Being in Nature Can Do Wonders for Body Image

positive body image is a hard thing to come by these days. Being surrounded by reminders of skewed societal expectations can be exhausting and lead to someone feeling pretty crummy about how they look. While there are many well-known ways to combat a poor body image, scientists have discovered one simple element that can be incredibly helpful for restoring self-appreciation… an element that is free, accessible and never in short supply: nature!

 Researchers from Anglia Ruskin University, Perdana University in Malaysia, and University College London recently published a series of studies in the academic journal Body Image. The experiments focused on participants who were exposed to the natural world in a variety of ways: some via photographs and some by actually stepping out into the great outdoors. All of the participants were exposed to manmade or “built” environments, as well, for comparison. The results showed that people witnessing the natural environments reported a significantly more positive body image than the others.

It has previously been found that performing certain activities out in nature, such as painting, aerobics, yoga and sports, result in more enjoyment and improved physical and mental health. But body image? How does that work?

“An environment that does not require undivided attention may provide people with cognitive quiet, which in turn may foster self-compassion such as respecting your body and appreciating it is part of a wider ecosystem requiring protection and care,” Viren Swami, lead study author and professor of Social Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University told Science Daily. “Access to nature may also mean that individuals spend more time outdoors engaging in activities that focus attention on the body’s functionality rather than aesthetics.”

It seems like the simple act of giving ourselves a break from the onslaught of diet ads and media portrayals of how people “should” look can break the spell. Allowing our minds to expand and contemplate the bigger picture can start to undo some of the harmful socialization we’ve endured and lead us on a path of healing and appreciating our bodies for more than their looks. The next time you want to achieve loving the body you have right now, start by stepping outside and seeing how you feel.


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