Why Positive People Are Less Anxious
Looking at the world with optimism or pessimism could have a lot to do with the size of your orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), the part of the brain associated with anxiety and behavioral regulation.
Researchers at the University of Illinois examined MRI’s of the brain structure of 61 young adults. They measured the amount of gray matter in different brain regions, and then compared it to the total volume of their brain. Gray matter controls decision-making, emotions, speech, sight, hearing and muscle control. Next, the participants completed questionnaires that measured their overall mood as well as optimism, pessimism, anxiety, and depression.
Their results, published in Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, showed that participants with a thicker OFC were less likely to be anxious as well as more optimistic.
The researchers believe that a positive outlook has a protective effect on the OFC, thus reducing anxiety. Next they want to explore if people can actually change the size of their OFC by training themselves to be more optimistic.