A positive body image is a strong factor in determining a person’s happiness; if you’re unhappy with your physical shape, it can hinder your well-being. Interestingly, studies suggest that practising nudism – a lifestyle of being naked – can boost positive feelings about your body and self.
Most of have been there – and if not yet, the day will surely come. Looking at our naked body in the mirror, examining the bits we don’t like, the parts that could be smaller, larger, smoother or just not there at all. At the same time we are also bombarded with images of perfect bodies in the media, so it’s no wonder failing to have a positive body image is a common issue.
Indeed, dissatisfaction with one’s own body and a corresponding lack of positive body image is evident in many countries across the world. Studies such as that conducted by Andrea Pelegrini and Edio Petroski in 2010, have shown that such poor body image can cause people to radically alter their nutritional intake in an effort to address perceived problems.
As seen in this study, body disaffection often begins in childhood, with the authors referencing a previous study that almost half of all schoolchildren observed were dissatisfied with their body weight. Meanwhile, the link between a positive body image and self-worth has been firmly established, such as in a publication by Hesketh et al.,(2004), which focused on obesity in adolescents.
Furthermore, a demonstrable causality between self-acceptance, self-esteem and satisfaction with life has been shown in studies, including Navarro et al., (2014), which confirmed that “the relation of personal self-esteem to life satisfaction was significant for both genders”. It’s therefore reasonable to deduce that a positive body image is likely to predict a higher level of happiness. So, where does nudism come into play?
Well, research has also found that wider experience of the naked form correlates to an improvement in positive body image, in both male and female subjects (Swami, 2015). While Swami’s study concerned participants in a life-drawing class, the principle has been shown to apply to those engaging in unclothed activities within a group – practising nudism.
What exactly is nudism?
Before looking at the link between practising nudism and positive body image, it’s worth making clear what nudism is and isn’t, and understanding the difference between naturism also. Indeed, many people use these two terms interchangeably, but there are differences between them.
The term ‘nudism’ dates back to the 1920s. Nudism is the activity of wearing no clothes, often because the person doing it simply enjoys the feeling of being undressed and believes that being in the buff is healthy. Indeed, part of nudism is about well-being. What nudism is not about is exhibitionism and a sexual nature.
On the other hand, naturism has more philosophy attached to it. As with nudism, the concept of being undressed is key, but naturism extends to more of a lifestyle, often incorporating self-respect, pacifism, and respect for the environment. In fact, according to the International Naturist Federation, naturism is defined as ‘how one can live in harmony alongside nature.’ This is often characterised by practising communal nudity, such as a nudist campsite, with the intention of encouraging self-respect and togetherness.
“Research has found that wider experience of nudism correlates to an improvement in positive body image, in both male and female subjects.”K J West
Nudism: the link with positive body image
As has been shown, the mediating effect of improved body image on self-esteem and on happiness has been widely observed. It’s only recently, though, that studies have directly targeted the links between nudism, naturism and contentment.
In 2017 K. J. West sought to observe the effects of nudism on positive body image, self-esteem and happiness, initially through comprehensive surveying and analysis and subsequently via real-life naturist activities.
West hypothesised that greater engagement in naturism would correlate with a higher level of general satisfaction. He recruited 849 British adults with a range of ages, ethnicity, sexualities and genders. West presented them with a survey designed to ascertain ‘the effects of naturist activity on life satisfaction, mediated by improved body image and self-esteem’.
Posted on NatCorn 27th December 2020
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