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Social Anxiety Can Be Reduced In This Practical Way

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Social anxiety can be crippling, leading to lost opportunities at work and in romantic relationships. A simple tip can help, new study finds.

Performing acts of kindness — one of the steps in PsyBlog’s anxiety ebook — can help people with social anxiety mingle with others more easily, a new study finds.

Social anxiety is about more than just being a little shy.

For sufferers, social anxiety can be crippling, leading to lost opportunities at work and elsewhere.

It can be difficult for people who are socially anxious to get close to others.

Naturally they tend to have fewer friends and can lose out on that vital source of pleasure and support.

Social anxiety and acts of kindness

Canadian researchers Jennifer Trew and Lynn Alden wanted to see if performing acts of kindness might be beneficial to the socially anxious.

People recruited into the study were put into one of three groups for four weeks:

  • One group performed acts of kindness, like doing their roommates’ dishes.
  • Another group were exposed to various social interactions without the acts of kindness.
  • A third group who did nothing special acted as a control.

At the end of the study it was those who’d performed the acts of kindness who felt more comfortable in social interactions.

The acts of kindness seemed to help people deal with worries about rejection.

Dr Jennifer Trew said:

“Acts of kindness may help to counter negative social expectations by promoting more positive perceptions and expectations of a person’s social environment.

It helps to reduce their levels of social anxiety and, in turn, makes them less likely to want to avoid social situations.”

Professor Lynn Alden said:

“An intervention using this technique may work especially well early on while participants anticipate positive reactions from others in response to their kindness.”

The study was published in the journal Motivation and Emotion (Trew & Alden, 2015).

About the author

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.

He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:

Dr Dean’s bio, Twitter, Facebook and how to contact him.

→ 10 Signs of Anxiety Everyone Should Know.