Can Practicing Martial Arts Reduce Social Anxiety?
Feeling anxious for everyday errands like heading to the grocery store or freezing up in an important meeting aren’t rare, but for some people, this is a daily burden. Social anxiety disorder is a condition that can hold people back from doing important and enjoyable things in their lives. With roughly 15 million people suffering from social anxiety disorder, solutions besides just medication are crucial. Many people have begun searching for alternate ways to reduce social anxiety—martial arts may be one of those ways.
While martial arts training has been shown to alleviate general anxiety, social anxiety is a different condition that has unique elements. The National Institute of Mental Health defines social anxiety disorder as “persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations…” When daily life requires many social activities, alleviating social anxiety can make a big difference in someone’s life.
Let’s look at how martial arts can help in the fight against social anxiety for you or your kids.
The Individual Among Friends
A big part of social anxiety is the fear of meeting new people. People with social anxiety often have a very small social group and find it difficult to interact with new people. Martial arts offers the perfect level of socializing to help give people with social anxiety an opportunity to push their limits.
While you won’t feel the pressure of a team sport in most martial arts, you still get the positive effect of working with people while learning in a structured environment. A lot of people with social anxiety function well around others while they’re doing a particular task rather than in free-form social interactions. The structure, hierarchy, and regimented learning found in martial arts classes helps people with social anxiety take the plunge into social activity without getting overwhelmed.
Fear of Performance
Those who suffer from social anxiety feel afraid of performing in front of other people. It’s normal for everyone to get a bit nervous when they must make a speech, perform a test in public, or play a sport. However, for people with social anxiety, these routine activities feel almost impossible.
The belt system and the structured learning of martial arts can help with social anxiety. Martial arts asks individuals to perform, but to perform the same routines appropriate to their group. In other words, a blue belt has the same curriculum as other blue belts. Taking the pressure off of your individual performance can help reduce social anxiety around performance.
Besides belt testing, practice and performance take place among other students and not in the public eye. If belt tests are public, it is still usually small collections of family and friends who attend, and sometimes the belt testing requirements are performed as a group. Making a performance as accessible as possible to someone with social anxiety helps them overcome their anxiety while keeping the bar low and reducing the intensity of the experience.
Martial Arts and Worst-Case Thinking
One of the hallmarks of social anxiety is thinking “catastrophically,” or thinking marked by assuming the absolute worst outcome in any given situation. Martial arts practice offers a surprisingly apt way to overcome this type of negative thinking pattern.
Most people fear physical conflict and the injury which can follow from it. However, when you practice martial arts, you begin to see how safe it is. Even during sparring, with the correct supervision, training, and gear, the practice is almost risk-free. Martial arts provides a real-world example of how our anticipation of an event is often far worse than the reality, a perspective that can free anyone to pursue what they want in life with less fear or anxiety.
Social Anxiety, Martial Arts, and Kids
Social anxiety is different from general anxiety and one of those differences is that social anxiety tends to begin earlier in life, usually in the early teens. General anxiety tends to manifest in the early thirties. If you’re a parent who wants to find a safe and structured environment for your child to practice overcoming social anxiety, martial arts provides an excellent opportunity.
All over the country, kids have missed out on in-person school and extracurricular activities during the pandemic. While things are beginning to change, a lot of kids were set back when it comes to learning important social acts, like interacting with their peers and teachers. Martial arts classes are a fun way for adults and kids to have social interactions. At Premier Martial Arts, we have specific classes for kids and adults, making the social aspect of martial arts just another healthy practice for self-improvement.
You’re never too old to begin martial arts. Many older people struggle with social anxiety for decades. Yet, even if you don’t suffer from social anxiety, the pandemic took away a lot of opportunities for adults to interact. Martial arts can give you the chance to meet new people, make new friends, and increase physical health all at the same time.
Start Your Martial Arts Journey Today
If you’ve been dealing with social anxiety or just enjoy the many benefits martial arts can provide, Premier Martial Arts welcomes you to experience those benefits for yourself. Simply pick out one of our many studios across the country and start your martial arts journey to becoming a happier and healthier version of yourself today.