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How being immersed in nature can improve your body image

“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.”

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A serene lady prayerfully taking in natures flora with closed eyes while the wind blows through her hair

By Georgia Lambert via SWNS

Being around nature helps people combat negative thoughts surrounding body image, according to new research.

A new study has found that being in nature removes several triggers of body image anxiety by helping people keep their feelings in perspective.

Researchers from Anglia Ruskin University interviewed 401 participants from the UK in a survey about their exposure to nature, "rational acceptance," and body appreciation.

Rational acceptance is a coping mechanism that has been broadly defined as the way to keep in perspective any feelings of negative body image that may come and go.

After analyzing the data, the team found a positive link between all three measures and the environment, in both women and men.

The paper, which is the first look at how exposure to nature can help the mind cope with difficult body image feelings, has confirmed that spending time in natural environments provides the mind with an opportunity to cope.

via GIPHY

This may be due to the physical and mental distancing from the sources of body image threats, like unrealistic appearance standards, mirrors, or scrolling through social media.

Being in nature may also help individuals develop healthier thought processes.

Lead author Professor Viren Swami of the University's Social Psychology department said: “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.

“Being in nature takes us away from some of the triggers for negative body image – Instagram posts, models on billboards, mirrors – that we find in urban environments and gives us opportunities to put things into perspective.

"The restorative qualities of these natural environments may also promote healthier cognitive processes, including greater self-control and a feeling of time passing more slowly, giving us the chance to rationalize these threats."

Professor Swami added: “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.”

The findings were published in the Ecopsychology journal.

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