8 surprising ways overthinking can be an asset in life, according to psychology

I know that I’m an overthinker, but I’ve also come to understand it isn’t all bad.

I’m a firm believer that our traits exist on a spectrum.

Sure, at one end those qualities can get out of control and cause problems. But on the other end, there are useful aspects that can be an asset to us.

The same goes for overthinking. It’s a problem behavior when it gets out of hand and impacts our mental health. Then we can find ourselves hit with anxiety and indecision.

But overthinking isn’t completely negative, it can bring with it personality traits that help us when we put them to good use.

The key is to embrace the good, whilst trying to minimize the bad.

So let’s consider some surprising ways that overthinking can benefit you.

1) Great planning skills

Whenever my partner and I take a trip, I’m in charge of booking everything.

It’s not a burden either, I enjoy it.

I get a kick out of scouring the net for the best deals and cheapest tickets. I break down all the finer details that need my consideration and take my time in the planning.

Sure, I’m loading myself up with extra work, but it pays off. The quality of our trips are better because of these organizational skills.

Of course, it’s not just vacations that this applies to. Good planning is an asset in both our professional and personal lives.

Overthinkers can be really good planners because they consider everything. As Psychotherapist Dr. Mark Steinburg points out this helps create useful structure in our lives:

“To be organized implies actively being in control and exerting control over one’s life. When you are organized, you impose order on your environment and the ways in which you interact with it. As well, being organized makes it far easier to get things done in an expedient and efficient manner.”

2) Being very detail-orientated and observant

Part of the reason I’m a good planner is for sure my obsession with the finer details.

Like many overthinkers, not much gets past me. Overthinkers have often trained themselves to go hunting for the minutia that many others overlook.

In practical ways, this attention to detail can lead to higher-quality work and better outcomes. It can also give you a sort of sixth sense.

What seems like intuition is often incredible observation skills. That can have really useful social benefits.

Guardian columnist and self-confessed overthinker Annalisa Barbieri says these extra skills have served her well in her relationships:

“I became a natural observer, able to take the temperature of a room, able to watch people’s micro-movements, listen to their language, their tone. This all became second nature to me. Sometimes, today, my children and husband think I’m a mind reader, but of course I’m not. I’ve just observed what’s been said, what’s gone on, and I’ve overthunk what they might do, or say. So sometimes I answer a question before they ask it and they think I have a superpower.”

3) Keeping an eye out for the pitfalls and preventing them

Let’s be real:

Overthinking for many of us can create extra worry sometimes, and that’s not good.

If you’ve ever found yourself wide awake at 3 am repeating the same limited thoughts on a loop, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

But carefully thinking things through is something quite different.

Asking yourself, “Okay, what could go wrong?” doesn’t have to end in stress, it can be a proactive measure when we do something about it.

Thinking ahead and being on the lookout for potential problems that may arise gives us greater preparedness.

That’s why natural overthinkers often anticipate potential obstacles and plan ahead accordingly.

And guess what?

That means we don’t just walk right into problems in the way some others might. This level of caution can help prevent pitfalls and increase overall success.

4) Avoiding being the fool that rushes in

“Don’t overthink things”

“Just go with the flow”

These are the types of well-meant advice that overthinkers are sometimes given. But is it good advice?

Not always.

Being considered and stepping carefully is a good thing. Rather than paralyse us in indecision, it can improve decision making.

Diligently mulling over your option and the implications is smart, just as long as once you’ve done that you make a choice and commit to it.

The reality is that overthinkers tend to weigh the pros and cons of a decision more thoroughly. This can result in more informed and rational choices.

5) Heightened emotional intelligence

emotional intelligence 8 surprising ways overthinking can be an asset in life, according to psychology

Our emotional intelligence is our ability to perceive, express, and regulate emotions.

It includes various skills and qualities, two of which are self-awareness and empathy.

Here’s where overthinking can be helpful in strengthening these things:

When it comes to self-awareness, the ability to deeply reflect upon yourself is very useful. That’s often why overthinkers better understand their own emotions and thought processes.

But it’s not just a greater understanding of ourselves we are blessed with, that also extends to the emotions of others.  This can lead to improved communication and stronger relationships.

In many ways, overthinkers are more sensitive. They are technically classed as being on the neurotic side of the personality spectrum.

But that can come with greater imagination which helps us think more about how others feel, putting ourselves in their shoes.

That’s because, as we’ll dive into next, this neurotic nature can have creative benefits.

6) Increased creativity and problem-solving

It actually makes sense, thinking lots unlocks new ideas and perspectives.

As we’ve just mentioned, overthinking is considered a neurotic trait. It might not sound good, but this is a personality type that is also linked to greater problem-solving.

Research has backed this up, claiming that overthinking facilitates creativity.

When you overthink a problem, you are more likely to consider multiple perspectives and potential solutions.

This can lead to more innovative ideas.

Dr Adam Perkins at King’s College London says a vivid imagination can give you the creative edge in some ways.

“You’ve got a sort of cinema screen inside your head, where you are playing different possibilities, which allows you to turn things over in your mind. You probably have some kind of advantage compared with someone who never thinks about problems.”

7) Greater wisdom

When I say greater wisdom I’m talking about academic success, learning from experiences, and reflecting on life’s mysteries.

As we discussed earlier, overthinkers are detail people. Considering those finer points often ends up in a deeper knowledge of either a situation or topic.

Overthinkers are driven to uncover more and form a greater understanding. That can be the catalyst for more probing, asking extra questions, and doing more research.

That’s why overthinking sometimes leads to a better grasp of the world around us.

Overthinking can also prompt us to reflect more on potential experiences in life that we can learn lessons from, which translates to wisdom.

Psychoanalyst Susanna Abse says that “in an action-focused world, being a thinker isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”

But she also cautions us that learning from your experiences isn’t the same as ruminating over them.

“There’s a difference between perseverating and reflecting. It’s about whether you are going over and over something in your mind [without a resolution] or whether you are able to sit back, replay something and learn something useful from it.”

8) Giving informed advice

At the risk of blowing my own trumpet, I’m a great friend to have around when you’re feeling stuck or in a crisis.

My pals constantly come to me when they’re looking for a sounding board or trying to process something.

Because this ability to see things from all angles doesn’t just apply to us, it applies to other people too.

So it can turn you into a great advice giver. You can hone in on all the information and help guide others.

Rather than simply throw some generic advice their way, when you’re an overthinker you dive deep. That can be a valuable quality to offer those around you.

Control your overthinking so it doesn’t control you!

So there you have it, overthinking can be a good thing at times.

But I certainly don’t want to gloss over the negative impact it can have on our well-being either.

Because what we’re really talking about here are the benefits of deep thinking. That’s not quite the same as overthinking.

Whilst deliberate, considered, and conscientious thinking can make us wiser, it can also turn on us when thinking becomes obsessive.

When we cannot channel our thinking power in constructive ways, it can run amock.

Sometimes when we don’t let thoughts drop they cause anxiety and unhappiness that does us no good at all. Rumination is a destructive force.

So it’s really important to find effective strategies that help us to keep it under control. That involves learning the situations when overthinking will, and won’t serve us.

Picture of Mia Zhang

Mia Zhang

Mia Zhang blends Eastern and Western perspectives in her approach to self-improvement. Her writing explores the intersection of cultural identity and personal growth. Mia encourages readers to embrace their unique backgrounds as a source of strength and inspiration in their life journeys.

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