3 Simple Mindfulness Practices to Overcome Social Anxiety

These practices can help you to become more confident and present.


Rob Rando

3 years ago | 5 min read

The other day I went outside to water my garden.

On my way to the back flower bed, I saw my neighbor out in his yard. Instantly, I got anxious about having to interact with a human being other than my wife. In my head, I was thinking about how I could avoid the interaction.

I let my anxiety guide me to the hanging baskets first. This was the furthest away point away from my neighbor, Gary. I was just out of reach of social interaction. Still, the flower bed had to be watered and he wasn’t going anywhere. What was I to do?!

As I write this it’s easy to see how irrational I was being, but that’s what anxiety is. It is getting so consumed by your thoughts that they prevent you from moving forward.

Mindfulness helps you to become present enough to create space between you and your anxious thoughts. This ‘space’ allows us to observe and acknowledge your anxiety, but not let it overtake you.

If it wasn’t for mindfulness I would have simply avoided the interaction. I ended up walking over to my neighbor and having a great conversation. I left the interaction with my plants watered and feeling more connected to the world. A positive outcome.

I’m no mindfulness master, but I have picked up a few things that have helped me to manage my anxiety. Here are 3 fresh tips to help you to simplify the concept.

Be Like a Dog.

Are dogs fearless? It certainly does seem that way. I’ve seen a small 6-pound dog aggressively defend it’s space on the sidewalk while looking up to a dog 15x its size. I can tell you one thing; dogs don’t think of consequences like we do.

Our fears are often based entirely on consequences. The emotion of worry is a fear created by our imagination.

Animals on the other hand are do-ers. Sure, they get scared sometimes but their fears are in the moment. Dogs fear loud noises, fireworks, thunderstorms, and sometimes random objects. For a dog, these are immediate threats of danger.

There I was ready to go inside instead of watering my garden. Full on avoidance mode.

My social anxiety presents itself as a fear of a certain consequence. I imagine the interaction with my neighbor as being awkward and stifled. This is a threat to my self-esteem and identity, which makes me want to run away.

Contrast this with how my dog interacts with my neighbor.

I have two little chihuahuas, Thelma and Louise. Louise is a rolly looking dog that only wants her belly pet. When she sees my neighbor, she runs to him with full enthusiasm with intentions for pets. It doesn’t matter if his hands are full or if he looks ‘busy’.

She isn’t thinking about rejection or approval. It just is what is.

Mindfulness for Social Anxiety Lesson #1 — Be dog-like and approach each interaction with presence and enthusiasm. In short, “let’s see what happens”

Lousie running to greet the neighbor — photo by author

Let Your Body Do the Talking.

When I find myself in anxiety triggering in a situation, I try to remember one thing. Just keep moving. It’s amazing how the body knows what to do if you just let it go.

Moving forward into a situation can feel scary, but that’s only if you get stuck in your head.

In meditation, you can silence the constant stream of inner dialogue by going deeply into the body. What does that mean? It means concentrating on the lifeforce within the body.

Focus on the breathing, the movement of your belly, your feet on the floor, the air around you.

Give your mind something to concentrate on other than the ever-constant trickle of thoughts.

“Go within. Use the inner body as a starting point for going deeper and taking your attention away from where it’s usually lodged, in the thinking mind.” Eckhart Tolle

Let’s go back to the action step here. If you find yourself in a social situation that is causing anxiety, breath, and walk. Walk toward whatever it is that you are avoiding. While doing so try to trust the body.

Concentrate more on the physical activity of walking and less on the inner dialogue in your head.

Mindfulness for Social Anxiety Lesson #2 — Practice going within the body often, feeling your life force. When anxiety presents itself, shift the focus on walking and breathing.

Disconnect From Your Thoughts.

When I first started meditating I expected an instant cure to my social anxiety. Unfortunately, I found out that it doesn’t quite work that way. Meditation doesn’t cure anxiety, it makes you aware of it.

More specifically, meditation helps us to realize that we are not our thoughts. When we no longer identify with our thoughts anxiety loses its power over us.

Awareness creates space. There is you and then there is the inner dialogue. This separation gives us a chance to see and observe the thoughts without ‘becoming’ them.

You don’t have to control your thoughts. You just have to stop letting them control you.” — Dan Millman (Author, Way of the Peaceful Warrior)

While I highly recommend meditation, it’s not a requirement. You can disconnect from your thoughts by simply becoming aware of them. After enough practice, you start to realize that thoughts are just thoughts and that you can choose to identify with them or not.

Our natural inclination is to listen and identify with the thoughts that we have in our heads. When your inner dialogue says something like “you’re so awkward”, we tend to believe those words.

Notice that the phrase we are using here is to disconnect from our thoughts. We are not saying that having anxiety is bad and needs to be changed. Instead, we are making it a practice to become aware of our thoughts. Hear them, and with that distance observe from a plane of awareness.

Mindfulness for Social Anxiety Lesson #3 — Observe the anxious thoughts in your head to disempower anxiety. No need to try and change it, let it be and choose to not identify with it. This is how we gain control of our lives.

Final Take Away.

The words on this page are easier to understand than they are to implement. This is because, within the moment, our anxiety can take us over. Emotions are strong. At first, it will not be easy to simply disconnect from your thoughts.

Mindfulness is a lifetime practice.

In the past, I’ve followed the comfortable path of avoidance, resistance, as well as inauthentic positivity. All of those ‘solutions’ were nothing more than bandaids that didn’t address the real problem I had.

What it comes down to is transmuting your fears by facing them head-on. You do this by becoming highly aware of what your fears are and moving forward anyway. Become the watcher and observe (thanks Eckhart Tolle).

Mindfulness is a combination of letting go of what we want to happen and watching what happens. In this way, we conquer our social anxiety by learning to accept it and thereby eliminating its power over us.


Created by

Rob Rando







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