The Benefits of Being a Highly Sensitive Person

All my life I’ve felt out of place, even if only a little. In my family, I was the abnormally picky child with an unusually heightened level of physical and emotional sensibilities, comparatively.

Even in my group of friends and associates, I’ve always felt way more aware of the energy in a room or the look on someones face when they were offended (which only multiplied the discomfort when I was the inadvertent offender). Thankfully, these observations came in handy in making a pretty decent mediator during conflict.

On my own, I couldn’t help but notice that movies and songs made me more emotional than the average girl. I related to the content so personally regardless of lack of actual experience. Even music without words had a way of affecting my moods, for better or worse.

It wasn’t until a couple of months ago, at age 29, that I learned about the term Highly Sensitive Persons and what it meant to be one. Much to my relief, there was a name for it and I was not the only one!

You see, the unfortunate thing about being an HSP is that, even though it’s not new, it isn’t exactly a well-known or a widely accepted psychological concept. Not to mention, as an 80s baby and member of the stigmatized millennial generation, heightened sensitivity is still considered a major flaw to many; one that needs correction if there is any hope to surviving our dog-eat-dog world.

Well, it turns out that being an HSP is an innate trait in which the nervous system is genetically hardwired to pick up on subtle changes and stimuli. This means we are born this way and it is not something we need to “fix” or be ashamed of! Much like any other category of personalities, High Sensitive Persons have their own set of tendencies that, while it may make for some aspects of living more challenging, also has it benefits. Here are 7 of them:

1. They can smell danger!

Due to the unique wiring of their nervous system, Highly Sensitive People have heightened senses, including smell. If ever to walk into a space with subtle notes of gas or something burning in the air, an HSP is likely the first to notice and therefore the first to know if it’s time to flee or stop immediately.

2. They are likely more organized.

Clutter can be annoying to the average fellow but disorder can be particularly disturbing to Highly Sensitive Persons. A poorly organized and dysfunctional environment can cause an overwhelming amount of stress so they tend to keep their homes and work spaces neat and conducive to functionality.

3. They have the necessary insight for being a good mediator.

As I mentioned before, HSP are blessed with having intuitive insight. Although tense situations can cause anxiety for an HSP, their ability to understand and empathize with people can make them more aware of the nuances in a conflict and, therefore, more compassionate as well as better equipped for helping reach an agreeable resolve.

4. They understand deep concepts more easily.

HSPs are more reflective and introspective which allows them to see the depth of people, concepts and situations. This is valuable for personal development. However, they must be mindful not to become too obsessive about these thoughts as it will create more anxiety.

5. They are more aware of when their bodies are in need.

HSP are more likely to notice changes in their inner environment just as much if not more than their outer. Due to this, HSPs experience intensified discomfort when they are hungry, thirsty or have other cravings. Although, this can have a negative impact on their mood, they are not as likely to neglect themselves when sustenance is necessary.

6. They experience art and beauty more deeply.

Films, music, good food, art work and pleasant aromas have a more profound affect on HSPs, sometimes even to the point of a physical reaction such as happy crying or other outbursts of excitement. This may be perceived as strange to many, but when in the company of other HSPs, it can be quite the euphoric experience. This is why we tend to see artists (a group usually considered to be more emotional) gravitate towards other artists.

7. They are in their element when being creative.

Speaking of artists, HSPs are very in tune with their inner world which makes being creative very important for them. It’s necessary to have an outlet as HSPs can be withdrawn to avoid over-stimulation. Activities such as drawing, singing, painting, dancing and even formulating strategies can be good outlets for HSPs as hobbies if not careers.

In spite of all the “symptomatic” characteristics that come with being a Highly Sensitive Person, we perceive the world on what, sometimes, seems to be on another dimension from what others do. Although it may sometimes feel lonely, it can also be pretty wonderful; alone or not.

Peace vs. Depression

I have battled depression and anxiety for quite some time and for the most part each day gets better and better. There are those moments that creep upon one who have experienced mental and emotional struggles before; sometimes we can stop it in its tracks and other times it hits us before we know it. Depression, in particular, is a tricky sensation. Unlike anxiety which characterized by obvious feelings of heightened overwhelm, depression mimics natural physiological occurrences such as fatigue, hunger, and/or boredom. Everyone experiences it differently and there are various triggers from poor nutrition and hormonal shifts to traumatic or transitional life events. Then, there’s the sensation of peace which is just as complex to the untrained mind which probably speaks to most of us in the Western world.

Having experienced both, the onset can be quite similar. Like depression, peace may look different from person to person and may even be misunderstood by people around us. Recently, I was facing an emotion I thought was negative somehow, although I knew it was not sadness nor anger. It was not joy as I could also describe myself as feeling detached; oddly careless of what my responsibilities were in that moment but without animosity. It took a mentor of mine – who happens to be Buddhist – to explain it to me best as I grasped for answers from anyone who could help me. He told me it was peace and when I told him I assumed peace to be more joyous, he said:

“Peace is peace. As such it is neutral. Still. Quiet. Otherwise it is joy. It is a myth that we need to be having euphoria to be at peace. Joy is not emptiness. It is biased. We like it better because it feels better, but it should never be considered sunyata. Notice how having no emotion can leave us with the sense that something is wrong. This is mental bias as well – that the only valuable state of mind is euphoric or happy. All states of mind are equally valuable including pain, maybe, especially pain. We have a tendency to be mentally lazy and only want to eat ice cream in our minds every day, but that is not inherently healthy. The ability to be with what is with no responsive emotion and yet full awareness is the highest state of mind.”

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I admit, it was a difficult concept to accept when just before someone suggested it was depression. I agreed to that notion as it was the closest I perceived to being right at the time but the truth is, it didn’t fully sit with me either. Then, I thought about my mentor’s comment for a couple of more days and finally it started to resonate. Indeed it was peace! Worldly things had little value to me in that moment of the present. All I cared about was being and not even my husband could fully have my attention. That may sound wrong, but from a spiritual and even natural standpoint, there are some happenings inside of us that are simply impossible to share. We must have them on our own just as our loved ones will have theirs without us.

Now, I still emphasize the importance of monitoring our well-being. However, I realize that I should not always assume a fault in my psychology when I lack joy. Not every moments requires feelings that we perceive as positive, nor is it realistic. Going forward, I will keep in mind that the foundation to having consistent well-being is to just be from time to time. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Namaste.