Social anxiety is associated with low positive affect (PA), a factor that can significantly affect psychological well-being and adaptive functioning. Despite suggestions that individuals with high levels of social anxiety would benefit from PA enhancement, the feasibility of doing so remains an unanswered question. Accordingly, in the current study, individuals with high levels of social anxiety (N = 142) were randomly assigned to conditions designed to enhance PA (Kind Acts), reduce negative affect (NA; Behavioral Experiments), or a neutral control (Activity Monitoring). All participants engaged in the required activities for 4 weeks and completed prepost questionnaires measuring mood and social goals, as well as weekly email ratings of mood, anxiety, and social activities. Both the prepost and weekly mood ratings revealed that participants who engaged in kind acts displayed significant increases in PA that were sustained over the 4 weeks of the study. No significant changes in PA were observed in the other conditions. The increase in hedonic functioning was not due to differential compliance, frequency of social activities, or an indirect effect of NA reduction. In addition, participants who engaged in kind acts displayed an increase in relationship satisfaction and a decrease in social avoidance goals, whereas no significant changes in these variables were observed in the other conditions. This study is the first to demonstrate that positive affect can be increased in individuals with high levels of social anxiety and that PA enhancement strategies may result in wider social benefits. The role of PA in producing those benefits requires further study.
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