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Why Overthinkers Are Probably Creative Problem-Solvers

Why Overthinkers Are Probably Creative Problem-Solvers

Neurotic overthinkers, often have negative thoughts and emotions. The mere mention of the word conjures up a host of negative feelings and emotions: anxiety, worry, stress, moodiness and overthinking. However, psychologists have discovered a hidden gem. Neurotic overthinkers are highly creative. In fact, if you’re one, you may even be a creative genius.

But why are neurotic overthinkers more creative?

To fully understand this, we need to find the link between creativity and neuroticism…

According to an Opinion Paper published in Trends and Cognitive Sciences, a new theory is presented which establishes a link between creativity and neurotics. The part of your brain responsible for self-generated thoughts – for example, introspection and over analysis- is more active in neurotics, yielding both positive and negative traits. The positive traits are increased creativity and the negative traits are anxiety, depression, obsession and even misery, to name but a few.

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In speaking to Huffington Post, Dr. Adam Perkins, one of the Authors of the study re-affirms this: “Neuroticism has costs, but it also has benefits. Highly neurotic people will suffer a lot of anxiety and depression over their lifespan, but their deep-thinking, brooding tendencies can also give rise to greater creative potential.”

The link then lies in overthinking.

Overthinking as the driving force behind neuroticism

Overthinking is regarded as the driving force behind neuroticism. But not just any type of overthinking. Overthinkers are adept at negative thinking because certain parts of their prefrontal cortex (a brain area governing self-generating thoughts) are highly active. Consequently, they’re hypersensitive towards threat and danger even when it doesn’t exist. They will often go into overdrive to solve the problem. Whilst this can lead to great unhappiness for neurotic overthinkers it’s closely linked to an imagination that over reacts and generates threats. It can also push them to become highly creative problem solvers.

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Perkins goes on to say: “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.”

Great neurotic thinkers

And this probably explains why the likes of Van Gogh, Woody Allen, and Isaac Newton were highly creative and yet highly neurotic overthinkers. They dwelled on problems longer than the average person. They dug deep, they analyzed (and over-analyzed) and they obsessed.

Isaac Newton, for example, was prone to worrying, over thinking and dwelling on scientific problems: “I keep the subject constantly before me, and wait till the first dawnings open slowly, by little and little, into a full and clear light”,

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That being said if he hadn’t, many of his creative breakthroughs wouldn’t have come to fruition. This would’ve had a profound impact learning in schools and the world as a whole.

Helping people make sense of their own experiences

The researchers hope the theory stimulates new research and provides a single framework to tie together both the emotional and creative aspects of neuroticism.They do however acknowledge further research is required:

“We’re still a long way off from fully explaining neuroticism, and we’re not offering all of the answers, but we hope that our new theory will help people make sense of their own experiences, and show that although being highly neurotic is by definition unpleasant, it also has creative benefits” Perkins in Eureka Alert

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So the next time you feel down, depressed, anxious or moody, remember you have an amazingly unique ability as a neurotic over thinker – you’re highly adept at creative problem solving. Some may even say, you’re a creative genius.

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Nick Darlington

Nick is a Multipotentialite, an entrepreneur, a blogger and a traveler.

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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

There are so many lessons I wish I had learned while I was young enough to appreciate and apply them. The thing with wisdom, and often with life lessons in general, is that they’re learned in retrospect, long after we needed them. The good news is that other people can benefit from our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned.

Here’re 10 important life lessons you should learn early on:

1. Money Will Never Solve Your Real Problems

Money is a tool; a commodity that buys you necessities and some nice “wants,” but it is not the panacea to your problems.

There are a great many people who are living on very little, yet have wonderfully full and happy lives… and there are sadly a great many people are living on quite a lot, yet have terribly miserable lives.

Money can buy a nice home, a great car, fabulous shoes, even a bit of security and some creature comforts, but it cannot fix a broken relationship, or cure loneliness, and the “happiness” it brings is only fleeting and not the kind that really and truly matters. Happiness is not for sale. If you’re expecting the “stuff” you can buy to “make it better,” you will never be happy.

2. Pace Yourself

Often when we’re young, just beginning our adult journey we feel as though we have to do everything at once. We need to decide everything, plan out our lives, experience everything, get to the top, find true love, figure out our life’s purpose, and do it all at the same time.

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Slow down—don’t rush into things. Let your life unfold. Wait a bit to see where it takes you, and take time to weigh your options. Enjoy every bite of food, take time to look around you, let the other person finish their side of the conversation. Allow yourself time to think, to mull a bit.

Taking action is critical. Working towards your goals and making plans for the future is commendable and often very useful, but rushing full-speed ahead towards anything is a one-way ticket to burnout and a good way to miss your life as it passes you by.

3. You Can’t Please Everyone

“I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everyone” – Bill Cosby.

You don’t need everyone to agree with you or even like you. It’s human nature to want to belong, to be liked, respected and valued, but not at the expense of your integrity and happiness. Other people cannot give you the validation you seek. That has to come from inside.

Speak up, stick to your guns, assert yourself when you need to, demand respect, stay true to your values.

4. Your Health Is Your Most Valuable Asset

Health is an invaluable treasure—always appreciate, nurture, and protect it. Good health is often wasted on the young before they have a chance to appreciate it for what it’s worth.

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We tend to take our good health for granted, because it’s just there. We don’t have to worry about it, so we don’t really pay attention to it… until we have to.

Heart disease, bone density, stroke, many cancers—the list of many largely preventable diseases is long, so take care of your health now, or you’ll regret it later on.

5. You Don’t Always Get What You Want

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

No matter how carefully you plan and how hard you work, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to… and that’s okay.

We have all of these expectations; predetermined visions of what our “ideal” life will look like, but all too often, that’s not the reality of the life we end up with. Sometimes our dreams fail and sometimes we just change our minds mid-course. Sometimes we have to flop to find the right course and sometimes we just have to try a few things before we find the right direction.

6. It’s Not All About You

You are not the epicenter of the universe. It’s very difficult to view the world from a perspective outside of your own, since we are always so focused on what’s happening in our own lives. What do I have to do today? What will this mean for me, for my career, for my life? What do I want?

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It’s normal to be intensely aware of everything that’s going on in your own life, but you need to pay as much attention to what’s happening around you, and how things affect other people in the world as you do to your own life. It helps to keep things in perspective.

7. There’s No Shame in Not Knowing

No one has it all figured out. Nobody has all the answers. There’s no shame in saying “I don’t know.” Pretending to be perfect doesn’t make you perfect. It just makes you neurotic to keep up the pretense of manufactured perfection.

We have this idea that there is some kind of stigma or shame in admitting our limitations or uncertainly, but we can’t possibly know everything. We all make mistakes and mess up occasionally. We learn as we go, that’s life.

Besides—nobody likes a know-it-all. A little vulnerability makes you human and oh so much more relatable.

8. Love Is More Than a Feeling; It’s a Choice

That burst of initial exhilaration, pulse quickening love and passion does not last long. But that doesn’t mean long-lasting love is not possible.

Love is not just a feeling; it’s a choice that you make every day. We have to choose to let annoyances pass, to forgive, to be kind, to respect, to support, to be faithful.

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Relationships take work. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s incredibly hard. It is up to us to choose how we want to act, think and speak in a relationship.

9. Perspective Is a Beautiful Thing

Typically, when we’re worried or upset, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. Everything that is happening in our lives seems so big, so important, so do or die, but in the grand picture, this single hiccup often means next to nothing.

The fight we’re having, the job we didn’t get, the real or imagined slight, the unexpected need to shift course, the thing we wanted, but didn’t get. Most of it won’t matter 20, 30, 40 years from now. It’s hard to see long term when all you know is short term, but unless it’s life-threatening, let it go, and move on.

10. Don’t Take Anything for Granted

We often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone: that includes your health, your family and friends, your job, the money you have or think you will have tomorrow.

When you’re young, it seems that your parents will always be there, but they won’t. You think you have plenty of time to get back in touch with your old friends or spend time with new ones, but you don’t. You have the money to spend, or you think you’ll have it next month, but you might not.

Nothing in your life is not guaranteed to be there tomorrow, including those you love.

This is a hard life lesson to learn, but it may be the most important of all: Life can change in an instant. Make sure you appreciate what you have, while you still have it.

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Featured photo credit: Ben Eaton via unsplash.com

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