Researchers from Simon Fraser University and the University of British Colombia claim evidence that “doing good deeds” helps people relax. Do random acts of kindness reduce social anxiety?
I’d love to believe that such is the case. And if this turns out to be true, it also suggests something a little darker in the minds of people with social anxiety.
Jennifer Trew, one of the researchers involved in this study, said, “Acts of kindness may help to counter negative social expectations by promoting more positive perceptions and expectations of a person’s social environment,” explains Trew. “It helps to reduce their levels of social anxiety and, in turn, makes them less likely to want to avoid social situations.”
The study involved 115 college students with social anxiety. The study group was instructed to perform prosocial acts of kindness on a daily basis. This group showed an overall reduction in the desire to avoid social interaction during the experiment, which led researchers to conclude a causal relationship between good deeds that benefit others and a reduction in primary symptoms of social anxiety.
Is the opposite also true?
One wonders if performing random acts of cruelty would, in turn, increase social anxiety. If this were the case, cruel people would suffer the most social anxiety. Is this fair logic? It may not be.
From a different angle, what do acts of kindness and the subsequent reduction in social anxiety say about how socially anxious people view others in general? Does it say anything at all?
After all, it is the inner paradigm – what the anxious person sees in others – that causes social anxiety. Beliefs such as
- people hate me
- they think I am a fool
- I won’t be accepted
…are the engine that drive social anxiety. It’s safe to say that with social anxiety, how we see others and how we feel are intimately related. Something about serving others with our good deeds and anticipating a positive response leads to a decrease in social anxiety. Does this imply that by default those with social anxiety tend to view others in a more negative light, as judgemental, exacting, or non-accepting?
Just thinking out loud.