by Tina Kusal – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok – it’s definitely a social media world. Everyone has a smartphone or tablet these days and everywhere you look, heads are down and thumbs are scrolling. And, anxiety is rising. Specifically, body image anxiety.
It is no secret that the majority of images we scroll through are altered in some way. Be it an airbrushed selfie, removing objects, or changing lighting, the bottom line is that most of what we see is not real. When it comes to body image, the constant exposure to this “unrealistic perfection”, causes negative self-feelings.
But, this is not just what psychology textbooks say. I, too, find myself scrolling through feeds each day. And in between all the cute animals and travel pages, there are endless images of “perfection”.
And, as 43 creeps around the corner and I find yet another gray hair and still have a few unwanted holiday pounds, these images cause a frown. A frown that, in turn, contributes to the deepening of a wrinkle.
Luckily, Mother Nature has my back. For every unrealistic body image I see, a walk with nature can reset my mind for healthier self-thinking.
There are countless studies to support the mood-lifting benefits of nature. The fresh air, sounds, and colors all seep into the brain and trigger the release of serotonin, the happy hormone.
But, a new study from the UK, published in Ecopsychology went a little further, and discovered that being in nature helps people specifically overcome negative body image. Something, we all struggle with. Afterall, if there was no negative self-thinking, there would be no airbrushing.
The focus of the study was on rational acceptance, a known coping mechanism that people use to rationalize feelings of negative body image as they come and go. Today’s social media-driven world has triggers that unfortunately, make these feelings come more often than they go.
By putting physical and mental distance between you and triggers like unrealistic appearance standards, billboard models, mirrors, and social media posts, nature gives you the opportunity to put things into a healthier perspective.
The restorative qualities of being outdoors helps promote healthier cognitive processes. This includes greater self-control and a feeling of time passing more slowly, giving you time to rationalize just how negative these triggers are to your health.
Lead author of this study, Viren Swami, Professor of Social Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University, said, “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.”
And this doesn’t mean that you just start following more nature-based pages. The real benefits will come from putting down your phone or tablet, and getting outside. The more time you spend outside, the better able you are to develop healthy thinking and more realistic (and positive) appraisals of your image.
So don’t worry about taking the perfect selfie, turn the camera around and capture Mother Nature instead. When you think about the Grand Canyon, Victoria Falls, the Amalfi Coast, and the Great Barrier Reef, she really is the one that knows what true beauty is. And, she can help you see yours too!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tina Kusal grew up in England and has traveled extensively through Europe, Asia, and Australia. She works as a freelance writer, blogger, and author. She lives in Los Angeles, California with her son and is always ready for the next adventure.