There's no shortage of suggestions on how to get over your social anxiety out there, but you're not going to like most of them.

Take "radical implosion," for example. Recommended by both psychologists and a handful of formerly shy celebrities like Conan O'Brien and Will Ferrell, this method prescribes doing whatever most mortifies you (for Ferrell, that was letting his butt hang out of his pants as he walked across his college campus) over and over again until you simply start feeling less anxious.

Yeah, that doesn't appeal to me either.

A cure for social anxiety you're actually going to like

But thanks to science there may now actually be an easier way. And better yet, not only is this approach research-backed and straightforward, it's also downright pleasant. The best cure for social anxiety, a recent study claims, is simply random acts of kindness.

The research comes from a pair of Canadian psychologists and is featured in an e-book on anxiety from PsyBlog. For the study, the researchers split socially anxious volunteers into three groups--one was asked to perform random acts of kindness, one was told to follow the usual course of exposure therapy and force themselves to participate in more social situations, and another was a control group who did nothing special.

Which group felt the greatest reduction in their social anxiety? Not the folks who took Will Ferrell's advice, but instead those who did their roommate's dishes or offered a few extra compliments. Being nice, the researchers theorize, unsurprisingly causes others to be nice in return, which offers the shy positive social experiences that help to build their confidence and calm their nerves.

"Acts of kindness may help to counter negative social expectations by promoting more positive perceptions and expectations of a person's social environment. It helps to reduce their levels of social anxiety and, in turn, makes them less likely to want to avoid social situations," comments Jennifer Trew, one of the authors of the study.

While the researchers hope to use these findings in a clinical setting, they also seem to offer ready-made advice for those suffering from everyday levels of shyness. When your nerves are getting the better of you at a party or another social event, simply remember this study and see if spreading a little happiness doesn't make the whole experience a bit more joyful for you, too.

Published on: Nov 2, 2016
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