You Need to Be Close Enough to Smell People to Be Less Socially Anxious
When it comes to curbing social anxiety, the poison might be the cure, and it stinks. Researchers recently discovered that smelling a stranger’s sweat can be a lot more calming than having a conversation with them — just as long as they don’t catch you taking a whiff.
Or as lead author Elisa Vigna explained at the European Congress of Psychiatry in Paris, “Our state of mind causes us to produce molecules (or chemo-signals) in sweat which communicate our emotional state and produce corresponding responses in the receivers. The results of our preliminary study show that combining these chemo-signals with mindfulness therapy seem to produce better results in treating social anxiety than can be achieved by mindfulness therapy alone.”
The small pilot study included 48 women who suffered from social anxiety and received either mindfulness therapy combined with smelling the sweat of various volunteers, or therapy without smelling anything. Interestingly, the volunteers who provided sweat samples were shown horror movies like The Grudge or comedies like Sister Act to provoke different emotional states associated with the sweat.
As Vigna explained above, the women who received mindfulness therapy only experienced a 17-percent reduction in anxiety symptoms, compared to women who went to therapy and smelled sweat, who experienced a 39-percent reduction in their symptoms. More surprisingly, the emotional state of the sweaters didn’t matter — their perspiration chilled people out either way. “It may be that simply being exposed to the presence of someone else has this effect, but we need to confirm this,” Vigna noted.
And with that, as they say, smell ya later.