Reduce Anxiety With The Right Phrase

A 2013 study by Alison Brooks describes a different way of getting through stressful ordeals. In order to figure this out, she tried strategies on people who were Dance of Blue Lights over water, fractal02z6anxious about public speaking but, I think this would work for other activities as well, such as starting a new job, going on a date, or traveling to a new place.  researchers told subjects to prepare a public speech. Before delivering it, half were told to say to themselves, “I am excited” and the other half “I am calm”.

The speeches were videotaped and analyzed by independent raters.

Sure,we all know that high anxiety can be distracting, impair memory and is generally unattractive as well as unpleasant. But, using 140 subjects, Brooks Brooks determined that the intuitive response of, “I need to calm myself down” is less successful than, “I am excited”.

This works because relabeling our emotions can be a very powerful tool. Changing ‘anxiety’ to ‘excitement’ helps create a shift towards a more positive emotional state. Those subjects who said, “I am excited” consistently performed better than those who told themselves, “I am calm”. ‘Excited’ people were more persuasive, competent, confident and persistent. Plus, in the study, they spoke for longer–presumably because they were enjoying it more.

Alison Brooks explains, “When you feel anxious, you’re ruminating too much and focusing on potential threats. In those circumstances, people should try to focus on the potential opportunities. It really does pay to be positive, and people should say they are excited. Even if they don’t believe it at first, saying ‘I’m excited’ out loud increases authentic feelings of excitement.”

Brooks concludes her paper by pointing out that her experiments…

“…demonstrate the profound control and influence we have over our own emotions. The way we verbalize and think about our feelings helps to construct the way we actually feel. […] Instead of trying to “Keep Calm and Carry On,” perhaps the path to success begins by simply saying “I am excited.””

source: Journal of Experimental Psychology, Brooks 2013.

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