Winter has arrived. We’ve even had our first snow of the year. With the onset of cold weather, many people have turned up the heat, grabbed a book, and snuggled up on the couch with a soft blanket for the winter. Truly, a little hygge is always nice. However, I want to suggest another winter activity as well. This activity has a surprising benefit according to a study involving 87 women with an average age of 24 years. In fact, engaging in this activity for 40 minutes lead to a greater appreciation of one’s body, a better body image. Think of it, an improved body image after a simple 40-minute activity. “What is the activity?” you ask. A simple 40-minute walk in a snow-covered woodland area. A walk through the snow-covered nature… that’s all it took.
The senior author of the study reported that “natural environments help to restrict negative appearance-related thoughts and shift attention away from an aesthetic view of the body and toward greater appreciation of the body’s functionality.”
Body image is one of the struggles our teens have to resolve. In fact, many of us continue to struggle with body image throughout our adult life. Taking a walk through a snow-covered park or snow-covered woodland area is a simple way to work on a more positive body image through the winter months.
To really reap the benefits of this study for your family, you need to consider another interesting finding of the study. Specifically, those who tested high in self-compassion prior to their walk in the snow had larger improvements in body appreciation than those who tested lower in self-compassion. With that in mind, you can nurture self-compassion in your children. How?
- Teach them an emotional vocabulary. Help them learn a large vocabulary for labeling their emotions. Help them to label the emotions they see in others as well. Teach them to look beyond simple behavior in others to see the emotions and intents behind the behavior.
- Discipline your child’s behavior rather than labeling their character. This will involve planning ahead to avoid some behavioral issues. It will also involve teaching them how to behave differently in the future rather than simply punishing negative behaviors as they arise.
- Model self-compassion in your own life. Rather than beat yourself up for mistakes or shortcomings, model self-compassion. Rather than modeling self-criticism, model self-compassion. This may take practice, but it will benefit you and your children in numerous ways.
You’ve set up an environment that nurtures self-compassion. Now grab your family, bundle up, and go for a walk in the snow. For the more active families, go sled-riding or skating. Have a snowball battle. Build a snowman. Whatever your style, get outside this winter. You’ll feel better about your body and so will your teen. In all honesty, you’ll just feel better all the way around.