If the foot shaking under the table doesn't give you away, then the gum snapping certainly does: You're anxious. And however you cope with your anxiety--or don't--new research reveals an all-natural fix: Being nice. Turns out that good deeds, or kind acts, can make socially anxious people feel a whole lot better.
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For four weeks, University of British Columbia researchers assigned people with high levels of anxiety to do kind acts for other people at least six times a week. The acts of kindness included things like holding the door open for someone, doing chores for other people, donating to charity, and buying lunch for a friend, says study author Lynn Alden, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia. The researchers found that doing nice things for people led to a significant increase in people's positive moods. It also led to an increase in relationship satisfaction and a decrease in social avoidance.
"People who engage in kind acts become happier over time," says Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, a professor at the University of California, Riverside. Why? "When you're kind to others, you feel good as a person--more moral, optimistic, and positive," she says.
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So whether you suffer from anxiety, or just need a way to boost your mood, here are 13 everyday ways to do something nice for someone--and make yourself feel better in the process:
- Buy a coworker her favorite Starbucks frap next time you stop for morning coffee.
- When you're driving, let someone merge into your lane.
- Offer to stay late and help cleanup at your friend's party.
- Smile and make eye contact with people in the grocery store.
- Pay the toll for the person in the car behind you.
- Baby-sit for your neighbor's kids while she takes a nap.
- Make small talk with the cashier at your dry cleaner.
- Let someone go ahead of you in line at the movies.
- Visit family members you haven't seen in awhile.
- Volunteer to run an errand for a busy coworker.
- Drive a friend to the airport.
- Give a genuine compliment to someone.
- Over-tip your waiter.
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