Article: Yes We Can... Change

Yes we can... change.

Recently I've heard from a few people (through my podcast) that are just feeling stuck in their anxiety and have lost a little bit of hope. I know that place, it's not fun, so this piece is for them and for anyone else that is having a hard time remembering that we're all innately "okay," and that even when we're not feeling "okay," we WILL feel better. No one is born with health anxiety, or perfectionism, or low self-efficacy. These things are learned, and they're actually quite inconsistent (sometimes I think I'm awesome, sometimes not so much) because they're not the "real" us.

I recently came across this article about a research study out of the University of Illinois, which concluded that we can, in fact, change. Conventional wisdom says that your personality is pretty well set by the time you reach adulthood. If you're a 30-something curmudgeon, you'll tend to become a 70-something curmudgeon. Talking to you Andy (my husband). Or so conventional wisdom would have you believe, but this recent scientific study (and many others) cites evidence to the contrary.

Sometimes scientists experiment and write about their results, but sometimes they review dozens or even hundreds of other groups' findings and make broad conclusions about a larger topic. This study was one of those review papers. Basically the researchers reviewed more than 200 other studies about how people's personalities changed as a result of what they called "therapeutic interventions." Therapeutic interventions can be a lot of things - mindfulness, talk therapy, medication, hospitalization, CBT, etc. In general, those 200+ studies involved having participants fill out questionnaires about their attitudes and behavior both before and after some kind of intervention or combination of interventions. The questionnaires were designed to evaluate participants' level of emotional stability and its counterpart, neuroticism, which is associated with anxiety, moodiness, and depression.

Based on the results of those 200+ studies, the University of Illinois researchers found a significant and consistent improvement in levels of emotional stability as a result of a variety of interventions. On average, the studies lasted 24 weeks, but at least 50 of them tracked participants' wellness long after their intervention(s), indicating that the positive personality changes were long-term. And most exciting, the greatest improvements were actually seen in people with anxiety disorders. How cool is that?

As it turns out, you can teach an old dog new tricks! So if you're in the thick of it, and you're having a hard time seeing a bright future, take heart. You can feel better; you will feel better. Science says so.