The Mindfulness Cure for Social Anxiety

It is almost a common human phenomenon that being in a social situation can be stressful and anxiety producing. This is particularly true when asked to perform in a social context such as giving a speech. Most people can deal with the anxiety and can become quite comfortable. But many do not cope well with the anxiety or the level of anxiety is overwhelming, causing the individual to withdraw.

It appears that mindfulness may help greatly with high social anxiety. In today’s Research News article, “How to deal with negative thoughts? A preliminary comparison of detached mindfulness and thought evaluation in socially anxious individuals.”

it is demonstrated that mindfulness training significantly reduces anxiety when asked to give a speech. How does mindfulness training act to reduce social anxiety?

One potential route that mindfulness training may reduce anxiety is by increasing present moment awareness. Looking at what exactly is true in the immediate moment and seeing it as it is, can produce a recognition that social interactions are not threatening and needing to be avoided. When actually paying attention to the conversation and the cues in the environment the individual can relax and performs better. With practice, the improved social skills increase self-confidence. This can result in a cycle with positive gain, over time continuously improving mindfulness and self-confidence and reducing high social anxiety.

Today’s Research News article demonstrated that mindfulness training reduces anticipatory processing. Anticipatory processing is a type of worry about forthcoming social situations, involving anxious predictions, negative recollections, and urges to avoid social events. This anticipation of negative occurrences is a projection into the future. By focusing on the present moment, worries about the future cannot develop. So, the present moment awareness fostered by mindfulness training counteracts anticipatory processing and thereby reduces social anxiety.

Today’s article also demonstrated that mindfulness training reduces observer-perspective. People with high social anxiety often have distorted negative self-images from an observer perspective. They have a distorted idea of how others see them. This negative self-image that they believe is how they are perceived in social situations, maintains and increases anxiety, negative beliefs about social performance, anxious predictions, and poorer actual performance.

Mindfulness training helps to develop non-judgmental awareness of the present moment. Just seeing what is transpiring without adding conclusions about it counteracts the observer-perspective conceptualizations and judgments. When the present moment is simply perceived without coloration from beliefs, ideas, and past experiences, it becomes much less threatening and much more benign, allowing for more comfortable engagement in social interactions.

So, practice mindfulness in social contexts and enhance enjoyment of interacting with others.


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