A new study claims that yoga and other exercises, which have relaxing effect on our bodies, can help people with social anxiety disorders look at the world positively. Adam Heenan, a Ph.D. from Queen’s University found that relaxation activities literally change the way people perceive the world, altering their perception so that they view the environment in a less threatening, less negative way. For people with mood and anxiety disorders, this is an important breakthrough.
For the research, Heenan used point-light displays, a depiction of a human that is comprised of a series of dots representing the major joints. Human point-light displays are depth-ambiguous and because of this, an observer looking at the display could see it as either facing towards them or facing away. Researchers have found people who are socially anxious perceive these figures as facing towards them more often. Heenan said that they found that people who either walked or jogged on a treadmill for 10 minutes perceived these ambiguous figures as facing towards them (the observer) less often than those who simply stood on the treadmill. The same was true when people performed progressive muscle relaxation. This was important because anxious people display a bias to focus on more threatening things in their environment. The research is published in PLOS one.