Even if we don’t always treat Mother Earth amazingly, nature continues to (for now) provide its bounty to us via a multitude of mood-boosting and health-improving ways. If the celebrity and wellness-superstar enthusiasm surrounding the idea of natural grounding isn’t enough to convince you, according to new research published in the journal Body Image, just looking at photos of the great outdoors can improve how you’re feelin’ yourself.
The new research aimed to build on two different bodies of previous research that found an improved sense of body image tended to follow physical activity and also that improved mental and physical health followed immersion in nature.
“An environment that does not require undivided attention may provide people with cognitive quiet, which in turn may foster self-compassion such as respecting your body and appreciating it is part of a wider ecosystem requiring protection and care.” —lead study author Viren Swami, PhD
The findings synthesized results from five studies, one of which had its subjects walk through a natural environment or a “built” environment (i.e., an urban setting) in London and found that those actually submerged in nature came out of the experience with a higher sense of body appreciation. Another study did on-the-spot recruitment as subjects entered a park in London and similarly found positive effects on body image following the nature immersion.
The three other studies had London-based university students look at photos of real, natural or fake environments. All three found that participants displayed higher perceptions of body image after they looked at photos of real environments. But why?
“An environment that does not require undivided attention may provide people with cognitive quiet, which in turn may foster self-compassion such as respecting your body and appreciating it is part of a wider ecosystem requiring protection and care,” said Viren Swami, PhD, and lead study author, Science Daily reported. Dr. Swami also pointed out that “access to nature may also mean that individuals spend more time outdoors, engaging in activities that focus attention on the body’s functionality rather than aesthetics.”