private moments. It feels so intrusive, so wrong. When the director sold the show, who bought its last rites? They cut the cast, the music, and the lights. I became myself, again. A shadow of who I used to be. Learned to see happiness two shades darker, I know I’ve entered eternity.

  9. ‘Doing things in a way that doesn’t come naturally to you.’ – That in itself is so incredibly draining, let alone doing actual things you don’t enjoy doing.

    You mentioned in another article that you don’t totally 100% enjoy the act of working to support people and parenting. I’m in that same boat, but was definitely much more content to continue on when my job fulfilled my INTJ needs. I had the energy to do the extraverted things that are good for my family but not near as ‘flowy’ for my brain.

    Love your articles. You speak to so many things I know about myself as well.

  10. I may, or may not have, in the last two days, read at long stretches – a lot of your articles and every single time I finish reading one I feel a sense of hope and fire being rekindled.

    Lifes turned topsy-turvy on me lately and I wanted to figure out what I was doing wrong. (INFJ, M., gone wrong – messy childhood – similar thoughts on the ‘fixing yourself’ mantra I read somewhere). It seemed that meeting basic human needs was something I simply wasn’t concerned about, and that it felt like I was ‘acting’ out each day to fit a box I knew I didn’t fit despite major life advances and milestone achievements. Wasn’t sure why, and it scared me that I was so unfulfilled after so much effort.

    I laughed when when I read you were an INFJ – such an inner seemingly unparralelled universe we can have. I deeply appreciate the effort and time you’ve put into making your story accessible, articulated and real. The authenticity, depth and complexity is awesome – but mostly relatably helpful.

    I’m headed off to the relationship segment next and will probably scour this site until my brain implodes, but it’s all good.

    Thanks again. It’s difficult to trust ‘other’ peoples insights, and although taken for what it is, I’m better off having found this site than not, and that’s something profound.

    You’re a lighthouse in a storm!

    1. Hi Nathan, thank you SO much for the kind words. I was actually experiencing a moment of self doubt and then your comment showed up and instantly cured me. 🙂

  11. I’m so glad I found your website too. I’m an ISFP and I have a major depressive disorder, so I can really relate to many of the things you have to say. Thanks so much.

  12. I have read many articles on how to deal with difficulties that I face every day. They would have been useful but …. The thing is that my environment (to be more specific) the people around me are the main obstacle to follow any kind of those advice. The thing is whenever I find something that would help me, the people I should call my family put a stop sign to it. I can’t take a time out and just walk outside, because later the argument that caused the need for that becomes worse when I come back, I am not even aloud to go out, I can’t ignore or retreat from the argument because then they scold me for not carrying about them, I am not even allowed to shed some quite tears in the corner, because the shouting gets worse. Therefore I am forced to pretend I am not aware about what is going on spending most of the time after work and at weekends like a stupid, spoiled and ignorant teenager with headphones in my ears. I have a job but it is low payed, I have been searching for another one but couldn’t find one for 5 years now (it is terribly difficult in my country – Lithuania). I have lived in such conditions for over 18 years now since my parents separated and there is no end to that. As a family we had nothing of our own because my father lost all by gambling. My mother left him because she understood that there was no other way, I understand that too, but I never imagined that a person can be so much different from his or her most closely relatives. I have always had different views, ideas and preferences. When I was a teenager I tried to adapt by trying to like what I didn’t but I just couldn’t. Day by day they are requiring of me to change my values, to put them in front of myself, but they never do that for me. My mothers brother has an unbearable sense of humor. Those few friends I had at school stopped coming because they couldn’t stand that finally I lost them all because our relationship didn’t reach outside school, he always interfered my privacy going through my things making fun of me (my mother and grandmother always side with him saying “ignore it, he’s joking”, he has been joking about me getting married, when I didn’t even want to think about marriage (there was a period when even the idea disgusted me), whenever mom left for a longer time he would show his real face and kept saying: “you’ll stay here and take care of me, now grandma does, than your mother will and then you, you’ll not have a right to you own life untill I’m dead”. I know he has no right to say that (I am still saving for leaving the country, since it’s been only 5 years since I started working), in front of mom he plays all nice and funny, not meaning any harm. Ironically enough if he does somthing she doesn’t like, my mother is too soft to be angry with him, but hard enough to be angry with me whenever I try to keep my distance. I tried to hide behind books but was always scolded for that, I tried to go out, but I was scolded for that, I tried to lock myself in the bathroom, but I was scolded for that, I tried to take up some outdoor activity but ….. My other relations are absolutely ignorant towards me (my other grandmother is still angry for my mom leaving my father, not very long ago she said her interests end with my father and that I belong to my mother’s family, I tried to reason with her but she showed no reaction. Any ideas how to deal with that.

  13. Hi,
    I am currently struggling with my joy and happiness in my job. What type of jobs would be more suitable for someone with a INTP trait? ( as I am often left feeling exhausted at the end of each day- I am a teacher)

    1. Hi Natalie,

      Sorry, it took me a while to respond. Somehow I missed your comment.

      But anyway, I’m not surprised to hear that teaching would be exhausting for an INTP. Here are some typical “INTP jobs”: scientist (biologist, economist, chemist, sociologist…), engineer, analyst, researcher, statistician… Basically, anything where you are in a quiet environment working on your own much of the time, but with constant access to “brain food” – learning, new ideas, intellectual challenge…

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