At a time rife with social media snooping and photoshopped models, idealized body images are everywhere. It's no surprise these unrealistic ideals have also brought their fair share of body image anxiety for many people, which can be massively damaging to life satisfaction as a whole.
But it seems a healthy dose of nakedness might just be the remedy, with new research suggesting that nudity in public can do wonders for your psychological well-being, self-esteem, and body image.
Psychologists from Goldsmiths, University of London, asked over 850 British people of varying ages and social backgrounds to carry out an online survey about how much time they spend naked doing “naturalist activities”. That basically means being “fully or partially undressed” in the company of people other than a romantic partner, including topless sunbathing at the beach, naked charity bike rides, or even nudist holiday retreats.
Their findings can be found in a new study in the Journal of Happiness Studies. They show that the longer and more frequently the participants “practiced” being naked in public, the happier they were. Being nude in public at least 20 times a year was the optimal amount for those seeking happiness with their own image.
However, correlation does not always imply causation. The researchers also attempted to look at whether people felt more positive about themselves right after they had practiced nudity in public. The researchers went to two events – “Bare all for Polar Bears” event at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park and British Naturism’s Waterworld event – and asked participants about their body image before and after stripping to their birthday suits. Once again, the data suggests a notable rise in body image satisfaction and feelings of well-being after they stripped.
"The naturists have been saying this for some time," lead author Dr Keon West said in a statement. "However, despite a lot of positive claims, little to no empirical research has investigated whether naturist activity (rather than attitude or beliefs) actually makes us happier or, just as importantly, why it makes us happier."
Dr West added that more work needs to be done, namely in the form of longitudinal study designs and randomized controlled trials. The researchers said that the bulk of participants in the naturist events were straight, middle-aged, white men (basically, they lived up to the stereotype of naturists) and didn’t reflect the variety of sexualities, ethnicities, and ages affected by body image anxieties.
But hey, so far the results are looking good. Besides, a little nudity can’t hurt (just don’t let Facebook or Instagram see it).