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Feeling anxious? A new study suggests an interesting remedy: doing good deeds.

A new study shows that performing acts of kindness might have the added benefit of helping treat symptoms of social anxiety.

Committing an act of kindness can be rewarding, but did you know it might also help reduce social anxiety?

That's what two Canadian researchers have found in a study published in the journal Motivation and Emotion. Researchers Jennifer Trew and Lynn Alden looked at some of the underlying factors of people living with social anxiety disorder and found an interesting pattern in behavior.

People suffering from social anxiety disorder — which is defined by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) as "extreme fear of being scrutinized and judged by others in social or performance situations" — frequently take steps to avoid socializing. In the study, Trew and Alden examined those steps to see what kind of effect they had on actually reducing the symptoms of social anxiety.


Hi there. You on the stage. Welcome to your social anxiety disorder nightmare situation. Image by Phil Simon/Flickr.

In other words, they decided to test what would happen if they disrupted the pattern of withdrawing from social situations and make people with social anxiety face their fears.

The study's 115 participants — made up of undergraduate students living with social anxiety disorder — were split into three separate groups.

The first group was asked to perform acts of kindness, such as mowing their neighbor's lawn, donating to charity, or doing their roommate's dishes.

The second group was exposed to social situations but wasn't made to directly interact or perform specific acts.

The third group was asked to simply keep notes of what they did each day. This was the study's control group.

Let's imagine this father/son duo is mowing the neighbor's lawn in the name of science. Photo by Scott Elias/Flickr.

In the U.S. alone, it's estimated that around 15 million people live with social anxiety disorder.

Sometimes called "social phobia," social anxiety disorder is far more than simple shyness. Instead, it's a condition that can, as the ADAA says, "wreak havoc on the lives of those who suffer from it," disrupting their everyday lives.

As is the case with other forms of anxiety, treatment for social anxiety disorder is highly individualized.

Most people who seek treatment for social anxiety disorder find some improvement through therapy or medication (or a combination of the two).

The results of the study suggest that performing acts of kindness could be another tool in the anxiety-fighting toolbox.

The study found that those who were placed into the first group (the ones who performed acts of kindness) saw the largest decrease in avoidance actions. Those in the second group experienced some decrease, but not as fast nor as drastically. As a result of the decrease in avoidance actions, participants saw their overall anxiety symptoms improve as well.

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

Comedian John Mulaney even tells a joke about the oh-so-good feeling that comes with avoidance actions. Unfortunately, for those with social anxiety disorder, avoiding social interactions might be making their anxiety worse as a result — and that's what makes this study a success.

Still, what a lovely feeling it is. GIF from Comedy Central.

Does this mean standard treatments for social anxiety disorder will be shelved in favor of some community service in the near future? Not a chance.

But understanding how deliberate behaviors can affect symptoms of anxiety is useful in coming up with new and effective forms of treatment moving forward, and these types of exercise can be helpful additions to other treatment methods.

"An intervention using this technique may work especially well early on while participants anticipate positive reactions from others in response to their kindness," Alden adds in the study's description.

So go do something nice for a friend or a neighbor. It certainly couldn't hurt.

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Democracy

Appalachian mom's speech on Kentucky's proposed abortion ban is a must-hear for everyone

Danielle Kirk is speaking up for those often overlooked in our cultural debates.

Canva, courtesy of Danielle Kirk

Appalachian mom gives passionate speech.

Many people felt a gut punch when the Supreme Court issued its decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned the decades-old Roe v. Wade decision that protected a woman's right to an abortion. However, for some this was a call to action.

Danielle Kirk, 27, a mom of two and an activist on TikTok, used her voice in an attempt to educate the people that make decisions in her small town. Kirk lives in Kentucky where a trigger law came into effect immediately after Roe v. Wade was overturned. Being a former foster child, she knew she had to say something. Kirk spoke exclusively with Upworthy about why she decided to speak up.

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Memories of childhood get lodged in the brain, emerging when you least expect.

There are certain pleasurable sights, smells, sounds and tastes that fade into the rear-view mirror as we grow from being children to adults. But on a rare occasion, we’ll come across them again and it's like a portion of our brain that’s been hidden for years expresses itself, creating a huge jolt of joy.

It’s wonderful to experience this type of nostalgia but it often leaves a bittersweet feeling because we know there are countless more sensations that may never come into our consciousness again.

Nostalgia is fleeting and that's a good thing because it’s best not to live in the past. But it does remind us that the wonderful feeling of freedom, creativity and fun from our childhood can still be experienced as we age.

A Reddit user by the name of agentMICHAELscarnTLM posed a question to the online forum that dredged up countless memories and experiences that many had long forgotten. He asked a simple question, “What’s something you can bring up right now to unlock some childhood nostalgia for the rest of us?”

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