Nude beaches, cruises, and bike rides are just among some of the places where we can bare it all. Taking off our clothes in public and letting it all hang may embarrass most of us, but science suggests public nudity could benefit our overall wellbeing. A recent study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found stripping down naked boosts our body image, self-esteem, and life satisfaction.

"It was found that more participation in naturist activities predicted greater life satisfaction — a relationship that was mediated by more positive body image, and higher self-esteem," wrote the researchers, in their abstract.

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During naturist activities, people are communally naked in the company of non-intimate people, who typically have “non-idealized” bodies. It's believed these activities may reduce dissatisfaction with one’s body through seeing other “normal” bodies, and even lead to positive or neutral feedback about one’s own body.

Researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London, sought to investigate and apply the potential benefits of being naked in public, by seeing how it influenced body image, self-esteem, and life satisfaction in a series of three studies.

In the first study, researchers surveyed 849 people of a variety of ages, ethnicities and religions, and found those who spent time naked or partially naked around others, like sunbathing or taking part in World Naked Cycle Riders, liked their own bodies more, had higher self-esteem, and were more content with their lives overall. The longer they did these naturist activities, and the more frequently they did it, the happier they were.

The researchers conducted two more experiments, but this time they surveyed people before and after they participated in a nudist event. Similarly, the participants reported improvement on the same measures of wellbeing after the event.

Throughout the world, attitudes toward public nudity appear to be improving. For example, the rising popularity of the World Naked Bike Rides, an event that raises awareness to the vulnerability of cyclists, garners hundreds or thousands of people to cycle naked through all cities. Other events, like New York City's annual No Pants Subway Ride, encourages commuters to don their winter clothes, minus their pants, to simply confuse bystanders. The prank started with only 150 participants, and is now an international sensation with over 25 countries involved.

These events indirectly promote positive body image by having people strip to their underwear, or more, and parade in public.

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Previous research suggests exposure to "non-idealized" bodies, otherwise known as normal people, should counter the negative effects of idealized imagery. The theory goes that naturism should then be good for our body image, and self-esteem. However, Dr. Keon West, Lecturer in the Department of Psychology, at Goldsmiths, University of London, emphasizes there's not much information to back up the claim.

"The naturists have been saying this for some time. 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," in a statement.

This should not detract from the conclusion that naturism has psychological benefits. The findings indicate naturism has positive effects, not negative ones. It can even serve as a low-cost, widely available solution to the problem of body dissatisfaction.

Still not convinced to get naked?

Several studies have found being naked can have benefits when it comes to our health, including better sleep, vitamin D, and a healthier brain.

Better Sleep

The National Sleep Foundation advises in order to have a normal sleep schedule and sleep comfortably, body temperature must reach an optimal temperature of about 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Sleeping naked could help lower body temperature, which in turn, could lead to other benefits like boosting our metabolism. A 2014 study in the journal Diabetes found sleeping in lower temperatures increases levels of brown fat, which is known to rev up our metabolism and aid weight loss.

Higher Vitamin D Levels

Going outside naked, when acceptable, can help boost our vitamin D intake and our mood. The Vitamin D Council suggests the most natural way to get vitamin D is by exposing our bare skin to sunlight (ultraviolet B rays). We only need to expose our skin for around half the time it takes for our skin to turn pink and begin to burn. The more skin we expose, the more vitamin D is produced. Moreover, our bodies are better at absorbing vitamin D from sunlight than supplements. Simply sneaking outside for 10 to 15 minutes serves as a good way to get vitamin D, and is a natural mood booster.

Boosts Brain Health

Taking our shoes off, not on, for a run could boost brain function. A 2016 study in Perceptual and Motor Skills found after running barefoot, participants saw improvements in working memory, or their ability to recall or process information. Running in shoes did not produce the same results. Overall, runners experienced a 16 percent increase in working memory performance after the barefoot runs.

Source: West K. Naked and Unashamed: Investigations and Applications of the Effects of Naturist Activities on Body Image, Self-Esteem, and Life Satisfaction. Journal of Happiness Studies. 2017.

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