Bobby McFerrin had it right when he sang about happiness and anxiety. Three new academic studies support the positive effect happiness can have on anxiety and other negative emotional states. When it comes to preparing for a speech that makes you nervous — “Don’t worry…be happy.”
See things positively. Research out of the lab of Dr. Svetla Velikova in Norway has found that using self-guided positive imagery, such as seeing yourself attaining desired goals or enjoying experiences, can improve satisfaction levels and reduce negative emotions. By taking time to find positive elements (especially ones that can be visualized) in past situations, you can transform your emotional state and retrospective view of these situations. Further, her research suggests that positive imagery about future situations and activity can act to reduce the likelihood of negative affect associated with these futures when they arrive.
Listen to happy music. Research from McGill University found that when you listen to happy music, you tend to feel happier. Further, listening to sadder, scarier music invokes more negative emotions. The advice is clear, when feeling anxious, especially about an upcoming presentation, listen to positive, upbeat music. This can be hard though, since people tend to listen to music that reflects their current mood (thereby reinforcing it), rather than the mood they wish to experience.
Get Likes. Reading supportive, happy comments on social media from friends prior to undertaking stressful events, such as a math exam or giving a presentation, can not only improve performance, but reduce anxiety as well. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found this was a robust effect, especially for those who were most phobic. If you have a stress inducing event coming up, you can solicit positive comments from your social media connections to help you cope and do better.