How Do Mindfulness-Based Interventions Reduce Social Anxiety?
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Social anxiety is much more than feeling incredibly shy around new people. Social anxiety disorder makes it challenging to meet new people or hang out with friends due to the fear of being judged or watched by others. This persistent fear can make it hard to do everyday tasks, ultimately affecting school or work.
A social anxiety disorder may cause you to fear being called on in classes, attending meetings with your boss, standing in lines at the grocery store, picking up the phone, or attending events like weddings, graduations, showers, etc. Things as simple as using the restroom or eating and drinking in public may make you feel uneasy.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), you may have a social anxiety disorder if you experience these symptoms for six or more months. Research also shows that the disorder affects about seven percent of Americans.
Typical treatment for social anxiety disorder includes psychotherapy, medication, or a combination. However, mindfulness-based interventions can help you focus on your recovery journey by developing the ability to calm yourself when feeling overwhelmed or stressed in social settings.
Signs and Symptoms
The NIMH has found that people experiencing social anxiety usually tend to:
- Sweat, tremble, or blush
- Experience a racing heart or have trouble catching their breath
- Feel nauseous or sick to their stomach in front of others
- Avoid places where people will likely be
- Make little to no eye contact and speak unusually soft
- Have a hard time holding a conversation with others, even when they wish they could
There isn’t enough evidence to determine what causes the disorder. Social anxiety sometimes runs in the family, but, according to NIMH, misreading others’ behavior plays a significant role. For example, you may believe someone is staring at you with a less than friendly look on their face when in fact, they’re not. Researchers are exploring whether or not stress and environmental factors play a role.
What Are Mindfulness-Based Interventions?
Mindfulness is defined as paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. Mindfulness-based interventions (MBI) are designed to train people to cultivate mindfulness and incorporate it into their daily life. MBIs aim to relieve symptoms related to mental health and even physical pain.
According to a 2018 study, MBIs can be broken down into a two-component model.
- Self-regulation of attention is the first component that requires one to observe and become more aware of their physical, mental, and emotional condition in the present moment. The idea is to be able to pay attention to feelings and sensations without being influenced by them. You can learn how to control your thoughts instead of letting them control you. This leads a person to be more alert to what is happening.
- The second component of MBIs is being open to and accepting your experience. This requires one to be curious about the present moment without trying to change what’s happening — being curious means noticing the thought or situation you’re in but trying not to react to it. Another aspect of this component is to have no expectations for how you will feel.
Both components allow you to use mindfulness skills to look at the situation more neutrally to positively impact how you view yourself and the world around you. MBIs slow you down to allow you to consider different ways of responding to situations.
MBIs are commonly delivered through meditation, where you will be directed to focus on the present moment. Therapists will encourage you to understand and address emotions without reacting to them. The ultimate goal is to implement mindfulness practices in all aspects of your life, especially in a non-clinical setting.
Practicing mindfulness may include:
- Observing and describing things around you without judgment
- Fully participating or giving your full attention to a specific task
- Practicing compassion for yourself and others
One example of bringing mindfulness to relationships is putting phones away or turning the television off to listen to what the person is saying and how it makes you feel. Then, enjoy one another’s company without distractions, judgments, or expectations. This can also help you practice communicating with another person without feeling anxious, awkward, or embarrassed.
Yoga, sitting, walking, or meditation in nature are great ways to heighten awareness of physical sensations around you. However, it only takes one small negative thought to cause you to spiral and trigger anxious feelings. Practicing mindfulness can help you separate yourself from these thoughts, emotions, or sensations before they become too much to handle. Remember that mindfulness is not dismissing thoughts, feelings, or experiences. Instead, it’s about recognizing and accepting what you’re feeling, good or bad.
Are you uncomfortable in social settings? Does the fear of being judged by others prevent you from meeting new people or going out with old friends? Don’t let social anxiety disorder and the fear of being humiliated or rejected keep you from reaching your full potential in recovery. If you worry about upcoming events or outings weeks before they happen, it may be time to implement mindfulness-based interventions. Developing a positive relationship with your thoughts and practicing strategies to process emotions nonjudgmentally will help you calm yourself when feeling stressed. Connect with like-minded people experiencing social anxiety disorder at Alter Wellness Care and learn how our approach to the disorder has helped countless people overcome the fear of being judged. Our program allows you to share your experiences and learn more about yourself. For more information, call us today at (866) 311-3510.
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