Optimism helps the brain protect against anxiety
A new study has found that people who are optimistic have a larger orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), which is the part of the brain behind the eyes, and are consequently 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 new 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.
Given that the OFC can reduce in size when exposed to anxiety and trauma, 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 could hypnotherapy help with anxiety?
If you are suffering with anxiety, Solution Focused Hypnotherapy is a great way to learn to become more optimistic in your outlook and behaviour.