I’m an MBTI junky—which means I see the world through the mental lens of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and how our behavior is influenced by our MBTI type.
When I was trying to get back into meditating a few years ago, I read Dan Harris’s book, 10% Happier. His approach to how and why he meditates made so much sense to me. It motivated me to get back to meditating in a way that no other meditation book had. And it made my MBTI mindset start thinking about applying type to meditation. What if I could help people connect with a mindfulness or meditation practice better because it resonated with their MBTI type? Maybe that would help people to stay with the practice long enough to create a habit and reap the benefits of mindfulness and meditation.
What is MBTI?
It’s a personality type assessment based on psychologist Carl Jung’s personality theories and adapted by Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother, Katharine Briggs. It is a widely-recognized tool for:
- Personal self-awareness
- Career exploration
- Partners to understand each other better
- Teams to improve communication and collaboration
- Managers to incorporate into their supervisory styles
The test is popular among seekers, leadership and development professionals, and HR directors, and can provide helpful insights in our personality quirks, though it should be noted the science around the reliability of the test is open to question. That said, it can be an awful lot of fun to take the test and see where you land. And while certain types of meditation have been found to resonate with certain MBTI types, there is no hard and fast matching of type to specific mindfulness or meditation techniques. People are drawn to types of mindfulness and meditation for numerous reasons beyond temperament, including first exposure, the appeal of meditation teacher, what’s in vogue at the time, what they’ve discovered in their own sampling of meditation techniques, and what they’ve found that works for them.
What is Mindfulness and Meditation?
Mindfulness is being fully present, non judgmentally. It’s building awareness about your emotions, physical sensations, and thoughts as well as the surrounding environment. The more you practice mindfulness, the more you can:
- Make choices about how you want to respond versus react.
- Choose where you want to put your attention and energy.
- Notice your reactionary patterns and explore why.
- Be able to slow down and relax more.
- Be more present in your experiences and conversations with others.
Mindfulness practices or activities can take many forms (i.e. meditation, yoga, listening, eating, or walking), but they all allow you to practice being in the present moment and focus on the activity at hand.
Linking MBTI, Mindfulness and Meditation
MBTI types gravitate to different activities based on their type preference. There are four scales, or dichotomies, in the MBTI model. Let’s examine each scale and its implications for mindfulness practices.
Practices for Extroversion and Introversion
Where do you put your attention and get your energy? Do you like to spend time in the outer world of people and things (Extroversion), or in your inner world of ideas and images (Introversion)? This scale is represented by the letters E and I.
- Extroverts (or Es) get energized by being with people. So, if you’re an E, you may do well with group activities like meditation or yoga.
- If you’re an introvert (or I), you may prefer having a solitary daily meditation practice or mindfulness practice that you can do solo like journaling or mindful walking.
Practices for Sensing and Intuition
Do you pay more attention to information that comes in through your five senses (Sensing), or do you pay more attention to the patterns and possibilities that you see in the information you receive (Intuition)? This scale is represented by the letters S and N.
- Sensors (or Ss) have a natural preference toward the five senses. If you’re an S, you may enjoy a practice that is tactile or kinesthetic, body scan, or yoga.
- Intuitives (or Ns) like to understand concepts or theories. If you’re an N, really understanding how a mindfulness practice can impact the body or mind would probably help you “get on board.” Ns also enjoy patterns or themes or abstract concepts so a practice like loving-kindness would appeal.
Practices for Thinking and Feeling
Thinking and feeling which describes how you like to make decisions. Do you like to put more weight on objective principles and impersonal facts (Thinking), or do you put more weight on the personal impact and the people involved (Feeling) of a decision? This scale is represented by the letters T and F.
- Thinkers (Ts) want to know about the benefits of a mindfulness practice through research and case studies. The science-based practices of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, like the Three-Minute Breathing Space may appeal to Ts.
- Feelers (Fs) may be influenced by a practice that speaks to their values, say of health, well-being, or longevity. If you’re an F, try a loving-kindness meditation or gratitude practices where you tune in to what you are grateful for.
Practices for Judging and Perceiving
Judging and perceiving, describes how you like to live your outer life or your lifestyle. Do you prefer a more structured and planful lifestyle (Judging) or a more flexible and spontaneous lifestyle (Perceiving)? This scale is represented by the letters J and P.
- Judgers (Js) will want to schedule in their practice. If you’re a J, you may find an app that allows you to check off each day’s efforts appealing.
- Perceivers (Ps) want to learn about a practice that isn’t going to make them commit to a schedule. If you’re a P, you may find mindfulness meditation that focuses on anchoring in the moment through your senses just the thing for tapping into mindfulness when the mood strikes.
Think of these as suggestions, rather than prescriptions. Ultimately, the right mindfulness practice for you is the one you will stay with—so try them all until you find the one that resonates for you.