Committing an act of kindness can be rewarding, but did you know it might also help reduce social anxiety?
That’s what two Canadian researchers have found in a study published in the publication Motivation and Emotion. Researchers Jennifer Trew and Lynn Alden looked at some of the underlying factors of people living with social nervousnes disorder and determined an interesting pattern in behaviour.
People suffering from social nervousnes ailment which is defined by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America( ADAA) as ” extreme fear of being scrutinized and judged by others in social or performance situations ” often take steps to avoid socialize. In such studies, Trew and Alden analyzed those steps to see what kind of effect they had on a ctually reducing the symptoms of social anxiety .
Hi there. You on the stage. Welcome to your social anxiety disorder nightmare situation. Image by Phil Simon/ Flickr.
In other words, they decided to test what would happen if they interrupted the pattern of withdrawing from social situations and attain people with social nervousnes face their fears.
The study’s 115 participants made up of undergraduate students living with social nervousnes disorder were split into three separate groups.
The first group was asked to perform acts of kindness , such as mowing their neighbor’s lawn, donating to charity, or doing their roommate’s dishes.
The second group was exposed to social situations but wasn’t made to directly interact or perform specific acts.
The third group was asked to simply keep notes of what they did each day. This was the study’s control group.
Let’s imagine this father/ son duo is mowing the neighbor’s lawn in the name of science. Photo by Scott Elias/ Flickr.
In the U.S. alone, it’s estimated that around 15 million people live with social anxiety disorder.
Sometimes called “social phobia, ” social nervousnes ailment is far more than simple shyness. Instead, it’s a condition that can, as the ADAA tells, “wreak havoc on the well-being of those who suffer from it, ” disrupting their everyday lives.
As is the occurrence with other forms of nervousnes, therapy for social nervousnes disorder is highly individualized .
Most people who attempt treatment for social anxiety disorder find some improvement through therapy or medication( or a combination of the two ).
The results of the study suggest that performing acts of kindness could be another tool in the anxiety-fighting toolbox.
The study found that those who were placed into the first group( the ones who performed acts of kindness) considered the largest decrease in avoidance actions. Those in the second group experienced some decrease, but not as fast nor as drastically. As a result of the decrease in avoidance actions, participants ensure their overall anxiety symptoms improve as well .
“Acts of kindness may help to counter negative social expectations by promoting more positive perceptions and expectations of a person’s social environment, ” says Trew. “It helps to reduce their levels of social nervousnes and, in turn, constructs them less likely to want to avoid social situations.”
Comedian John Mulaney even tells a joke about the oh-so-good feeling that comes with avoidance actions. Unfortunately, for those working with social nervousnes ailment, avoiding social interactions might be making their nervousnes worse as a result and that’s what constructs this study a success.
Still, what a lovely feeling it is. GIF from Comedy Central.
Does this mean standard therapies for social nervousnes disorder is likely to be shelved in favor of some community service in the near future? Not a chance.
But understanding how deliberate behaviors can affect symptoms of nervousnes is useful in coming up with new and effective forms of treatment moving forward, and these types of exercising can be helpful additions to other treatment techniques.
“An intervention using this technique may work especially well early on while participants anticipate positive reactions from others in response to their kindness, ” Alden adds in the study’s description.
So run do something nice for a friend or a neighbor. It certainly couldn’t hurt.
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