The old advice about remaining calm during situations that produce feelings of anxiety has been shown to be much less useful than getting excited by research conducted by Dr. Alison Wood Brooks of Harvard Business School that was published in the Dec. 23, 2013, edition of the Journal of Experimental Psychology.
The researchers found that getting excited or simply telling yourself that you were excited overcame feelings of anxiety much more than attempting to stay calm or telling yourself that you are calm overcame feelings of anxiety.
The researchers tested the difference between being excited and being calm in activities that normally produce some level of anxiety in most people.
Public speaking produces anxiety in most people. The experiment conducted with public speaking induced anxiety by having the speaker videotaped and having the speaker speak to a live audience about why they were good workers. The people who told themselves they were excited were rated as more persuasive, competent, and relaxed than those that told themselves they were calm.
A second experiment involved attempting to solve a math problem after being told to try to get excited or to remain calm. The group of participants that were told to get excited solved the math problem eight percent more accurately than those that were told to stay calm. Excitement also produced a higher level of feeling competent in a person’s math skills.
Similar improvements in karaoke performances were seen in people that were excited prior to singing.
The researchers note the similarity in chemical and physiological responses in the human body between excitement and anxiety as the reason getting excited during a situation that produces anxiety leads to better performance.