Swell’s theme for August is States of Undress. How can we bare all this summer? Whether by yourself or with a partner, how can we expose our inner vulnerability and desires? “States of Undress” is a metaphor for peeling back the layers we wear daily for protection and performance. It’s time to be brave, open, and naked.
Our bodies are these gorgeous, intimate vessels that move and sway with each step and experience; a soft figure that not only houses our organs but our experiences in this world. When we disrobe for ourselves, partners, check-ups, live drawings, or naked swims, we are fully present with our vulnerabilities, insecurities, confidence, and history . . . and this can be unbelievably scary.
Nudity, for some, is a physicality that bears an emotional magnitude difficult to embrace. Understandable. Nudity exposes us, compares us, shames us. There is not a person that hasn’t felt the effects of the diet industry, conventional beauty standards, or watchful eye of modest belief systems — a framework designed to make sure the naked body is a hyper-sexualized, sinful, degradable offense.
This is unfortunate as nudity is quite the gift to the human experience. Nudity is a great tool in self-love and body acceptance. It exposes us to who we are over what we’re told to aspire to be. It allows us to embrace our vulnerability. It imparts autonomy to our actions. And with body image dissatisfaction being a global issue, it’s a fact that spending more time naked makes you happier. According to a 2017 study by the University of London, being nude and around other nude people in a non-sexual capacity increases self-esteem just by being in the presence of real bodies instead of advertised ones. Notably, nudity is the definitive connector to who we are — a wellness tip that doesn’t entail a green juice or an açaí bowl.
So, what am I saying—take off your clothes and everything will be fine? On the contrary, embracing the naked body doesn’t have a singular path. Our experiences make that step much more complicated when faced with sexual trauma, depression, bullying, misogyny, racism, misgendering, stress, anxiety, a pandemic, and dysmorphia, among other things. And we have been subjected to internalized messages that shift our conscious or subconscious guiding principles through learned behavior. “Contemporary media platforms are changing how people internalize beauty ideals, how they try to control how other people see them and how they get feedback from others about how they look,” notes Jennifer S. Mills, Amy Shannon and Jacqueline Hogue in their 2017 journal Beauty, Body Image, and the Media.
Many of us have internalized the message that only certain people with particular bodies deserve to be seen — making it difficult to be nude even in front of a mirror.
While becoming a nudist or nude model might not be something you will uncover on the path to embracing your naked body — or, maybe it will be — there are great ways to find more naked time and tools to use when you disrobe. Say goodbye to avoiding full-length mirrors, babes.
Body Acceptance and Comfortability
Being nude more often will help you get more comfortable with your body. Our brain responds and acknowledges repetition; it is why we repeat ourselves when we need to remember something. Because our brains are repeatedly exposed to ideal beauty standards all day via media consumption, many of us have internalized the message that only certain people with particular bodies deserve to be seen — making it difficult to be nude even in front of a mirror. The comfortability some of us lack is because we aren’t exposed to ourselves or people who look like us more often.
Try exposure therapy at home: This is the act of showing yourself something over and over again until it becomes normalized in our brains. Consider taking 30 minutes each day of the next week to be nude in your bedroom while you tend to other tasks. Explore what this makes you feel when nude, then come back to the next day and see if your feelings change, each time working up to the end of the week.
Heighten Sensuality and Intimacy
Skin-to-skin contact promotes oxytocin in the body, i.e. the love hormone. This, of course, is often associated with contact with other people, but it can also work on yourself (especially if you’ve been quarantining alone). While we touch our bodies for maintenance every day, it’s incredibly gratifying to caress your body without an agenda. Outside of connecting to your physical body in a deeper way, your brain will associate this pleasurable moment as good and deserving — a thought much better and healthier for us to internalize.
When we are solo-intimate, when we learn to accept what our body looks like, we develop a deeper understanding of what our body is trying to tell us.
This can be in sexual or a non-sexual way, and it can happen at your leisure in your own home. Setting yourself up to succeed in this moment can be as simple as lighting some candles, taking a bath or shower, playing your favorite music, and even giving yourself a time limit to be this exposed. Little, repeated steps will make nudity easier over time.
When we connect to ourselves on an intimate level, it’s significantly easier to express what our body needs and what it doesn’t need to partners who want to provide pleasure, to doctors who want to treat you, to people who are crossing your personal boundaries. You see, when we expose our bodies to ourselves, when we are solo-intimate, when we learn to accept what our body looks like, we develop a deeper understanding of what our body is trying to tell us.
A great way to do this is to stretch naked each morning. It increases energy and it helps to alleviate aches and pains throughout the day. It also promotes blood flow in the body and the brain to increase concentration and mindfulness, and when nude that mindfulness is a great tool to get to know what your body needs in order to be happy.
Nudity’s Array Of Health Benefits
Sleeping in the nude will provide a better night’s sleep by lowering body temperature.
Nudity helps to balance out genitalia’s natural pH when removing fabrics and underwear made from synthetic fibers.
Letting the breasts air-dry after breastfeeding can reduce mastitis infection, the swelling of breast tissue caused by blockage in the ducts.
And it can help with mental health, too: Exposure to nudity is linked to higher self-esteem and confidence. A study published in the Journal of Social Psychology by Marilyn D. Story links naturalist or nudist lifestyle has a positive effect on self-body image.
Nudity First Steps
- Air dry after taking a shower.
- Sleep naked.
- Take a call naked at home.
- Stretch in the nude.
- Sit nude with yourself or a lover and do an activity.
Grander Nude Adventures
- Sign up to model for an art class. Digital classes and figure modeling sessions have been popping up more often as we all discover ways to stay connected at a distance.
- Create self-portraits or selfies for yourself using a phone, a camera, or even drawing them out for yourself.
- Spend the full day nude at home — just be careful when you make coffee!
- Find a nude buddy, lover, or friend and take a trip to a remote area where you can let your nude self go free . . . even if it’s for a few moments before jumping back into the car.
- Consider talking to someone. Nudity is great, but sometimes the underlying concerns won’t dissolve or stay dormant until they are emotionally exposed.
Embracing your naked body is an overall health benefit that reconnects our brains to our bodies, all with the removal of a few items of clothing. Take your time, be aware of each nude experience and how it feels, take it all in without judgment on your brain or body, and enjoy the breeze.
De-Stress Your Sex
Learn actionable strategies for relieving stress and focusing on your pleasure in the on-demand workshop, led by Shadeen Francis, LMFT.