You may have found yourself ruminating about your last interview or your wedding plan or maybe your next college assignment. In one way or other, we all tend to worry about things. A quick search on the internet will return a plethora of articles that tell you how to manage your stress. This emphasis on relieving stress disturbs some of us so much that, ironically, we tend to stress out to get rid of our stress. However, according to a recent Canadian research, stress in not all that bad, and may even indicate higher intelligence.
Some of you may have already pictured the brilliant protagonists of “The Goodwill Hunting” or “A Beautiful Mind” tormenting over some trivial stuff. In fact, the abilities of these characters closely correlate with the findings of a Canadian study that argues that people who spend a lot of time thinking about a problem tend to have higher verbal intelligence.
Verbal intelligence, which is a measure of our ability of problem solving, critical thinking, and abstract reasoning, is fundamental to our success in accomplishing certain objectives. People with higher verbal intelligence can put their message across in the way they want, which may be conducive to their achievement of specific goals.
Why are stress and intelligence correlated?
Nonetheless, the question is why stress and intelligence are correlated? A video by Science of Us explains that there could be three possible explanations for this seemingly counterintuitive association – psychological, neurological and evolutionary. The psychological hypothesis proposes that since people who are stressed spend more time rethinking and analysing about different issues, they perhaps understand about events and ideas better than others.
The neurological hypothesis says people who stress more have the higher amount of white matter. Since white matter is primarily the neuronal connections that act as a conduit between different regions of the brain, a larger proportion of it facilitates faster communication between the various brain regions and results in more swift response. The evolutionary hypothesis, on the other hand, suggests ruminators have a survival benefit as their tendency to preplan things prepare them for eventualities.
According to this hypothesis, this could all be because of the time these people spend on thinking. When we are settled with a simple explanation of whatever is going on around us, these people relentlessly pursue the causes or repercussions of any actions. They are habitual overthinker and perhaps this overthinking helps them better understand people and their surroundings.
The neurological explanation says people who stress more have the higher amount of white matter. White matter is primarily the neuronal connections that act as a conduit between different regions of the brain. A larger proportion of white matter means having multiple communication channels between the various areas of the brain. This is like a news corporation with a vast network of reporters. Due to this, these people can comprehend and respond to the situation more swiftly than ordinary individuals.
We may all have read the theories of evolution in which Charles Darwin proposed the “Survival of the Fittest”. “Survival of the Fittest” in simple terms suggests that if you want to qualify for the next round of the tournament, you have to win this round, or else you are eliminated. In our case, it suggests that ruminators have a survival benefit as their tendency to preplan things prepare them for eventualities. These survivors then can pass their characteristics to their offspring, and preserve their lineage.
The ultimate message here is that your stress might just be a reflection of your higher intelligence, and you may not have to worry about it increasing your stress further. However, it is important to understand that anxiety itself does not improve intelligence. In fact, overly anxious people tend to have problems with sleep, concentration, memory and immunity as well. An optimal balance between rumination and relaxation is all that we need to live happily.