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Reduce Social Anxiety with This Mindfulness Meditation

Can you really reduce social anxiety with mindfulness meditation? Social anxiety can be life-limiting, its negative effects filling people with seemingly constant fear and dread. You can indeed reduce social anxiety with mindfulness; however, it's a persistent and gradual process of meeting the root of this type of anxiety and creating a sense of calm rather than agitation. Let's look at how this happens and gain a mindfulness meditation to help reduce social anxiety. 

Understand What Underlies Social Anxiety to Reduce It with Mindfulness Meditation

Those of us who live or have lived with social anxiety can attest that much of this anxiety disorder has to do with fear of the negative opinions of and judgment by others. It's also associated with worries and trepidations about relating to others (the desire to "fit in," even with one or two people, isn't restricted to adolescence but is a life-long human need). 

What isn't always understood is that social anxiety runs deeper. It can stem from an intolerance of uncertainty.1 For example, someone knows that he fears the consequences of being evaluated and found to be "less than." Running beneath this fear is a lot of questions with unknown answers: 

  • How badly will I be judged, and in what ways?
  • Is there anything I can do to be accepted?
  • Will I be able to look calm?
  • What if I do something embarrassing?
  • What if I need to leave but can't get to the door?

Naturally, people try to answer these anxiety-provoking questions, but it's impossible to guess the answers because they're uncertain. Anxiety makes us intolerant of this uncertainty. This intolerance of uncertainty causes heightened anxiety that keeps people on edge around other people. In response, the anxious brain tries to control, sort, and label what's going on.2 Rather than alleviating social anxiety, uncertainty intolerance provokes it and can end up causing you to confirm your fears.

To break the cycle of uncertainty intolerance, social anxiety, and the attempt to control the fears and worries, try using mindfulness or mindfulness meditation. The following example can get you started. Feel free to keep and use it as-is or modify it to better suit you. 

A Mindfulness Meditation to Reduce Social Anxiety

Many people prefer to get accustomed to this exercise at home before trying it in a situation where they're already anxious. Doing so increases your comfort level and familiarity with this mindfulness meditation, which makes it easier and more effective. 

  • Tune in to your breath. Hear the air entering your nose. Feel your chest, lungs, and belly expanding. Feel and hear your exhale. Take as many slow, deep breaths as you'd like to.
  • Notice your surroundings, but don't get stuck to any image, person, or sound. If you happen to spot a person who makes you anxious, don't keep your attention there. Gently continue loosely scanning the room.
  • Experience this as a symphony, with no single sound or site becoming prominent. Don't pluck a single instrument or player out of the symphony. This way, your worries and uncertainties about a player or group of players don't gain power over you.
  • Merely observe. Avoid labeling, judging, or sticking to a thought about your situation. Often, the uncertainties of social anxiety are easier to tolerate when you become accustomed to zooming out, focusing on no one but casually and calmly taking in everything.
  • Repeat. Use this mindfulness meditation as many times you need to during a social situation. The more you use it, the more natural and effective in reducing social anxiety it becomes. 

Trying to manipulate, control, and force people-related anxiety into exile tends to worsen it. Mindfulness meditation, on the other hand, can gradually reduce social anxiety. You can be calm rather than agitated during any social situation you find yourself in. 

Sources

1. Peterson, T., The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety. Althea Press, 2018.

2. O'Neill, A., Meditation for Relaxation. Althea Press, 2019.

 

APA Reference
NCC, T. (2019, June 13). Reduce Social Anxiety with This Mindfulness Meditation , HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 26 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2019/6/reduce-social-anxiety-with-this-mindfulness-meditation



Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety, The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps, and five critically-acclaimed, award-winning novels about mental health challenges. She speaks nationally about mental health, and she has a curriculum for middle and high schools. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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