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Are we happier alone or with others when we feel socially anxious?

Are those of us experiencing social anxiety happier alone?

It would be easy to assume that someone experiencing social anxiety is happier alone than with other people. After all, feeling socially anxious means fearing social situations and, to avoid potential rejection, criticism and ridicule, we tend to avoid social interactions. This belief can fuel our desire to hide ourselves away and avoid socialising, thinking we’ll feel better if we are by ourselves… but do we?

Well, does it surprise you to learn that this isn’t true? A recent research study found that people who experience social anxiety are happier with others than they are when they’re alone. Perhaps you intuitively knew that anyway? After all, as human beings we’re wired for connection and every one of us has a longing for closeness with others –it’s a basic human need. Previous studies have even suggested that our need for belongingness is likely to be stronger when we experience social anxiety.

Now, we’re not saying that this means you’re not going to feel a sense of anxiety and other uncomfortable emotions when in social situations, but we do want you to know that it is entirely possible to feel a mix of positive and negative emotions at the same time in any given situation –and we do. This means that feeling anxious or worrying about socialising does not stop you from experiencing positive emotions during social interactions; in fact, people who experience social anxiety can and do experience good feelings during social interactions and even enjoy socialising, despite any anxious feelings they might also have.

Interestingly, the results of the study also found that people experiencing social anxiety feel similar levels of negative emotions both during social interactions and in time alone. Which means that, if reducing those uncomfortable feelings is the goal, avoiding social interactions might be a misguided coping strategy that unhelpfully limits the positive emotions that we could be feeling, rather than preventing us from experiencing negative emotions.

People who experience social anxiety tend to spend less time with close friends. Yet, spending time with close friends and partners has been proven to increase the positive emotions that we feel -and positive emotions can actually make us more resilient and better able to cope in difficult situations.

So, when we’re making avoiding uncomfortable emotions our priority, we’re limiting the experiences that can generate positive emotions within us. We miss out on moments of laughter, joy, connection, belonging, contentment, awe, love and excitement in life (and so much more!) because of the choices we make, so we end up feeling positive emotions less often. And for what? Living in this way means we often end up experiencing negative emotions anyway –just without the positive!

But what if our intention was to seek out the feel-good in life? Even everyday fleeting experiences of mild positive emotions can broaden your mind and shift habitual ways of thinking and behaving, triggering an upwards spiral of wellbeing. So many positive emotions come from interacting with others (it’s how we’re built!). However, at Quiet Connections we never recommend diving in at the deep end when it comes to socialising. Think about how you can gently stretch your comfort zone, perhaps intentionally creating small moments of one-to-one connection with one or two people to begin with. If you would like some help with this, check out our coaching and Meet Up opportunities.

Join us at a Quiet Meet Up in Cornwall

Our Meet Ups across Cornwall gently connect quieteers like us in a safe relaxing space where it’s okay to talk and it’s okay to be quiet too.

We can’t wait to welcome you. Find and join you nearest Meet Up here.

Author

  • Hayley Stanton

    Hi, I’m Hayley - the original quieteer. I, too, identify as a quiet person. I’m naturally a highly sensitive introvert and I love and appreciate my quiet strengths now, but I spent much of my life not feeling good enough and experiencing social anxiety. I missed so many opportunities because I was afraid of being judged harshly, criticised and rejected – and because I doubted that I had the ‘right’ personality to succeed. Quiet Connections exists in part because I had a fantastic coach who helped me to work through old patterns of keeping myself small and hidden so that I could show up and be seen to play my part in creating the more connected, curious and compassionate world that I dream of. Now, I’m passionate about helping quiet people discover their unique qualities, gifts, passions and experiences and explore how best to use these to express themselves more authentically and contribute to the world in a way that works with their quieter or more sensitive nature. Get to know me here.

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