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Levels of Stimulation: Where Is Your Sweet Spot?

Levels of Stimulation: Where Is Your Sweet Spot?

Mmmmm how bout THAT for a titlating title, huh!?

Don’t worry, we’re keeping things PG here on the spoon. Just doing some thinking out loud. 


So the other week I was going into a coffeeshop to spend an hour or so doing some writing, as I often do. I’ve mentioned many times that coffee shops are my happy place. They are where I get the most done and also where I take myself out for self care and relaxation. It is where I feel most safe, comfortable and motivated. 

In this coffeeshop there were two rooms. One was just off the main ordering counter and was nearly full of people. It was quite alive with noise from the cash register, steam wands, music and chatting amongst customers. The other room was down a narrow hall, completely away from all noise, in a space with only one other woman working peacefully away at her laptop. 

It was lovely. There were windows, nice bench seating, perfectly quiet. Yet when I went to this back room, assuming this is where I would want to settle in, I immediately realized it did not feel right. In fact, it felt awful. 

I walked back and forth between the two rooms, unable to decide where I wanted to sit. I knew I was here to relax. I was feeling tired and internal. But… I realized I felt way more comfortable in the room where there would be people around me. 

Did I want to talk to these people? No. But that didn’t mean I wanted to be alone. 



In Susan Cain’s, “Quiet,” she writes:

“Once you understand introversion and extroversion as preferences for certain levels of stimulation, you can begin consciously trying to situate yourself in environments favorable to your own personality – neither overstimulating or under stimulating, neither boring nor anxiety-making. “

I am an introvert. But a very certain type. Sometimes it makes me feel utterly dichotomous.

Small talk stresses me out, but deep talks one on one feel wonderfully comfortable.

I like being in groups of people… as long as I feel I can be at the back, on my own, stay quiet, and leave right away. 

I perform on stage to crowds of hundreds.  Just don’t make me come out afterwards to greet the crowd. 

I like to be on my own, but I don’t like being alone.

…. There is a difference. 

I think the reason I feel so good in coffeeshops is that they offer me my perfect level of stimulation. I get to be on my own, in my own thoughts, without the pressures of engaging with or entertaining anyone else. But I also have a hub of energy around me and a sense of connection that I do not need to speak to anyone to feel. 

When I had to decide where to sit in that coffeeshop, I realized that I have a pretty solid sweet spot when it comes to stimulation. Choosing the quiet empty room would have been far too under stimulating for me. Much like being at home, I actually wouldn’t have been able to work and focus as well, and I would have felt lonely. I am far more creative and work much more diligently when I have a cloud of noise and action in my periphery. I feel inspired when I exchange silent smiles with another solo person sketching or writing away, and I feel happy when I say my few words of camaraderie to the barista, knowing that that’s where the conversation will end. 




If a group of people I knew came in together, saw me, and decided to come sit down with me? I would have been taken out of my sweet spot. Only this time it would have been because I was over-stimulated. Then I probably would have had to go somewhere more quiet in order to recalibrate myself. 

That’s the thing I’m learning. We will never, ever always be in our sweet spot. But if we are aware of what our sweet spot is and when and how we become over or under stimulated, we can learn which side of the teeter totter to step on to rebalance ourselves. When I start to feel sad because I’ve been home alone for too long, I crave the comfort of a morning at a cafe and know that after just a couple hours, I will be feeling back in balance.  When I’ve been out being social with others for a whole day or a few nights in a row, I know that a quiet night on my couch will recalibrate my sense of grounding.  


In thinking about why I chose to sit where I did in that coffeeshop, I’ve come to realize why I love living in the city. It – t00 – offers me my perfect level of stimulation. 

Surprising eh?? For an introvert who always lived in a small town, you would think the big bad city would be far, far too over stimulating. And for some, it really really is. And that totally makes sense. But for me, being in a city means I can go out and be on my own, but always with the hub of other people around me. I can people watch and observe the actions of others without needing to speak or get involved. I can get out of my house without the worry of seeing 10 people I know and having to stop for small talk. I don’t have to be lonely, but I also don’t have to be the star of attention. 

Where Is Your Stimulation Sweet Spot? Optimal Levels of Arousals for Introverts and Extroverts. #stimulation #introvert #thinkingoutloud Click To Tweet

As Cain writes, 

“… Imagine how much better you’ll be at this sweet-spot game once you’re aware of playing it. You can set up your work, your hobbies, and your social life so that you spend as much time inside your sweet spot as possible, and thus feel more energetic and alive than ever before.”

The city offers me places where I can do this. 


Tell me,

Where is your stimulation sweet spot?

What brings you out of it – above or below?





  1. Heather @ Polyglot Jot | 8th Jun 17

    This is so interesting! I am definitely very similar to you! I think I’d gravitate most toward the quietest space for working though. I work best in quiet which is why I think I’d work well from home. Great read!
    Heather @ Polyglot Jot recently posted…A Baby SprinkleMy Profile

    • Cora | 10th Jun 17

      I love when I hear that others’ work best in quiet. Just reminds me how we are all unique and different!

  2. Jamie@TheMomGene | 8th Jun 17


    • Cora | 10th Jun 17

      Yeaaaaaah. But you’re still a notch cooler.

  3. Gail | 8th Jun 17

    Preach sistah! One of my favorite childhood memories is laying in my bed in a dark room listening to my parents and extended family play cards, talk and laugh. That was my sweet spot! I think that’s also why you’ll find me at parties in the kitchen washing dishes. I can enjoy the larger group without being in the highly stimulating room and maybe even enter into a deeper one in one conversation with someone over dishes.

    • Cora | 10th Jun 17

      I have very similar memories. I loved being separated in my own little haven, hearing what was going on in the home. I remember it actually made me feel really special.
      We are the same party goers. We’d be the wildest crashers.

  4. Lyss | 8th Jun 17

    this is so interesting! I really like being in smaller groups or places that aren’t that crowded. I love going to a coffee shop by myself or a friend- I think I succeed in those types of environments. I have never liked group projects and have always preferred doing work alone or with another person!
    Lyss recently posted…What happened When I put my Appearance on Such a High Pedestal?My Profile

    • Cora | 10th Jun 17

      Ugh I realllllly don’t like larger group projects. I shut down and become the quiet one. Whereas with only one or two people I actually flourish and find I take the reigns.

  5. Emily Swanson | 8th Jun 17

    Ok, I completely understand this! I was raised in the country for my whole life, so I like being alone or with very small groups of people. It’s funny, because I probably would have chosen the room with the one lady, because it takes very little for me to be over stimulated. ๐Ÿ™‚ However I do like walking through large groups of people; if I’m working I love to just be alone or with a couple other people.
    Emily Swanson recently posted…I Just Want to Eat: Itโ€™s Food. Nourishment.My Profile

    • Cora | 10th Jun 17

      I love how we are all so different! You and I are completely opposite in where and how we work best. I love that!

  6. Miss Polkadot | 8th Jun 17

    We are so alike it’s almost scary. Or maybe just really sad we live so very far apart. What you describe about needing to recalibrate if a group of people you new decided to sit down at your table? It’s what I’m craving right now after two weekends of sharing my apartment with many other people in a row. I have wondered if this might in some way stem from the ED; the verdict isn’t entirely clear though I remember being introverted as a child already.
    One thing I actually like about my current job is that it [mostly] offers me that sweet spot of connection with others while also allowing for some quiet time in between. I do work most efficiently with some white noise of people talking, though. So yes, same as for you.
    On a final note, I guess I should look into potentially getting “Quiet”, too. A few negative reviews steered me away from it but since you’ve mentioned enjoying it multiple times …

    • Cora | 10th Jun 17

      Stem from…. I’m not so sure. But help cope with? Absolutely. I think a lot of ED behaviors exist in order to find a way to recalibrate ourselves and deal with all those uncomfortable feelings we get. So like any time I would feel overstimulated – aka forced out of my comfort zone, forced to be too social, having too many others around me – I would feel anxious and look to exercise to bring myself back down. Or, when I would be understimilated – aka bored or lonely – I would look to food and exercise as a way to distract my thoughts and give me that endorphin high to bring me back up.

      Oh! I’ve meant to respond to your question about “Quiet” for so long now, I’m so sorry!!! Okay so I don’t actually necessarily recommend it. Like you said that you had heard, it IS very scientific for the first whole half. I actually haven’t even finished it yet. It is much less testimonial or personal than I was hoping for (maybe it will be more so in the last half). It’s interesting, no doubt, but I’m finding it redundant in just talking about study after study…
      I’ll let you know if I change my thoughts as I finish it.

  7. danielle | 8th Jun 17

    ohhhhh this is ticklingly sweet! i lurvvvv this topic. i feel so similar. i love being alone but like being close to people. yes. living a double life and all, or triple life. like, i have a job where i dress up, looking very polished and am very comfortable speaking poshly and discussing money with affluent types. however underneath the outer layer i’m covered in tattoos and prefer dive cafes and dark cozy corners. i like talking with the creatures of the night… i love art and moody music and bohemian things, but also love my job because i like interacting one on one, and talking about traveling. i much prefer building relationships one on one versus talking to lots of people. i struggle in crowds, but have been great at speeches to large audiences. i don’t like bullshit talking and small talk, yet i love my job which is in ‘sales’ yet i don’t feel like it because i’m just getting to know people and truly want to help them. i have had my 1 best friend for almost 25 years and have a few very close friends. quality versus quantity. i like my anonymity as well. what a fun thing to ramble about ๐Ÿ™‚ excuse my rambling!

    • Cora | 10th Jun 17

      We are SO dichotomous!!! I’m glad its not just me. I often feel like I’m just one big hypocrite because I say I’m one thing and then completely contradict myself the next minute.
      But maybe that’s what makes us so dang beautiful?? I LOVE the fact that underneath your posh work clothes you have this whole WORLD of secrets. Stories and experiences and tattoos and art and bohemian-goddess wisdom. I would buy something from you any day. And not because I think you could schmooze your way into convincing me, but because I think you would talk to me like a real human being and be yourself.
      You are the coolest creature of the night.

  8. Ellie Pell | 8th Jun 17

    I too enjoy eating or working around people. I am kind of excited to move in with a few housemates because I simply want to eat breakfast with people, so just have someone around. Human connection is a beautiful thing ๐Ÿ™‚
    Ellie Pell recently posted…The Value of Female Friendship in the Running CommunityMy Profile

    • Cora | 10th Jun 17

      It is. And it is needed. Even for the most introverted. We need to be around people.

  9. Casey the College Celiac | 8th Jun 17

    Girl I relate to this SO MUCH. I love having my computer and work area in the kitchen so that I’m always near other people. I don’t talk to them 24/7, but just the presence of chatter and other people keeps me from feeling lonely.
    Casey the College Celiac recently posted…I Have Celiac Disease…but a Gluten Free Diet Wasn’t EnoughMy Profile

    • Cora | 10th Jun 17

      Yep. When I’m home I do the exact same. Most of the time I do NOT want them to talk to me, lol, but I stay there anyways…. that must be confusing for them.

  10. Sarah @ Bucket List Tummy | 9th Jun 17

    This is so interesting and I can definitely relate to having that sweet spot between under and over stimulation around people. I think I like having some people around in a coffee shop, but I also love having windows. My nutrition counseling office is a square with no windows and it feels suffocating. I like to be able to breathe too. I think having some people around (some noise, some other productivity going on) helps me to be more productive.
    Sarah @ Bucket List Tummy recently posted…Salt Lake City Travel Guide (What To Do, Where To Eat)My Profile

    • Cora | 10th Jun 17

      Having no windows definitely sucks you in. For a short time I could be productive but would really have to get up and get into a different environment after a while. We need that space and openness to keep our thoughts able to flow.

  11. Bethany | 9th Jun 17

    This is pretty cool! I get it. I am an intro/extrovert. I would like to find a place at a park watching everyone but far away. I also needs windows around. I love people but need my alone time very much as all.

    • Cora | 10th Jun 17

      We all need people and connection. I think it is just very important for us to know on what level and in what capacity we need them. How much is too much and how little is too little.

  12. Joyce @ The Hungry Caterpillar | 10th Jun 17

    Whoa. Girl. That’s quite the title. ๐Ÿ˜‰
    You’re very good about being conscious of where you’re comfortable and where you’re reaching the level of uncomfortable. I actually think I’m an extrovert–I get a lot of energy from being around other people–except there are times when I really like my alone time. And just like you, there are certain times when I want to be around other people but don’t want to interact with them, particularly. I’m like that with exercise. I don’t much care for exercise on my own, but I also don’t really like team sports–group fitness where I participate but don’t have to interact is my sweet spot. Although I guess I love to chat it up and swing dance and on bike rides. So complicated.
    Joyce @ The Hungry Caterpillar recently posted…Does Health at Every Size Mean Weight Loss Is Inherently Evil?My Profile

    • Cora | 10th Jun 17

      There’s no blind rules about introversion/extroversion. But the fact that you see yourself getting your energy from being around others is the most telling thing. Even the most extroverted need some alone time at some point (I hope)…).
      You and I are the same with exercise. I like fitness classes because of the sense of community. I like to smile and laugh and make little quibbles with the others, and feed off their energy, but then I want to feel like I can just leave after without getting sucked into any conversations.

  13. Good good links #187 – Let's get living | 10th Jun 17

    […] Levels of Stimulation: Where Is Your Sweet Spot? via My little tablespoon […]

  14. Lisa @ Lisa 3D | 11th Jun 17

    Very interesting! I’m a huge introvert and always have been, so this is definitely something to think about and figure out where my “sweet spot” is.
    Lisa @ Lisa 3D recently posted…Erin Condren Life Planner Review | 2017-2018 EditionMy Profile

  15. Changing [habits, wardrobe and routines] – Let's get living | 11th Jun 17

    […] much. I didn’t like how I felt; didn’t like how I dealt with it.ย In the terminology of Coraโ€™s post I would dare to assume that I was โ€“ in a way โ€“ socially overstimulated. Having a weekend […]

  16. Kristy from Southern In Law | 12th Jun 17

    I’m an introverted extrovert – which is a little bit odd. I loveeeeeeee being around people and hate being alone, but there are times where I just need to “be” whilst still around others. For example, I love being at home with my family doing other things – but me doing things by myself to recharge and relax – but once I’ve done that for a little while, I need to do things with others.
    Kristy from Southern In Law recently posted…Recipe: Secretly Healthy Chocolate Cake (Gluten Free & Vegan)My Profile

  17. Hannah | 12th Jun 17

    Oh, my sweet spot is probably as low stimulation as you can get. My ideal work environment is absolutely quiet…like cabin-in-the-woods quiet…but of course that’s nearly impossible to achieve with other people around. So I frequently end up listening to music to drown out the ambient noise – but it has to be familiar music, otherwise it’s too stimulating

    I don’t think I could live in a big city for the same reason – when I visit cities everything starts feeling too chaotic after a few days and I have to have some isolation to recharge.

  18. Kaylee | 24th Jun 17

    Hmm, this is something you make me want to notice more. I know I enjoy coffee shops for the same reason–the hustle and bustle and feeling people connect and communicate with one another without really doing so. That’s also why I love walking downtown and exploring. I think places with the same vibe for me include museums and book stores particularly when I’m by myself. But yeah, definitely will ponder this further..
    Kaylee recently posted…Week in Review: An Attitude of GratitudeMy Profile

  19. chasetheredgrape | 28th Jun 17

    Oh my goodness your coffee shop reasoning is exactly the same for me at the library. One thing I have learned from my holiday was just what you mentioned ‘I like to be on my own but don’t like being alone’. It’s a major reflection which has to result in big changes for me if I want to ensure my happiness long term. Scary but necessary.

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