In a recent study, published in the journal ‘Motivation and Emotion‘, researchers have found that being busy with acts of kindness can help people with social anxiety to integrate into society more easily.
Suffers of this type of anxiety frequently attempt to remove themselves from situations where socialising is expected and as such tend to “lose out on the support and intimacy gained from having relationships with others. They have fewer friends, feel insecure when interaction and often do not experience emotional intimacy even in close relationships.”
Researchers decided to test whether performing acts of kindness – which has been known to increase happiness – could aid in the restructuring of those suffering with social anxiety.
The team randomly assigned a group of 115 participants into three groups for a four-week intervention period. One group was assigned tasks related to acts of kindness, such as mowing a neighbours lawn or donating to charity. The second group was exposed to social interactions, without being allowed to engage in the same deeds, with the third group only recording their activity on a daily basis, without altering it in any way.
In the group that actively sought to participate in acts of kindness, a reduction in evasive activity was seen, with their desire to engage in social situations heightened.
The findings showed how performing these positive acts for others helped to “counter feelings of possible rejection and temporary levels of anxiety and distress”, also noticeably faster than those who did not engage in good deeds.
According to the authors of the study, the continuance of these acts will lead to an overall reduction in symptoms of social anxiety and more satisfying and engaging lives.
“Acts of kindness may help to counter negative social expectations by promoting more positive perceptions and expectations of a person’s social environment,” explains Jennifer Trew. “It helps to reduce their levels of social anxiety and, in turn, makes them less likely to want to avoid social situations.”