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How to feel better naked

When Carolyn Hawkins went to her first strip resort four decades ago, she was 37 years old and absolutely committed to not taking her clothes off.

“I said, ‘I’ll go, but I never will. I’m not taking my clothes off,’” said Mrs. Hawkins, who was visiting the resort with her second husband. But surrounded by a kaleidoscope of imperfect bodies soaking up the Florida sun, she felt like a bereft outlier. “I got used to it right away,” recalled Ms. Hawkins, now 79 and director of club and member relations for the American Association for Nude Recreation.

Not everyone is so comfortable being naked. For many of us, nudity, or simply the prospect of showing more skin during the summer, can be difficult.

“Even being naked alone can leave us vulnerable to the critical voice in our own minds,” said Renee Engeln, an instructional professor of psychology and director of Northwestern University’s Body and Media Lab, which researches issues related to women’s body image. .

The goal of feeling “good” while naked tends to be enmeshed in cultural standards of beauty that few of us adhere to, he said. However, therapists, body image activists and, yes, nudists maintain that there are compelling reasons to seek a happier relationship with your own naked form, or at least a neutral relationship.

Research shows, for example, that women’s perceptions of how attractive they are can influence your sexual desirewhile being relatively comfortable with one’s appearance has been linked to higher self-esteem and overall life satisfaction.

“To me, it feels adjacent to the conversation in a bikini,” said Virgie Tovar, a body image activist and author of “The Body Positive Journal.” She recalled her first experience wearing a bikini in public as a plus-size woman.

“I was amazed at how amazing it felt to have the sun on my skin, to feel the wind on my skin, a part of my body that had never been exposed anywhere outside of my home,” Ms. Tovar said. “It was more powerful than I could have really imagined.”

The four strategies below have been suggested by a variety of experts who spend time thinking about nudity and body image. They won’t necessarily transform your relationship with your body as you find more opportunities to get naked this summer, but they are a start.

Learning to feel good about your body can be long, hard work, and many of the obstacles that get in the way are social. Still, Dr. Engeln says that for some people, the key to feeling better naked is “just being naked more often.”

Erich Schuttauf, executive director of the American Nude Recreation Association, agrees that there is cathartic power in simply doing things in secret. You could wash your clothes naturally, he suggested, or sunbathe for 20 minutes if you have a private backyard, enjoying the warmth and breeze on your bare skin.

“Get used to the freedom of not having to wear clothes,” Schuttauf said, adding that she thinks almost all household chores are more fun in the birthday suit.

Stephanie Yeboah, body image activist and author of “Fattily Ever After: A Black Fat Girl’s Guide to Living Life Unapologetically,” said spending an hour or two in the nude several days a week was a crucial step at the beginning of her own process. body acceptance. . She would take off her clothes and read, watch TV, or fix her house.

However, it’s important to make sure you’re in a space where you feel safe, whether it’s in the privacy of your bedroom or in a more public setting, like a nude beach or resort.

“You can’t get out of an oppressive system with self-respect,” Yeboah said, adding that people have called her “fat” or insulted her as soon as she leaves the house.

Ms. Tovar doesn’t believe that working on feeling better naked is a necessary step towards greater body acceptance. But she encourages anyone who has trouble being naked to consider what it would feel like to be at peace with her body when she has to be naked, like in the shower.

To get there, Ms. Tovar recommends using mindfulness strategies to shift focus from how your body appearance naked as I know feel. The shower is a good place to start.

“Focus on the sensations,” Ms. Tovar said. “How does it feel on my skin when I get in the shower? How is the temperature? What does it do to my body?

Centering the senses can help you connect your brain and body.

Ms. Yeboah has also made showering a regular meditation. She buys good lotions and oils, and takes the time to apply them slowly, carefully noting how they smell and feel on her skin.

“It was something I started doing on my self-love journey to accept and learn to love my body again,” she said.

Zoë Bisbing, a licensed clinical social worker and founding director of Body-Positive Therapy NYC, often works with patients who struggle in what she calls a “state of body avoidance.” They painstakingly cover certain body parts and rarely, if ever, really look at themselves, she said. They will often choose not to participate in activities such as going to the beach, going out on a hot day, or having sex.

Ms. Bisbing recommends consciously noticing if you’re avoiding your naked body (or certain body parts) over the course of a day or two. If so, it may help to try a kind of do-it-yourself exposure therapy, a well-known cognitive intervention that aims to desensitize people to their fears.

“Let’s say you’re someone who is really uncomfortable with arms outstretched, even alone,” Ms Bisbing said. “You can start with a minute a day when you don’t have a cardigan.” Then you accumulate up to two minutes. Eventually, you try it with others. It can also help to look at her body in the mirror for short periods of time, she said, and train her brain to describe it using simple, nonjudgmental language.

However, it’s critical that anyone dealing with issues like body dysmorphia or eating disorders contact a therapist for help, Ms. Bisbing said. So keep in mind potential signs of a more serious mental health problemincluding a distorted body image or feelings of shame about what you eat.

Pop culture and social media have conditioned us all to see the “thin body, or the young body, or the capable body” as the default and most dignified, Ms. Tovar said. “But that’s really not accurate.” So encourage everyone to surround themselves with images of different body types.

“Print, say, 20 images of bodies that are closer to yours and bodies that are larger,” Ms. Tovar said. She keeps them in her phone or place them around her mirror to see them often.

Select what you follow on Instagram, Facebook or TikTok as well. Although the link between social media and negative body image is not as clear cut as is sometimes believed, and the body positivity movement has faced some criticism. studies show that spending time watching body-positive content online can improve your mood.

“Remember that almost all naked adult bodies move or wobble, have hair, cellulite, scars, life marks,” said Dr. Engeln. “It’s easy to forget this if you’re in the middle of a media world that only includes photoshopped images of young and skinny.”

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