Natural environments such as parks, lakes and forests have a positive effect on body image, but you don’t have to be in the great outdoors to reap the benefits, say the authors of a paper published in the journal Body Image.
In three separate studies, researchers asked 124 women and men to rate their level of agreement with statements to determine their body satisfaction, such as I accept my body regardless of imperfections. After looking at photos of nature, participants took the body-image tests again, and both men and women scored higher than they did before viewing the images. A fourth test in which people walked through a park to test the activity’s effects on body image had similar results.
By contrast, looking at images of cityscapes such as crowded streets and tall buildings lowered body satisfaction among all participants. “Urban environments are busier and have more stimuli that require our attention,” says Viren Swami, psychologist and professor of social psychology at Anglia Ruskin University in England.
Natural environments, on the other hand, effortlessly hold our attention, which seems to encourage people to lighten up about being self-critical. “Having a space to be mindful and at peace with yourself means you’re no longer concerned with daily troubles, including how you might look,” Swami says.
Whenever you’re feeling blue, just step into the green and get an immediate attitude adjustment.