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Overthinking Worriers Are Probably Creative Geniuses, Research Finds

Overthinking Worriers Are Probably Creative Geniuses, Research Finds

People have a tendency to put labels on others, and this is particularly common in modern society. You have your introverts (the socially anxious), extroverts (the social butterflies), ambiverts (the in-betweeners), worriers, and so on. So what about the anxious and overthinking worriers?

A recent study has shown that those who possess these traits may actually have an incredibly developed and creative mind to thank for their worrying ways.

The good people at King’s College, London, have reportedly made a connection between an overblown sense of anxiety and a stronger imagination.

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As Dr. Adam Perkins, an expert in the Neurobiology of Personality, so eloquently put:

“It occurred to me that if you happen to have a preponderance of negatively hued self-generated thoughts, due to high levels of spontaneous activity in the parts of the medial prefrontal cortex that govern conscious perception of threat and you also have a tendency to switch to panic sooner than average people, due to possessing especially high reactivity in the basolateral nuclei of the amygdale, then that means you can experience intense negative emotions even when there’s no threat present. This could mean that for specific neural reasons, high scorers on neuroticism have a highly active imagination, which acts as a built-in threat generator.”

So, what does all of this mean, exactly?

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Worrying is the mother of ingenuity

You can think about it like this: most technological breakthroughs came about because we were worried we’d starve, worried that the other tribe would conquer us and steal our things, worried that the Gods would be angered by our actions and so on. The main difference between overthinkers and the rest of the population – is imagination. Somewhere between fantasy and the reality of the present moment lies the road to self-preservation and progress.

A few examples: Most people’s idea of home safety ends with locking the front door and closing the ground floor windows. Those who are a bit more concerned will have a baseball bat or golf club near the door, or a gun tucked away somewhere secure. However, a worrier will not only be concerned about external threats, but will also envision scenarios like a child finding the gun and getting hurt or a burglar stealing it while no one is home, which leads him to seek out ingenious ways of keeping the weapon safe and out of the wrong hands (e.g., putting it behind a biometric lock or creating hidden compartments).

There might not be a great danger now, but their imagination allows them to think of all possible scenarios and prepare for them accordingly.

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A vivid imagination helped us prevail against nature and beast, and worriers have it in spades

Modern worriers find creative ways of dealing with small everyday problems, work-related tasks, and improving their safety. In the old days, our ancestors developed this incredibly vivid imagination as a self-preservation mechanism. During the hottest month of the year, when everything in nature was plentiful, ancient man was able to feed freely. But these people could imagine the cold months that awaited just around the corner, when food would be scarce and the need for shelter and warmth increased.

The early human worriers would hunt down much more than they could immediately consume, and then find ways of preserving meat and plants so that they could last the winter. Worrying about such things served as a worst case scenario safety mechanism, and to envision such scenarios you needed to be incredibly creative.

A lot of world-famous problem-solvers and artists were indeed worriers and overthinkers

Our scientist friend, Dr Adam Perkins, goes on to state:

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“Cheerful, happy-go-lucky people by definition do not brood about problems and so must be at a disadvantage when problem-solving compared to a more neurotic person. We have a useful sanity check for our theory because it is easy to observe that many geniuses seem to have a brooding, unhappy tendency that hints they are fairly high on the neuroticism spectrum. For example, think of the life stories of Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Vincent Van Gogh, Kurt Cobain, etc. Perhaps the link between creativity and neuroticism was summed up most succinctly of all by John Lennon when he said: ‘Genius is pain.’”

There are a lot of incredibly creative scientists and artists on that list, and probably a whole lot more than Dr Perkins could name off the top of his head. If you have a tendency to worry about things to the point of being neurotic, there is a good chance you are a creative genius yourself.

Hey, it doesn’t cost you anything test the hypothesis: Try honing those powers of imagination and creative problem-solving, and see exactly where it takes you.

More by this author

Ivan Dimitrijevic

Ivan is the CEO and founder of a digital marketing company. He has years of experiences in team management, entrepreneurship and productivity.

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Last Updated on December 10, 2019

5 Smart Reasons to Start Journal Writing Today

5 Smart Reasons to Start Journal Writing Today

Here’s the truth: your effectiveness at life is not what it could be. You’re missing out.

Each day passes by and you have nothing to prove that it even happened. Did you achieve something? Go on a date? Have an emotional breakthrough? Who knows?

But what you do know is that you don’t want to make the same mistakes that you’ve made in the past.

Our lives are full of hidden gems of knowledge and insight, and the most recent events in our lives contain the most useful gems of all. Do you know why? It’s simple, those hidden lessons are the most up to date, meaning they have the largest impact on what we’re doing right now.

But the question is, how do you get those lessons? There’s a simple way to do it, and it doesn’t involve time machines:

Journal writing.

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Improved mental clarity, the ability to see our lives in the big picture, as well as serving as a piece of evidence cataloguing every success we’ve ever had; we are provided all of the above and more by doing some journal writing.

Journal writing is a useful and flexible tool to help shed light on achieving your goals.

Here’s 5 smart reasons why you should do journal writing:

1. Journals Help You Have a Better Connection with Your Values, Emotions, and Goals

By journaling about what you believe in, why you believe it, how you feel, and what your goals are, you understand your relationships with these things better. This is because you must sort through the mental clutter and provide details on why you do what you do and feel what you feel.

Consider this:

Perhaps you’ve spent the last year or so working at a job you don’t like. It would be easy to just suck it up and keep working with your head down, going on as if it’s supposed to be normal to not like your job. Nobody else is complaining, so why should you, right?

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But a little journal writing will set things straight for you. You don’t like your job. You feel like it’s robbing you of happiness and satisfaction, and you don’t see yourself better there in the future.

The other workers? Maybe they don’t know, maybe they don’t care. But you do, you know and care enough to do something about it. And you’re capable of fixing this problem because your journal writing allows you to finally be honest with yourself about it.

2. Journals Improve Mental Clarity and Help Improve Your Focus

If there’s one thing journal writing is good for, it’s clearing the mental clutter.

How does it work? Simply, whenever you have a problem and write about it in a journal, you transfer the problem from your head to the paper. This empties the mind, allowing allocation of precious resources to problem-solving rather than problem-storing.

Let’s say you’ve been juggling several tasks at work. You’ve got data entry, testing, e-mails, problems with the boss, and so on—enough to overwhelm you—but as you start journal writing, things become clearer and easier to understand: Data entry can actually wait till Thursday; Bill kindly offered earlier to do my testing; For e-mails, I can check them now; the boss is just upset because Becky called in sick, etc.

You become better able to focus and reason your tasks out, and this is an indispensable and useful skill to have.

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3. Journals Improve Insight and Understanding

As a positive consequence of improving your mental clarity, you become more open to insights you may have missed before. As you write your notes out, you’re essentially having a dialogue with yourself. This draws out insights that you would have missed otherwise; it’s almost as if two people are working together to better understand each other. This kind of insight is only available to the person who has taken the time to connect with and understand themselves in the form of writing.

Once you’ve gotten a few entries written down, new insights can be gleaned from reading over them. What themes do you see in your life? Do you keep switching goals halfway through? Are you constantly dating the same type of people who aren’t good for you? Have you slowly but surely pushed people out of your life for fear of being hurt?

All of these questions can be answered by simply self-reflecting, but you can only discover the answers if you’ve captured them in writing. These questions are going to be tough to answer without a journal of your actions and experiences.

4. Journals Track Your Overall Development

Life happens, and it can happen fast. Sometimes we don’t take the time to stop and look around at what’s happening to us at each moment. We don’t get to see the step-by-step progress that we’re making in our own lives. So what happens? One day it’s the future, and you have no idea how you’ve gotten there.

Journal writing allows you to see how you’ve changed over time, so you can see where you did things right, and you can see where you took a misstep and fell.

The great thing about journals is that you’ll know what that misstep was, and you can make sure it doesn’t happen again—all because you made sure to log it, allowing yourself to learn from your mistakes.

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5. Journals Facilitate Personal Growth

The best thing about journal writing is that no matter what you end up writing about, it’s hard to not grow from it. You can’t just look at a past entry in which you acted shamefully and say “that was dumb, anyway!” No, we say “I will never make a dumb choice like that again!”

It’s impossible not to grow when it comes to journal writing. That’s what makes journal writing such a powerful tool, whether it’s about achieving goals, becoming a better person, or just general personal-development. No matter what you use it for, you’ll eventually see yourself growing as a person.

Kickstart Journaling

How can journaling best be of use to you? To vent your emotions? To help achieve your goals? To help clear your mind? What do you think makes journaling such a useful life skill?

Know the answer? Then it’s about time you reap the benefits of journal writing and start putting pen to paper.

Here’s what you can do to start journaling:

Featured photo credit: Jealous Weekends via unsplash.com

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