Body image ‘threats’ are reduced in natural environments

Destructive thoughts and feelings are lowered through time spent among nature, while coping mechanisms improve, according to research conducted by Anglia Ruskin University.

Although the study is limited, the resulting paper, the first of its kind to be published, claims the findings offer proof that the more time an individual spends in natural environments, the better equipped they are to deal with body image issues. Distancing oneself from triggers like advertising, social media, and unrealistic appearance standards is thought to be the biggest driver. 

The work involved 401 participants from across the UK. Each was asked to complete a survey detailing how frequently they spent time in nature, and the impact on their feelings. They were also asked about overall levels of body appreciation, and ‘rational acceptance’ – a broadly defined coping mechanism pertaining to how well people keep self-image in perspective. 

woman smelling red roses

‘There is already evidence that being in nature in itself promotes positive body image, but this is the first study to look at how exposure to nature can help the mind cope with temporary feelings of negative body image that we all experience from time to time, and keep a sense of perspective,’ said Viren Swami, Professor of Social Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University, and lead author on the paper. 

‘We know that positive body image boosts mental health, and this study adds weight to the growing body of evidence about the importance of exposure to nature, and how we need to ensure as a society that everyone has as much access to natural environments as possible,’ Swami added. 

In related news, a separate study by University College London, published in July 2021,  showed children’s mental health improves with more time spent in nature, specifically woodland. 

Photo credit:  Drop the Label Movement




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