The Proven Benefits of Thinking Fast
There are nearly always two sides and different benefits to every perspective. Fast thinking is no different.
Thinking fast has been proven to make you happy … even if you’re thinking about something sad.
If you’ve ever lain in bed at night with thoughts racing through your mind, you’ve experienced manic thinking. Likewise if you’ve been brainstorming or just thought of a great idea, and your thoughts seem to be coming in at lightning speed.
Making a fast informed intelligent decision can be very important, such as critical life dependent needed surgery, or when buying or selling a home with regard to an offer. Even though home purchases are for most people their biggest investment decision, waiting can be a lose lose proposition if you wait and ponder while others make or accept offers, leaving you literally out-in-the-cold.
Manic thinking (also sometimes called fast thinking or racing thoughts) is also a symptom of the clinical psychiatric disorder bipolar disorder, or manic depression.
Manic behavior is typically thought of as a bad thing. It can include abnormally high excitement (usually because of tension), extreme busyness, impulsive behaviors, excessive physical activity and rapidly changing ideas.
But there’s at least one aspect of mania that is beneficial for you (and your mood in particular): manic thinking.
During a manic episode people tend to feel extremely alert, energetic and even euphoric. The problem is that the euphoria soon gives way to depression — and feelings of hopelessness, guilt and fatigue.
As it turns out, healthy people who are able to take part in manic thinking — without the corresponding crash — have much to gain emotionally.
Fast Thinking Can Make You Happy
A study by Princeton University psychologist Emily Pronin and Daniel Wegner of Harvard University found that fast thinking impacts your mood — in a very good way.
In the study, they asked participants to read a series of statements, and then manipulated the pace at which they were read. Half of the group read the statements at twice the normal reading speed, while the others read at a pace twice as slow as normal reading speed.
How can you accelerate your thinking? Brainstorming is an excellent way to speed up your thoughts, as is consciously speeding up the rate of your reading. You’ll also experience it anytime you think of a great idea, or are excited about planning something (like your annual holiday party).
When the participants were asked about their mood, energy level and more, the fast readers felt:
- More energetic
- More creative
- More powerful
- More grandiose
Interestingly, some of the participants also read statements that were either very depressing or very positive.
It turned out that the speed at which they read the statement impacted their mood just as much as the content of the message.
So even when they read something very sad, if they read it quickly it made them happy.
“The results of our experiment suggest the intriguing possibility that even during moments when people feel stuck having depressed thoughts, interventions that accelerate the speed of such thoughts may serve to boost feelings of positive affect and energy,” the researchers said.
So the next time you’re feeling down, try this out for yourself. Speed up your thoughts, read faster, and avoid thinking slowly. The researchers feel confident that such simple manipulations could improve your:
And, the next time a light bulb goes off in your mind and your thoughts begin to accelerate, go with it. It should leave you feeling great about yourself, and you’ll likely accomplish something grand.
Psychological Science Volume 17 Issue 9