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Mollie Trainor, who is currently working towards her masters degree in psychology from the University of Edinburgh, recently discussed the phenomenon, which she said “blows [her] mind,” in a viral TikTok, where she explained how simple it is to use the method.
“Did you know that if you have pre-performance anxiety for something coming up, maybe you’re nervous for a presentation or something, you can trick yourself into thinking you’re excited rather than nervous by just saying out loud to yourself: ‘I am excited,’” Trainor said. “That’s it. That’s all it takes.”
Trainor then goes on to explain that the reason the two feelings are so easily interchanged is because excitement and nervousness are “high-arousal states”.
“Physiologically, what’s happening to you between the two of them is pretty similar,” Trainor said. “So it’s easy to get your brain to reinterpret those signals as excitement rather than nervousness, as compared to telling yourself to calm down, because calmness is a low-arousal state.”
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However, according to Trainor, despite reading the studies and research around the theory, which is also known as anxious reappraisal, she didn’t “truly believe it” until she tried it herself, at which point she concluded that “it works”.
The video, which has since been viewed more than 1.3m times, has prompted a range of responses, with many thanking Trainor for sharing the information.
“I WILL USE THIS, thank you!!” one person commented, while another said: “I have something tomorrow that I’m nervous about. Going to try it out. I’m excited!”
Others have shared their own experiences using the tactic to help them reframe their anxiety.
“I used to do this all the time for public speaking and I’m a lecturer now. I used to say ‘This is so exciting’ over and over beforehand,” someone else wrote.
In the comments, Trainor did clarify that the method only works on “pre-performance anxiety” not “anxiety disorders”, adding: “Please do not expect this to cure your generalised anxiety.”
As noted by Trainor, anxious reappraisal works because both emotions are “high-arousal”, with Alison Wood Brooks, a professor at Harvard Business School who has studied the phenomenon, previously telling The Atlantic that, in both emotions, the “heart beats faster, cortisol surges, and the body prepares for action,” with the only difference being excitement is a positive emotion.
According to Brooks, the method works by putting people in an “opportunity mindset,” which focuses on the good that can happen rather than all the possible negative outcomes.
A 2010 study by the University of Rochester’s Jeremy Jamieson also found that reframing anxiety as a positive can help students perform better on standardised testing.
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