The inner dialogue of an overthinker is often filled with uncertainty and self-doubt (sounds fun, right?). But it’s certainly not all bad news.
The constant chatter in a neurotic person’s mind can also yield some pretty positive traits. Psychologists and research studies are giving credence to the idea that there are some benefits to being a “Nervous Nellie,” whether it’s brain perks or even a small boost in your physical health.
Of course, overthinking to the point of extreme anxiety isn’t ideal. Those who identify with the trait often worry, ruminate on an issue and analyze things more than the average person. That type of behavior can cause excess stress which can lead to a host of health issues, such as high blood pressure and digestive problems. It’s important to get it under control ― whether it be through therapy or other lifestyle changes ― so it frees you up to embrace that overactive brain and harness it for good.
Here are just a few science-backed ways overthinking is actually beneficial to your life:
Overthinkers may be more imaginative.
An opinion paper published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences suggests that the area of the brain that houses self-created thoughts (i.e. the part that’s associated with overthinking) may be more overactive in neurotic individuals. This leads to excessive thinking, which then may lead to solutions or ideas, researchers theorize.
“If neurotic people tend to think more about problems due to having a lot of threat-related self-generated thoughts — which explains their tendency to feel unhappy — it seems likely they will have a better chance to create solutions to those problems, compared to low scorers on neuroticism who look on the bright side of life all the time,” Adam Perkins, one of the paper’s authors, previously told The Huffington post.
Constant rumination could be a sign of intelligence.
A penchant for worrying ― which is a common habit for overthinkers ― is correlated with more verbal intelligence, according to a paper published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences. (Of course it’s important to point out that this does not mean overthinking causes more verbal intelligence, the two just might be connected.) Other research also suggests that high-strung or anxious individuals may have a higher IQ than those who have milder anxiety symptoms, Slate reported.
Neuroticism could make you healthier.
But only if you’re conscientious, too. Research published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity found that a high combination of neuroticism and conscientiousness can lead to lower levels of a protein in the body called interleukin-6, which is tied to inflammation. The study authors also say people with the two traits have fewer chronic conditions.
Bottom line: Overthinking to the point of extreme stress won’t do you any good. But a little extra concentration or rumination? You might be onto something.
Just in case you needed a little validation for “thinking too much.”