The Upside to OverThinking
Written by: Dr. Yaad Shergill, DC, CAC, M.Sc (Cand), CAPM Dip
How many times have you told yourself you’re an over-thinker? You analyze every situation to the tiniest detail and at times this can create a lot of anxiety. Overthinking can keep us stuck in our thoughts and stop the forward momentum. Well I’m an over-thinker and naturally I got to thinking if there is an upside to overthinking. You’ll be happy to know that there are unique personality traits and abilities that over-thinkers possess that are even backed by research too! Read below for the four benefits of overthinking when this superpower is focused and controlled. I’ve also included some tips to help with this mission.
1. Problem-solving – when a problem arises in the external environment, over-thinkers have a knack for assessing the situation and actively proposing a solution. If you’re an over-thinker, ask yourself the following questions to help keep you focused and avoid the over-analyzing behaviour:
· Does the problem have a solution?
· Are you focused on finding a solution or are you focusing on the problem?
· What am I going to gain thinking about this problem?
2. Creativity – Trends in Cognitive Sciences published an article suggesting a link between overthinking (also knowns as self-generated thought) and creativity. Self-generated thought is a trait that is prevalent in over-thinkers and is suggested to stimulate imagination and visualization. Creativity is linked to any activity that requires imagination or outside of the box thinking. Another research team at King’s College London proposed a link between creativity and over-thinkers. MRI studies have demonstrated extra activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, an area that is attuned to potential threats. Okay this sounds bad but the reason to the increased attention to threats is due to the underlying active imagination trait that over-thinkers possess.
3. Detail orientation – over-thinkers can focus their attention and often times look for something that looks out of place. Whether this is applied to reviewing numbers for year-end accounting or spring cleaning, over-thinkers will focus on the details and all the possibilities. While this may lead over-thinkers to catastrophize and think of the worst-case scenario, they also have the ability to visualize the best-case scenario. It just takes awareness and practice for the brain to paint the best-case scenario details out.
4. Introspection – over-thinkers excel at watching their own mental and emotional thoughts extremely well. It is when we focus on the negatives too often that we can find ourselves in trouble. Writing in a journal at the end of the day can help you reflect on the day. This allows for us to take some of the thoughts in our head and put them in a safe spot. Reflect on moments in the day that made you feel good, happy, content or put a smile on your face. This could be a moment as simple as sitting down with a cup of tea and looking out the window. As we continue to practice the art of journaling, we increase the awareness of our minds to focus on moments of joy, calm or peace. This, in turn, can help change our behaviour and/or emotions.
Too often we spend time beating ourselves up for being a certain way or having certain personality traits. I challenge you to think of ways that can help you harness these traits to benefit you. It just takes awareness and practice!