I work in the mental health sector and have personal experience of mental health challenges, so when I hear about experiences that improve mental health I take notice.
As a lifelong naturist I have met hundreds of people who have spoken with me about their experience of clothing optional social interaction in a non-sexual setting. The experience of most of those I met included one or more of the following:
- Feelings of personal freedom
- Absence of feeling socially different
- Feeling trusted
- Feeling empowered
- Feeling respected
- Feeling relaxed
- Feeling part of something wonderful
- Feeling accepted
- Accepting that my own body looks great / not worrying about my age, shape, weight, skin colour, scars, amputations, skin conditions etc.
- Feeling comfortable about making new acquaintances regardless of differences in age, skin colour, social status, education, career etc.
- Feeling safe
- Feeling fulfilled
- Not feeling judged
- Feeling that you have found your tribe
- Feeling that for the hours you spend together, you are among friends.
With these personal experiences being so widespread, it can be no surprise that so many people report feeling a lot better about themselves during and after naturists events.
This seems to be particularly true for people who live with anxiety and depression, and for people who suffer from low self esteem.
One person recently spoke about this in a TV interview, describing her clothing optional gatherings as her happy place, and when she is going through tough times with her depression, she can raise her mood simply by thinking of her next day with the group.
You don’t need a mental health diagnosis to feel better about yourself. Our mental health is a wide continuum. For any of us, the important thing is not so much where we are on that continuum, but in which direction we are headed. Our mental health improves when we do things that consistently help us feel better about ourselves.
But what is it that is so powerful about naturism that it can improve our mental health? I used to think that it was the body acceptance, the shared sense of respect, the experience of pressure-free equality where you are trying to impress nobody, the absence of a socially defensive or competitive atmosphere. Perhaps it is all of these things, and perhaps social nudity helps us to identify with each other better while we experience these things collectively.
But I think the answer lies elsewhere. I think the most significant factor is the fantastic people who are attracted to the naturist lifestyle. People with a joyless or dark agenda quickly feel out of place and drift away from naturism if they are not already excluded because of something they did to make others uncomfortable. The people who remain involved are the best human beings in the world, and their positive life energy gets into you, to the point where you too have that same effect on others. 19th century sociologist Emile Durkheim described this effect in his writings, when he spoke about the power of the collective experience creating something greater than the sum of the parts.
Naturism is like that. It is an example of one of the great truths in managing your mental health: if you want to feel better about yourself, surround yourself with great people.
(David McCarthy works as an instructor with the National Learning Network. )