Study first to show how natural environments keep negative feelings at bay

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A new study has found that being in nature helps people cope with negative body image by suppressing some of the triggers of body image anxiety, such as a focus on social media, and strengthening coping mechanisms to keep negative feelings in perspective.

The research, published in the journal Ecopsychology, involved 401 participants from the UK, who were asked to complete a survey about their exposure to nature, their “rational acceptance” and appreciation of the body.

Rational acceptance is a coping mechanism, broadly defined as how people rationalize and relativize any feelings of negative body image that come and go.

The study found positive associations between the three measures in both men and women.

The article, the first to examine how exposure to nature can help the mind cope with temporary feelings of negative body image, concludes that spending time in natural environments provides opportunities for coping strategies. to a healthy body image. This may be due to physical and mental distancing from sources of body image threats such as unrealistic appearance standards, mirrors, or social media.

Being in nature can also help individuals develop healthier thought processes that allow for more realistic assessments of body image threats and their future consequences.

Lead author Viren Swami, professor of social psychology at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said: “There is already evidence that being in nature in itself promotes a positive body image, but it is the first study to examine how exposure to nature can help. the mind deals with the temporary feelings of negative body image we all experience from time to time, and retains a sense of perspective.

“Being in nature takes us away from some of the triggers of negative body image – Instagram posts, models on billboards, mirrors – that we find in urban environments and gives us the opportunity to put things into perspective. Restorative environments can also promote healthier cognitive processes, including greater self-control and a sense of time passing more slowly, giving us the ability to rationalize these threats.

“We know that a positive body image improves mental health, and this study adds weight to the growing body of evidence on the importance of exposure to nature and how we, as a society, need to ensure , that everyone has as much access to natural environments as possible.”

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Material provided by Anglia Ruskin University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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