By John Salak –
Those looking for better psychological well-being and life satisfaction may want to consider a new and more positive view of their bodies. No, this doesn’t necessarily mean losing weight, getting ripped or opting for a new do, manicure and pedicure. It requires building a more positive body image, according to a study by Britain’s Anglia Ruskin University (ARU)
The university’s research involved working with almost 60,000 participants from 65 nations. It focused on ‘body appreciation’ defined as “accepting, holding favorable opinions toward and respecting the body, while also rejecting media-promoted appearance ideals as the only form of human beauty.”
Ultimately, higher levels of body appreciation were linked to a range of positive well-being traits, including improved self-esteem and healthy eating habits. Negative body images were associated with issues such as depression and anxiety.
“This is one of the largest studies on body image ever carried out, brought about by a collaborative research effort involving over 250 scientists across the world. Our finding that greater body appreciation is associated with better psychological well-being highlights the importance of developing ways to promote more positive body image globally,” announced lead author Viren Swami, an ARU professor.
The study found across nations, greater body appreciation was significantly associated with higher psychological well-being, as assessed using a measure of life satisfaction. The researchers also found that body appreciation was higher in single participants than participants who are married or in a committed relationship and those living in rural areas.
“Also, people who live in urban areas may feel stronger pressure to conform to body ideals promoted by Western society, and it is also notable that people from countries considered culturally different to the United States appeared to have broadly greater body appreciation. People in rural areas may also benefit from being in nature, which past research has shown to be linked with positive body image,” Swami added.
The university may have successfully underscored the importance of having a positive body image, but the challenge for many is formidable. The predominance of social media undermines positive vibes because it allows adolescents and adults to easily compare themselves to others, usually in an unfavorable light. Films and advisements can also create problems because they can project “the perfect image” of men or women, which is virtually impossible for others to achieve.
Statistics vary, but estimates suggest that 50 to almost 90 percent of women have some self-perceived negative image of their bodies. In addition, at least half of American teenage girls have a negative body image and perhaps 80 percent worry about getting fat, according to BingEasting.com.
Men also deal with these issues, especially younger men. Overall, about 70 percent of adult males have some body image issue.
Besides the impact of social media influences, film and advertisements, body issues are so prevalent because they can take on so many forms. Specific body issues include general body dissatisfaction, overvaluation of weight/shape, body preoccupation (obsessive thinking about the body), obsessive body checking, body image avoidance, fear of weight gain and muscle dysmorphia—a fixation that a person’s muscular frame is insufficient.
The Cleveland Clinic, among other organizations, offers ways to overcome these negative images. They suggest individuals should avoid social media pages that promote unrealistic body images, directly confront distorted thinking related to their bodies, develop positive body affirmations and experiences and educate themselves on the dangers of poor body images.