Mindfulness and Social Anxiety

Most people get nervous when asked to give a presentation or meet a new group of people. However, for those who suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder, also known as Social Phobia, the idea of addressing a crowd often triggers more than just jittery nerves. Headaches, sleep problems and persistent thoughts of failure or embarrassment are common. This anxiety may be provoked by a variety of social situations, not just public speaking, but also by challenges such as participating or presenting at meetings or talking with a group of people.

In a study at Stanford University, headed by psychology researcher Philippe Goldin, participants with Social Anxiety Disorder underwent the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Programme. Results of the study were published in the Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy in early 2009. Goldin focused on the negative thoughts which dominate the anticipated future for those suffering from anxiety: “The idea is that if a person has the psychological flexibility to shift freely from one mode of thinking to another mode, then that is a sign of health, It’s when we get stuck in certain thinking patterns that our beliefs become maladaptive.“. The study found that mindfulness meditation helped patients develop this flexibility.

On a day-to-day level, Goldin encourages patients battling Social Anxiety Disorder to take “meaningful pauses” throughout the day as a way to monitor and take charge of their fears and self-doubts. “It breaks the circuit,” says one participant. “I always thought that anxiety had me in its grip, but I realized it’s the other way around. I have it in my grip. It’s a matter of learning to let it go.”

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