The sweaty palms, shaky voice, and crippling discomfort associated with anxiety are uncomfortable just to think about, but new research suggests a surprising solution: excitement.
Anxiety disorders (which can result in tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure) are the most common mental illness in the US, affecting around 40 million adults. That’s 18 percent of the population. Calming down is a straightforward way to ease those racing thoughts, but becoming instantly relaxed when anxiety strikes is easier said than done.
In a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, researcher Alison Wood Brooks found that individuals who reframed their anxious feelings as excitement performed better (while singing, public speaking, or completing math problems). Rather than try to talk themselves to a calmer state, study participants engaged in self-talk with phrases like “I am excited.” Changing our mindset from a negative one to a more positive one may actually improve performance—from karaoke singing to giving a presentation at work.
With New Year’s resolutions in full swing, new classes starting at school, and changes at work, experiencing nervousness here and there is inevitable for most of us. But with some self-pumping up, a little anxiety may not be so bad.