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Optimism protects against anxiety

study has found that optimistic people have a larger orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), the part of the brain behind the eyes, making them less prone to symptoms of anxiety. The findings of this study provide the first evidence of how important optimistic attitudes and behaviours are to our emotional wellbeing.

The study, conducted by the University of Illinois using 61 healthy people, provides evidence about the brain-personality mechanisms that protect against anxiety symptoms. Using MRI brain scans and personality trait measurements for optimism and anxiety, the researchers found that a larger OFC on the left side of the brain was associated with increased optimism and reduced anxiety. It also found that optimism played a mediating role in reducing anxiety in those with larger OFCs.

Previous studies, including one measuring post-earthquake stress in Japan, have shown that anxiety can reduce the size of the OFC in some people who have been exposed to trauma. Therefore, it is feasible that the size of the OFC could increase when people are trained to develop more optimistic responses, thus providing greater emotional resilience against the symptoms of anxiety. Future studies are likely to focus on this aspect.

How do you become more optimistic?

Counselling or hypnotherapy can help you learn to become more optimistic in your outlook and behaviour so that you can free yourself from anxiety and stress.

If you’re looking for a counsellor or hypnotherapist in Plymouth or online, I’d love to hear from you.